Part two begins once the customer has decided on a design. I make a list of all the items I’ll need to complete the cake, check my stock for the correct size cake drum/box, paste colours etc and if necessary order anything I need. I try to keep a good stock of most things I need to prevent placing small orders for a few bits and pieces (post and packing can be expensive) but some cakes do need specialised items. I don’t charge an individual customer extra for buying specialist equipment as I assume I’ll use anything I buy on other cake orders.
This leads on to where I buy my equipment and consumables. For the basic cake ingredients, flour, sugar, eggs etc I use my local supermarket. I probably should consider buying in bulk more to save money and increase my profit margin but that would mean making a special trip to stock up and having somewhere to store it all. Sometimes cost isn’t the only factor to consider, convenience and time cost matter too.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good cake decorating supplies shop close to me so I do shop online frequently. The only problem with that is not being able to see what the products are like, size, quality etc so every once in a while I take the time to visit the nearest suppliers to me and stock up on items that I feel will be useful in the future.
Finding the right product at the right price can be time consuming. I am working on making a list of suppliers I use frequently and their prices for certain items so I can see at a glance which one will offer me the best price when I need to place an order.
The start of a cake’s journey is contact from a potential customer. This can either come by phone, email or via friends on Facebook. These initial communications are usually of the ‘can you make me a cake on such and such a date’ variety, some customers send photos of cakes they’ve found online or outline the design of cake they want. Sometimes the customer only has a vague idea what they are looking for so that leads to the next step in the process – drawing designs.
One skill that would be beneficial for me to learn is the art of designing cakes using a drawing programme on the computer. At the moment my designs are hand-drawn and I admit I find it hard to get the designs to reflect what the finished cake will look like.
For example this is a drawing I did for a birthday cake (with icing sample)
and the finished cake.
I need to improve my sketching skills!
This design process can go on for some time and involve repeat drawings until the customer is happy.
After another order was cancelled this week, after the design had been agreed but before a deposit had been paid, I am wondering whether I should start taking a deposit before any design work is done. Drawing designs and communication with the customer is time spent working, time that I do not get paid for if the order doesn’t go ahead. There is always the chance that a customer could take my design drawings (simple as they are) and go to another cake maker to get the cake made. As far as I’m aware this hasn’t happened yet but it is a possibility.
I’d be interested to hear what you think about that, either from a customer point of view or from a business point of view.
During the time I’ve been running my business I have had few order cancellations. I think that is partly to do with most of my customers being friends or friends of friends. It is disappointing when it does happen though, especially when it is a cake I’m looking forward to making. I appreciate there are times when it is necessary to cancel a cake order but it can be difficult to take when someone just ‘changes their mind’ or comes to you for ideas and then takes the designs elsewhere.
I have learnt my lesson with the latest cancellation. I asked for a deposit but gave a date when I wanted it by. In the meantime, because I was very busy, I started work on models for the cake. The date went past when I’d asked for the deposit, I contacted the customer, still no deposit. A couple of days later I asked her outright whether she still wanted the cake and got a ‘no’ back.
This situation gave me the idea for my next post. I don’t think people appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a cake so my next post will be ‘The Life of a Cake’, a cake order from start to finish.