Cake Business Interview-- Linda Cloutier with Iced and Dazzle


This week I have a guest blogger, Linda Cloutier of Iced and Dazzle in Colorado Springs. Linda kindly answered my questions about her business, and has some advice for aspiring cake business owners.

Photo credits:  1. Moriah Riona of Moriah Riona - Branding for Creative Female Entrepreneurs 2. Chris Turner 3. Lela Kieler of LBK Photography 4. Craig Sommerdorf of Motion Photography by Craig Sommerdorf 5. Jessica Vallia of Jessica Vallia Photography


What’s your background, and how did you get started with your business?





My cake decorating journey started when I wanted to make my daughter’s wedding cake. I took my first classes in late 2007 with that end goal in sight. At that time, there was no Cottage Food Law in Colorado, so selling cakes was out of the question. As a result, I had years to practice my skills on friends and family and in cake decorating competitions. Seriously, nothing hones your skills like having a judge pick apart your cakes! When the first version of the Colorado Cottage Food Law passed in 2012, I was able to jump into business at the top of the game.





What kind of cakes do you make the most? Weddings, birthday, dessert cakes etc. What’s the “cake economy” like where you are? Have prices gone up or down in the last few years?


 The main focus of my business is wedding and very special occasion cakes. My customer service is highly personalized; I take only a limited number of orders each year, each one is custom and gets 100% of my attention.



The home-based, custom cake economy here is a tough one. The market is saturated with beginners who either don’t know how, or don’t want to, learn to price their products properly. Those who have the skill level to charge higher prices are afraid of losing customers if they do. Those who don't have the skill level to be selling cakes yet simply don't see it. 



At the other end are customers who profess to want a custom cake but are unwilling to pay for it. An illustration of this is a recent conversation with a bride who was bitterly disappointed with her cake, purchased from a local storefront bakery. The picture of the cake she wanted was from one of the top cake decorators in the country, and she should have paid over $1000 for it. She didn't, of course. She actually chose a mediocre bakery, whose gallery of work is nowhere near the quality of what she wanted, and paid $300 for her cake. No matter how I tried to explain why she got what she paid for, she just refused to understand why she didn’t get a cake that looked just like the one she wanted. 




To earn a full-time income with a home-based cake business, how many hours per week do you think people have to work? Be brutally honest!


Brutally honest? I’m not sure it’s even possible. I would need $98,000 in gross sales in order to earn what I do in my full time job, and that’s without my employer’s contribution to my retirement fund and our health insurance. That’s over 160 $600 wedding cakes a year. There isn’t time or space for that volume in a home-based kitchen run by one person. The best I can hope for, and this is my goal for my business, is to have my cakes supplement an early retirement, along with a part time job.




What do you think will surprise people who want to start a custom cake business most about owning a home-based business? In other words, what do you think people find out the hard way about it?


Probably, one of the biggest surprises is how much more than just decorating cakes is involved in running a successful cake business! You need to be a marketer, a bookkeeper, a baker, a dishwasher, a businesswoman.



What do you like most and least about working in the custom cake industry?


It’s hard to determine what I like most, as each part of the business is my favorite, while I’m doing it! I even like the book-keeping! I put a lot of thought into preparation for every meeting and tasting. The design part is so much fun. I love the baking and decorating equally and it’s so gratifying to see the final product set up at the venue, and having people say it’s the most beautiful cake they’ve ever seen. I really think wedding cake designers are adrenaline junkies at heart!



The only things I can say I dislike are what I’ve already discussed. The struggles with the economy, and the market. I’m in a good place to ride that out, though. Since this is a side gig for me, it’s all right that my target customer is few and far between.  




What advice would you give someone who wants to start a home-based cake business?


I would advise that they ask themselves several questions. Do I know the rules in my municipality for operating a home-based food business? Do I know what taxes I need to charge and/or pay? Do I know if I need licensing or permits? Do I know how to price my products? Have I perfected my recipes? Is my business plan feasible? Am I at the top of my game, skills-wise? If the answer to any of these is no, then do research and get these things done! Asking in a Facebook group doesn’t count.



Know your worth; present yourself professionally at all times, online and in person. It’s so much more than just decorating pretty cakes.


Thanks to Linda for sharing her experience with us! You can find her at http://www.icedanddazzle.com, facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IcedandDazzle/, and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/icedanddazzle/




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