I've been trying to write a blog about cake, but I can hardly stomach the idea of it today. I don't know if it holds true for everyone who does cake, but for myself and from the people I know, cake is a very bad career choice. I am not writing this blog to try to discourage anyone from the industry, but only trying to give an honest open account of my experiences. ( MY EXPERIENCES) I get asked all the time by people and often from parents with interested children about how to "get into cake". and there is no correct answer for that as there are as varied an amount of ways as there are people in the field! There is a perception that since I've done some TV and I do get to do some cool cakes and travel, that it translates into cash in pocket and, well... It's just not that way.
We've all heard of starving artist. Common is the idea that artist struggle to persue their craft in the light of debt, health and time constraints. For many years now I have tried to put together a business that is rewarding both from a financial and personal standpoint. I'm begining to think it's just not possible!
It is possible (though difficult!) to run a bakery in which you make money. It's very hard to run a bakery in which you make money and yet have time to enjoy life as well. The problem is as we all know the industry is very deadline driven. Very few clients would be ok with the fact that you didn't do their cake because it was five o'clock on friday and you wanted to go hang out with the kids ( like normal people do)... Instead, in an attempt to get enough work to pay the bills, I fill up my calendar (when I can) which in turn means my Thursday, Friday and Saturdays are extremely busy. The rest of my week is usually spent cleaning, planning, answering emails and basically trying to get more work. The deadlines and time constraints involved with working in a perishable medium like cake means we don't really have much control over when we get to work, unless we don't mind serving old cake of course.
This last friday was the first time I can remember being done with cake while the sun was still up. I spent some time with my son flying model airplanes and it really felt weird. I had to check and double check to be sure I hadn't forgotten something. The free time was great but comes at a cost; I spent more money last week than I earned. I was still in the bakery everyday from morning til night, but no money was made... this is a problem.
There is a ton of "fake it til you make it" in our industry. So many of us are in the same boat, yet many feel a need to inflate ( or invent completely) their success and I think it builds up a false idea of what's possible, and what's really the norm. This industry is very tough! It demands a ton of skill, knowledge and even more time. I've worked in many jobs from CPR instructor to auto mechanic , race car driver to roofing, and I can tell you all of them are tough, but none of them are as all consuming as cake can be and most of them pay far better too! ( btw: that's another place many people inflate their success... price. it's never enough) As I mentioned before there's always the problem of rock hard deadlines, but it's also true that to most people, anything over a hundred bucks, is a lot for a cake! We all know how much goes into our cake, and how much time we spend planning, creating not to mention stressing out about them. In addition to the time is the actual cost. Our cost aren't just the materials, but the time and fuel to go get them, the utilities required to bake them and the tools needed to finish the job. Add to that time and money spent training and learning as well as time for emailing, answering the phone and having consults, the cost add up very quickly! I don't mind admitting that last week I brought in only about $500.00 total. I worked easily 60 hours spent about $80.00 on gas and another $30-$50 in food while delivering and getting supplies. I spent $130.00 on fondant, and another $100 on other supplies. This leaves a profit of $140.00. That means my per hour labor cost is about $2.30... Yet I had to try and explain to customers why their Firemans helmet Grooms Cake was $250.00... I had to worry about problems and failures with the cakes during delivery, and as we all know, we have to worry about whether the customer will be satisfied. We all worry about that! Some of the cakes I've been proudest of and often gave the client the greatest deal on are the ones that get the complaints. In my case it's often that they don't think it's big enough, or even worse when they complain about silly petty things! I once did a last minute cake for a client who's original baker cancelled a 4 foot long cruise ship cake 3 days before the party ( she had booked it a year before) I stayed up all night doing it, and I was tickled to death with it. I found out days later that she wanted money back because she felt the color I had airbrushed the water around the ship clashed with the blue of her party. Really?? ( she even wanted me to pay for a flourist she hired to cover the water with flower petals!)
This is one of those cases where I feel like I need to offer the answer to some of these problems, but I honestly just don't know. I try every week to find more time in each day. I struggle to do what I'd like to do and balance that with what I can do, and very often I end up only doing what I must.
All I can say is you must find a way to make it worth while and in my case I have the truely great people I have met because of cake and the ones yet to come. I love the friends I have now and I don't mean that in a general sense. I LOVE them as they have given me strength and courage to continue to press on in spite of the difficulties associated with our industry. If it weren't for them (you) I'd be working on something , well, something else?
Peace N Love
This blog really struck a nerve and I'm actually proud of that! Truth is I really do feel like so many people blur the line between good marketing and flat out mis-reputation! It's one thing to want to appear as a valuable and effective business, but when it comes to our piers, the denial of the truth and the flat out fabrication and act performed by some folks really worries me. We are all part of a very small industry. I believe that what's good for one is usually good for us all and to deny the problematic issues in our industry builds a false image of the succes possible for people considering it as a career. I love cake people, but as an industry there are many people painting an unreal image of it. I admit that even I myself was guilty. In part because I felt my own actual success depended upon how people percieved my success, but perhaps mostly because I didn't want people to know that I can barely survive on the work I invest so much time in. I hate fear more than any other emotion and admitting that I have great (often impossible) difficulty making it within this industry was a real accomplishment for me. I really hope with all my heart that my story will shed some truth upon the industry and even more so I hope that it atleast helps those struggling and looking for the cure to feel like they are not alone! You are not alone! and we're in this boat together!
peace N love !