Monday, July 23, 2012

sometimes from failure comes opportunity

Some of you may know that since my first few times on TLC, I'd been courted by a handful of production companies who work with various networks.  At one point things were very heated and I had a small army of people all of them focused on getting me on TV.  I had agents trying to recruit me, marketing professionals working for me and even ( and this was the dumbest thing I ever did) hired an overpriced "PR" firm.  The PR firms job seemed to me to be to hype things up and make up titles for me like "ultimate cake artist" and basically, bull shit their way through everything!  For a while it seemed like things were really going somewhere, but all the while I felt lost.  I felt like I was trying to do something that wasn't really me.  I don't mind putting on a show, look at Cakefest, but when the pressure leads you to consider being something you're not ( or at least pretending to be) it'll eat at you, and it really ate at me!  At one point I was straight out offered a show.  The network explained that they really wanted to work with me and all I had to do was take on the moniker of "king of chocolate"  and call the cakes I created, sugar art instead of cake, and use chocolate more often....  WHAT?  look at my work and if you find chocolate on any of my designs, it's because I was eating a Hershey's bar and got messy!  I would be lieing though if I didn't say that for at least a moment, I didn't considered it.  The opportunity to do something great, make an actual paycheck and pursue some of my own desires to create something good and positive, briefly overpowered my need to be honest.  But, hey... That's TV... and I've gotten smarter since then!

In the last couple weeks, I almost let myself do basically the same thing.  Things are heating up right now and if you've read any of my other blogs, you know that several TV shows are casting (or have already cast), and out of the blue, I was offered spots on 2 of them.  I hate to admit it, but I even briefly accepted one of them, only to get smart and later piss of the producers by backing out.  It wasn't a good fit for me.  I struggle to see how it could have been a good fit for anyone really, they offered very little, and by design they intend to make things very tough and drama filled.  The real kicker was that it was yet another re-hatched competition show.  Exactly what you've seen many times before, even with similar themes, but with a slightly different twist.  I've seen way to many people accept the prospect of TV without really considering the possible outcome.  In reality, I know way to many people that wish they hadn't let themselves become involved.  There really is a degree that you must settle and sell out to do these shows, and I hate that we are all so willing to do it for the 30 minutes we get to be on TV, and I'm included in that group!
I've bitched and moaned so much about TV that you would think I'd avoid it all together, but truth is I love shooting shows. (ok, so I'm a bit of a show off) I love what opportunities I've been given because of my silly little role on these silly little cake shows. I get to do what I love to do and that is to be around really great people!  To create things like Cakefest and to get to share my work with people at charity and educational events is one of the greatest gifts I've been given and I'm very thankful for that, but TV also has an after taste!  And it can be really bitter...

So as they say when one door closes, another opens, and here we are.  I've decided to stop complaining and give this idea of ours one final push!  We've been asked for ideas and pitches for the type of TV show you all know I've been saying needs to be done.  A show that is up-lifting, with as little negative or contrived drama as possible, and one that I'd be really happy to watch myself.  It's not that there aren't a few shows out there that are positive, but few celebrate the very core of what it is that we as HUMANS do, and what it is that I've become a sort of expert at...  Celebrating life!  We want to celebrate the celebrations,  the love between friends and families, the very core of what makes us human!  Even when things seem dark and cold there are bright flashes of genuine good out there that are too often over looked, and we need your help to find them! 

We are looking to you for help!  We need you and we want to hear about what you're doing for someone.  A friend recently told me of a older gentleman he met standing in tears outside of another friends restaurant.  He was standing next to a brand new Mustang convertible, and explained that he had just retired that day and had come there with his wife for dinner.  It seems he had always wanted a Mustang, but could never afford to buy one for himself, a story many could tell, but his family surprised him with it and I can't imagine the emotions stirred inside that deserving ol' guy!  Why wouldn't everyone want to share in that story?  What are we celebrating here?  A dude getting a new car?  NO!  It goes far deeper than that, by sharing his story we share the story and struggle of so many really good hard working people just like him.  Maybe we don't all end up with a sweet new "stang, but damn it we ought to!  Even deeper than that is what really drives us all internally as humans; Love...  In my line of work I get to see some really beautiful manifestations of love.  I'm there to deliver a cake usually, but sometimes a guy comes along that reminds you what the core of every celebration is really about. ( see my "when reality isn't real enough" blog)  Sometimes people love someone so much they buy them a car, or close off an entire neighborhood to surprise them on their birthday, but usually we just love em!  We all love somebody, and maybe just by watching a silly TV show about celebrations and love, we can be closer to them?  Maybe we can come to understand that we all have so much to celebrate even when it seems we don't?  There is already too much negativity and drama in the world today, lets find a way to change that, even if just 30 minutes at a time!

So, I'm asking for you're help.  If you're planning something, even something much more simple than giving someone a car, give me a call or email.  We're excited to hear about what you're doing and with any luck at all, we may just be able to share your story!  All I can promise for now is that we will have a chance to pitch the show to several networks, but we intend to keep a completely positive spin on it and even if the networks don't have the use for something good, we plan to do episodes as web cast.

A good thing is always worth doing, even if nobody ever knows you did it.  It feeds the soul, lifts the spirit, and gives us even more reason to celebrate!  Celebrate with us!

Peace N Love


Monday, July 9, 2012

What's the plan??

A friend of mine that I've worked with in the past recently found out that she can't continue doing cakes.  It's nothing terribly serious but it keeps her from doing what she's done for many years.  It got me to thinking, What's my plan? 

    You all know my stance on our industry...  It's tough, the money sucks and the time involved is ridiculous!, But since I'm still booked for a good chunk of the near future, I'll still be doing cakes on atleast a part time basis.  My clients come to me and expect me to help them choose the right cake for them.  They put their trust in me, and as my reputation is good they rely on me and have faith that I will deliver what I promised I would.  but what if I can't?

My friends medical issues got me to wondering.  A question I've never been asked by a client is "what happens if you can't make my cake?   I have on the bottom of my order form a disclaimer that states that I'm not responsible for things that are out of my control; weather, riots, power outages and etc.  ( I also limit my liability to the value of the cake, for what it's worth)  There is no mention of a plan, nor have I given much thought to the scenario of what happens if I become un-able to do your cake.  Some weekends it wouldn't be a huge problem, as birthday cakes are not such a big thing that the customer couldn't just order somewhere else, but weddings, and bigger corporate cakes?  And what happens if it's very short notice?  What if on friday morning something happens that keeps me from accomplishing the work at hand?  How would my clients even know their cake wasn't coming?  What's plan "B" 

Our industry is a very unforgiving one.  If you take your car to a mechanic, and a week later the repair fails, you have it towed back.  You go to your doctor and she can't quite figure out what's wrong with you, she prescribes a pill.  If you get well, great, if not you come right back and pay her to prescribe yet another pill, but cake clients are not so forgiving.  The nature of cakes is they are for an exact occasion and needed by a finite time, or they are good for nothing.  A wedding cake can't be delivered after the ceremony, nor can any cake be used for it's intended purpose, once the event it's for passes, so, in a sense there is no better late than never, late is as good as never.  In my day to day operations we plan ahead!  We start our deliveries early so as to allow time for problems.  If I have a flat tire, the extra hours I planned for deliveries allows for that.  I try to allow enough time before the absolute delivery deadline to allow me to make repairs, fix errors and on occasion find my way to a unfamiliar venue (not that I've ever been lost!)   Some of the other issues are out of my control; like a venue staff that in spite of the fact that they knew I'd be there needing to drop off a cake by 11:00 aren't ready with a covered table until after 1:00, or a traffic jam created when some guys Jetta burst into flames (true story)...  These are things I plan for and when the van is full of cakes, I worry about every saturday, but still I have no solid plan for an issue that keeps me from being physically able to make a clients cake. 

In my friends situation, she called me and asked if I would be willing to do them for her.  This seemed like a great plan until she tried to explain the facts to her clientel.  Besides that fact that brides are rightfully worried about finding out that the cake artist they had chosen, is passing the work on to someone else, there are other concerns as well.   In this case my price is higher per serving than hers, so I agree'd to honor her price as I hate the implications of trying to raise the price.  First it looks bad for her, and secondly it's really not fair for the client.   It also can be seen as though I'm just sticking it to them, because of something that is out of the clients control, adding insult to injury, so to speak.

My point to this blog is to point out a potential land mine for all of us.  It's nice to imagine that our clients would understand, even be greatful that we found an alternative decorator for them, but after dealing with the current situation, I've found we can't expect that.  What are the legal ramifications of not being able to or for some reason beyond our control failing to deliver the work we promised?  Imagine a bride who, having failed to recieve her cake, considers her entire wedding ruined because you had the nerve to have a heart attack as you strained to pipe the design on her cake the night before.  Can you even blame her for being upset?  Well, maybe but in truth her wedding was damaged because of something that you did have control over and if we fail to plan for the worst, we may find ourselves not only out the money lost because we didn't get to deliver the cakes, but being sued for damages as well.

Maybe I'm the only one who thinks about this stuff, but it would seem logical that no matter how small the business or how few cakes we do that somewhere there should be a "worst case scenario plan"in place.   Maybe in a metal cabinet that says "break glass in case of emergency" or tacked to the wall but we should have some sort of plan. 

I know conventional cake person wisdom says "do it no matter what", but I've had clients call in a panic, and explain that another decorator had taken their order, often many months before, only to call the week of and back out for some reason.  Relating it again to my former profession, cars, I can tell you that even as an individual, if you agree to a sale and back out, you're in big trouble if the buyer wants to push it.  What if you agree to sell a car that's worth $20,K, for 5 grand, shake hands or even take a deposit for it.  Then later that day a guy pops up and offers you 10K, twice what you already agree'd to!  do you screw the first guy and sell it?  I know of people who have successfully sued not for the 5K they were spending, but for the full value of the car,  You could end up owing the first buyer twice what you got paid because you wanted the extra cash.   can the same be true for cake?  Could you end up owing them, or at least being sued for the value of the party, ruined because you didn't do the cake? 
My friend contacted me well before the decision was made to have me actually do the cakes.  She went over the designs and I can rest asured that the clients will get a great cake, and i have no problem doing them, yet when she contacted her clients, many of them did freak out even though a plan was already in place to accomplish the goal of providing a great cake.  Some have calmed down after talking to me, while a few are still worried.  (if you're reading this and this is you, FORGIVE ME!  we've got you taken care of!)      

For now I'm off to tweak my contract a bit and include atleast a provision in it that covers my butt if the situation ever arises!

Peace n Love!