Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Passion for Cakes Can Be Detrimental To Your Business


pas·sion

noun \ˈpa-shən\
: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
: a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way

vo·ca·tion

noun \vō-ˈkā-shən\
: a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work (such as religious work)
: the work that a person does or should be doing

oc·cu·pa·tion

noun \ˌä-kyə-ˈpā-shən\
: the work that a person does : a person's job or profession


I've noticed an interesting trend over the past year or so. There seem to be a lot of people who say that decorating cakes should be your "passion" or else you shouldn't be doing cakes at all. What the heck?

No, cakes are not my passion and never have been. I started doing wedding cakes for very pragmatic reasons. Cakes are my occupation (see definition above).  I enjoy figuring out how to do things, and I like making stuff, but cakes specifically aren't where I feel that I need to be putting my energy when I'm not working. I would say that making things is my vocation (see definition above) but that cakes don't need to be part of that.

I don't spend time looking at cakes online. When I get together with friends who decorate cakes we don't chat much about cake topics. I'm actually far more interested in the business side of cakes than in looking at them. 

There are definitely days when the second definition of passion (anger) that's listed at the top applies more to what I'm feeling as I'm dragging myself out of bed and taking 4 advils for my back so that I can continue working on the multiple wedding cakes I have to do, so maybe on those days I could say I'm passionate about it.

When I tell people this, the response from some decorators is total horror and shock. I've even been told by a couple that if I don't have a burning passion for cakes I should just quit doing them completely. Why does this bother them so much? I really have no idea. And quite frankly, I don't have time to analyze their motives. I just think it's silly.

If you think that you have to have a passion for something to be really good at it, let me tell you about a girl I met once. She had been swimming competitively her entire life. She was in college and was training for the Olympics. We were at the pool where she was teaching swim lessons to my friend's son, and he asked her how the training was going. She replied that she hated every minute of it, she was going to be super glad when it was over and she never had to get in a pool to compete again, and that everyone on the highly-rated swim team at her college felt the same way.

Oh my, what? You mean that someone could be that good at something and not have it be their passion? You mean to tell me that you can be at a world-class level in what you do without absolutely loving every minute of it? Oh, I'm feeling woozy with the effort of wrapping my head around that concept...

Actually, I'm not. Having a passion for something can be a plus, but it can also be detrimental to running a business at a profit. Expecting to feel joy every moment when you're working is unrealistic, and honestly, the people who understand that the making of the cakes themselves is a relatively small part of a cake business seem to be the most successful at it.  Understanding that work is sometimes just work is probably going to be the difference between someone who is profitable and someone who does okay but never becomes self-supporting income-wise.

Passion can lead you to act impulsively. You might take on a cake at a lower price because you just really want to do it, which will result in a lower profit margin. You might spend extra time doing details a customer didn't ask for (or pay for) because you just want to do it. You might think that's great, but look at it this way...If you had an employee who consistently took an extra hour on each cake to add things that hadn't been ordered, would you be happy to pay them for that time? I would hope not.

Another example of passion vs. occupation is our old friend Buddy Valastro from Cake Boss. Regardless of how you feel about the tv show or his use of the term fawndawnt, you must admit that he's a smart businessman who puts a lot of people to work. Based on the first season of the show (which is the only one I watched) I contend that his passion isn't the product itself, it's the idea of honoring his father and his family by making the business well-known and successful. If his father had started a sock factory I bet he'd be making socks right now with the same goal in mind. The business is his passion, not necessarily the product. The bakery is his occupation, his family is his passion.

What I'd suggest is that if decorating is your passion, your one true love, your everything, you should either keep it as a hobby or hire a business coach to help you get over yourself. And I mean that in a constructive way, because feeling super passionate about the wrong thing can get in the way of objectivity and making a profit. An objective voice can help.

Ironically, as I'm writing this I'm watching an episode of Bakery Rescue with Buddy V. telling someone that he needs to rein his passion in. This guy is so passionate about baking he has about ninety products in his cases when fifteen would be more cost-effective. And wouldn't have driven him to the point of bankruptcy. Passion has nearly driven this guy into the poorhouse because he doesn't know when to stop.

What you should be passionate about is the business itself, not just the cakes. Decorating cakes is a very small percentage of what goes into running a cake business. It's very nice if your occupation can also be your vocation, which is the best of both worlds, but it isn't necessary to be passionate about cakes to be an excellent decorator or to have a profitable business.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

5 comments:

Michelle Green said...

Brava, Kate, Brava! What a brilliant post and I hope you don't mind my sharing it. You are so right, on so many levels.

Michelle

Kara Buntin said...

Not at all. This has hit a nerve with people, apparently. I have a follow-up in mind, too...

k parker said...

Such a great post. Always so honest and on point, that's why I love this blog.

jasmin jew said...

Nice post. Thanks for sharing.


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Trixie Harrison said...

Brilliant !!! So many people don't understand that when you start doing a hobby as a job, it ceases to be a pleasurable pastime and becomes a chore. Thanks for the honest blog