Monday, June 4, 2012

Fake it?--- or face it? I say embrace it

Hey All!  my last Blog was a real surprise for me and over 2000 people have viewed it in 24 hours.  I've recieved calls, emails and fb messages about it and I  wanted to talk some more about it as I've thought a lot about it, and heard many words of wisdom. ( we could do this forever!)   Like the title says there's so much mis-information out there about the real blood n guts of doing cake as a money making business.  So many people ( and you know who you are) do fake it.  "I'm working on 10 tv shows, writing 15 books and doing cakes that cost more than your car every week"   Yeah right!    I won't deny that I do get lucky and get to do some fun stuff.  But if it wasn't fun, it wouldn't be at all worth it as too often I end up in the red afterwards!  Yes, I get to travel and meet great people, but with 3 kids at home (who I honestly prefer their company most days) bills and everything else, how can I justify spending money my family needs, to do what is essentially a selfish thing.  Doing cake and loosing money doing so because it's fun ( and I seldom find it fun anymore) is just all around bad business.  Believing that because you love doing it and enjoy the rewards of creating something artistically valuable doesn't mean that customers will see the same value you know is there!  We live in a world that is very much dominated by the lowest dollar mentality.  There is always someone willing to do it a a little worse for a lot less, and when a client doesn't understand the difference, we all loose!  You simply cannot explain to a customer what it is they will be getting.  Not in terms of a finished product or in terms of value (value as in what it takes to make in time and money)  I love that the 2 most comon statements I get from customers are 1: "Wow that much, just for cake!"  when a price is given and 2: better yet still, and an indicator of the communication breakdown between client and decorator is " wow...  I had no idea it was going to look like that!"  after a cake is delivered.  Not meaning to sound coy or arrogant but you would think that after looking at my work, clients would have a pretty high expectation, yet people are always amazed at what I deliver. (well, usually) I would expect that they'd look at my past work and think, "I bet my cake will be awesome",( which you'd hope they'd be willing to pay for) but too often all that's on their mind is the cost.    The problem is, that your clients simply can't be expected to understand what you intend to do for them.  They can't be expected to understand the work involved or forsee the finished product.  Nor can they understand what you'll often have to go through to finish the task for them.  Would you ask your auto mechanic to stay up all night changing the spark plugs on your honda?  If it's 5:00 on friday and he strips the threads on one of the cylinders, do you figure he's going to stay around all night, most of saturday trying to get your car back to you.  No.  Not unless he's got cake decorator blood coming out of his busted nuckles!   The very nature of our industry means we far too often have to put family, life and freedom aside to do what we wouldn't expect from just about any other professional.

I've got a shop with very low overhead.  I have essentially no real rent, and all my other cost are low. I frequently have people aske me how to go from a home bakery(hobby) to a actual bonified place of business.  They see it as a great and magical world of freedom where clients will beat down the door and be willing to pay for the work we pour our heart and souls into.  They see the "famous decorators from TV making it look so great and awesome (fake it til they make it) They figure that with more of the same hard work and determination they've already gotten accustomed to at home, that they'll soon be doing what they love.  I've talked to so many friends that own shops, and I really can't think of one that will say it's a worthwhile investment.

Now I realize there seems to be a really negative and almost spiteful tone to my latest blogs, and I don't mean for it to be so, it's just that if I am to be truthful about my experiences and what I've learned in the past few years, it's not all pretty.  I have recieved so much feedback from really good hard working people that truely felt they were alone in feeling the same way I do.   Men and women who believe in something that's good, yet find little reward. People that believed as I did that they were doing something wrong!  It even donned on me that I too was guilty of faking it a bit too.  I've never claimed to make a fortune or to do uber expensive cakes, but I've been afraid to admit to myself as well as my peers that it's been a constant struggle.  Sometimes it's feast or famine, other times it's just famine...  So you wonder, why keep going?

I'd be lieing if I said I haven't decided to quit a bunch of times.   when I'm falling asleep behind the wheel of the delivery van on saturday evening and I haven't been to bed since thursday night, it's hard to keep your resolve...  As I mentioned in my previous blog, I've done so many things in my life.  Most payed the bills and some payed pretty well.  I ran a hotrod shop where I had to deal with bitchy customers, and deadlines, but I could close the door and go home and the customer would have to wait til I opened again.  I don't like doing cakes for a living...  It's litterally the toughest job I've ever had and finacially it has bled me dry.  The worst part is loosing money while working harder than ever, and feeling like I'm failing my children.  Not only do I work 24/7, but when I get away, I'm stressed out and really only thinking about what I need to do at the shop instead of focusing on what really matters ( my kids/life/love) 

I'd be lieing too if I said there wasn't a huge up side for me as well.  The fact that over 2000 people read my last blog in a day, is a incredible honor for me.  To have someone tell me my work, or my words inspired them or lifted their spirits, made them feel less alone or even helped them blow off some of their own steam...  I don't take that lightly and again I feel very very lucky.  It wasn't until I found my place in the cake world (what ever that is) that I learned to love people.  I had always been interested in people, but frequently I had a pretty negative feeling towards most of them, and never really had cause to get to know to many of them.  But cake changed so much of that for me.  I realized that I really genuinely LOVE people.  I absolutely live to look into the eyes of someone I've never met before.  It makes my world feel much warmer and I'm much more at home when I can make someone smile, laugh or even just get to say hello.  To stand before a group of people that wants to watch me do what it is that I do with cake is the greatest high.  To feel like I've shared something of myself with them, and they've done so with me...  I just can't explain the feeling, it's beyond words.  I changed more in the past few years than I ever dreamed of.  so essentially what I'm saying is thank you...  you the reader...  you are the reason I will continue to press on.  Sitting here trying to figure out what to do to survive makes you feel very alone, having so many of you to share it with makes it tolerable!  I'll be doing what I must and making some serious changes around here but I plan to stick with it as best I can.  I'll be changing the way I do business, in an attempt to keep my sanity, and I'll probably be writing more of these blogs and focusing on what (and who) I really love.  I plan to share more, and try to get out more. Maybe by doing so I'll find some of the answers I've been looking for. 

Please understand I'm not trying to discourage anyone from following their dreams, and trying to do what they want to do.  I'm a hopless romantic and believe that doing something good, really truely good will eventually pay off.  I'm still here, still kicking and screaming and determined to do as much as I can and see as much as I can and hopefully with your help add some degree of value to the world!  I feel like I'm very close to living my dreams and ever so often I get to and I hope you do the same!

I have to thank my frind Ruth Rickey for the final words of this blog, they ring very true for me, and I suspect for many of you who will read this:

"it's hard to wait around for something you know might never come;  but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want"

Peace N Love!

1 comment:

  1. Mike.... Turn that frown upside down. I haven't been in this industry for very long but I'm a mother of two, a wife and own a "bakery". I have read your blogs and it all confirms for me that my business idea to help this industry is a MUST! I've hired the best of the best to create my idea to turn the bakery industry into not a "self employment opportunity" but a business owner opportunity. I've only been in it for 1 year this June the 22nd but I told my partner n cakes only 1 month into it... We will NEVER make any money making cakes... I've tested my theory out on both another "cake celebrity" just in the first small beginner phases of my idea and she was very happy with her new found "cash flow"... Then, knowing my formula is the same in business for ANY business, I offered the same to a well known florist... Again... Counting her money. I feel very confident that there are tons of people this idea will help out and it starts with reprogramming your understanding of what you really want vs putting the brush down and calling it done. Financial freedom is obtainable in this industry... I can't wait to launch the start of what I've referred to with Nikita Jackson and Silver with the Knot as... "The tidal wave"... This industry has some very big opportunities to make it, but first one must understand the differences in their day to day thinking to obtain the cash and freedom all at the same time. I had pondered going to your Kansas City show down and decided I needed to say here and work on the idea as I've seen how each cake artist struggles in this industry, studied it and I'm ready to Rock! Every word you wrote is exactly what I've thought verbatim and said out loud. You are 100% correct. This is a dead end rat race... But only as it stands today. Thank you for sharing and for your personal insight. I hope our paths cross in the near future. I'll be launching the idea that I've implemented, shared a few steps with a few others with the entire industry. TV is fun... But I have no desire to show how stressful caking can be and IS to the entire world for the same amount of money it would cost me and my small crew to arrive and depart. Until then... Chin up and I think you, your art and your cakes are outstanding. And that's just the truth. People will always want what they can't have/afford... Never forget that remote control car or video game that was out of mom and dads budget to afford you... It's all about "the market". I decided we were going to be the "Lady Gaga" in the cake industry... Unpredictable and LOUD. I've purchased 235 domain names that should have never been available and I've got my own IT team working steadily on all ideas to show the wave this industry needs and help create financial freedom. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of all of the cakes we created... But that's just it... Proud never pays the bills and my picture on a poster with my cakes or a TV challenge is not how I make ends meet... Im untraditionalizing and capitalizing. Cheers friend. :) Jody Cain Fort Worth TX