In this blog, I share with you how and why I started my cake business. Read on to learn about my journey so far and how this might inspire you to see the cake industry from another perspective. I will also share my tips and advice for anyone who’s looking to start their own cake business but can also be used for other professions as well.
The cake industry has boomed over the last few years where baking has become a novelty whether you’re a natural at it or not. It’s a fun and fulfilling hobby to have, especially if you can master it.
As a result of its popularity, programs such as The Great British Bake Off were born to test the knowledge and skills of amateur bakers around the UK. We are obsessed with the creativity and innovative ideas that these contestants have and experience the journey with them as they go through the various stages and technical challenges.
So you’re a pretty good baker yourself? Do you enjoy creating something special, testing your skills, learning as you go along and fancy doing it as a profession? It’s a demanding and time consuming job but the benefits are worthwhile.
Below is my story to how and why I started my cake decorating business.
The start of M Bakery
I’ve always been a keen baker from a young age. I mean, who doesn’t love cake?! And having a sweet tooth certainly encourages you to have, learn and make more.
My parents owned a take away which, as a young teenager, I would help out at weekends and after school on a Friday. Working with them taught me a lot about life, cooking, being around adults, how to deal with customers, running a food business etc It’s a tough job working around 15 hours a day with only one day off a week but that is how the food industry typically is.
My creative mind has always been attracted to fashion and so I completed a BA Hons degree in Fashion Design with the aim to become a lingerie designer. After working various different jobs, that dream was put on hold while I became a Financial Contractor for a few years. Although that was a completely different career to the one I had worked towards, it made sense and in the meantime, my husband opened up a bagel deli. This reignited my passion for baking as I made cupcakes, Oreo cheesecakes, carrot cakes and chocolate brownies to sell.
Here’s a picture of my cupcakes way back when I started baking for the deli (how embarrassing!). I remember being so chuffed with them and they always sold out!
Our Oreo cheesecake was our best seller though and that was so popular, customers were ordering and buying them whole! Sadly I don’t have a picture of it…maybe because I never had chance to take one!
As the years went by, I experimented, watched a lot of Ace of Cakes and had fun making novelty cakes for friends and family. It would take up a lot of time but I had so much fun making them and it was more rewarding seeing the look on their faces when they saw it.
My skills, knowledge and techniques improved and I had considered doing it as a profession for a while but never took the jump.
Fast forward six years and I finally made the decision to set up M Bakery and see how it would turn out. I’ve had several years of baking and creating cakes so I felt I was ready to give it a go. My main goal for M Bakery is to have the freedom to be creative full time (as I’m working full time and doing this as a side business), work from home and spend more time with my husband and beautiful pug, Ponyo.
One day, as my husband and I were driving over to Clifton, we drove by Ashton Court which had an advertising banner for their wedding fair, which was being held in two weeks’ time.
“You should do that” my husband suggested.
“I doubt they’ll have any spaces for me though as it’s only in two weeks’ time” I replied.
As it was, they did have a space for me and the following two weeks were manic! I had no name, no logo, no business cards or leaflets….nothing! However, I got everything that needed to be done, done.
In two weeks, when I wasn’t working in the office, I registered the business and everything else in order to serve to the public, designed my logo, ordered the business cards, leaflets, table cover with my logo printed on it, all in time for it to be delivered before the fair. I also bought a load of dummy cakes and started sketching quickly of the different designs and techniques I wanted to show off at my stall.
Thinking about it, I don’t even think I had a name then either! After going through various names and logo designs for the business, I decided on M Bakery. Why? The ‘M’ is my initial and I chose ‘Bakery’ because I wanted to give my business the freedom to do all things baking related in the future.
Just days before the wedding fair, my business cards were delayed until the following week as they had printer problems, my food delivery was cancelled without being told and there were issues with getting my table cloth printed. Everything was going wrong but I stayed focused and determined to get everything done.
The day before the wedding fair, I decorated three dummy cakes from scratch and made my tasting samples. With no sleep at all, we drove over to the wedding fair and got my stall set up ready to be viewed by a lot of potential clients. It was nerve racking as I didn’t know what to expect but thankfully I had past experience of being on a stall and dealing with customers.
It was a busy day and I met so many bride and grooms as well as their family and friends. It was nice to see their reactions when they tasted my samples and complimented me on my work and logo. Despite the mad rush, I managed to get two wedding bookings which I thought was a pretty good start!
My journey so far
Well, it’s now been a year since I started M Bakery and doing it part time on top of a full time job has been challenging! I went through highs and lows as it can be difficult at times but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work with some beautiful and lovely couples as well as meeting a lot of wonderful suppliers in the wedding industry.
I had the pleasure of meeting Pia from The Vanilla Pod Bakery based in Cheltenham and it was so lovely to hear all about her journey as a cake designer and what it took to get her where she is now. We shared each other’s stories and as a newbie to the cake industry, it was really useful to get advice from someone who’s been there, done it and has become well known and respected in the cake industry.
The biggest challenge I have with owning a cake business is pricing cakes and keeping my social media accounts constantly active. However, I’m finding these tasks are getting easier as time goes by and I have more quotes to give.
My biggest achievement so far is being a recommended supplier for Lucknam Park. I have also taken part in a charity wedding which was featured in Your South Wales Wedding magazine, writing a blog post called “Wedding cakes: why are they expensive?” and getting a handful of well-respected cake designers to contribute their thoughts (including Pia, Karisha from Crème de la Cakes (also seen on Extreme Cake Makers), Rebecca from Rebecca Davies Cake Design and Ronke from The Cake Parlour)), I’m on The List for LGBQT Equality Weddings and of course, working with couples and creating their wedding cakes.
However, I’ve also had some failed attempts. Since doing the wedding fair, I have tried and tested methods of exposing my brand by doing a Christmas market stall in Bristol. It was crazy busy preparing my cakes for it but unfortunately it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. However, it taught me a lot about baking a big order of cakes, planning and organising as well as confirming my target market.
I’ve also taught myself on how to market the business, spent many hours working on my website, blog writing and signing up to do more wedding fairs and attend courses to learn from the best in the cake industry. It’s hard work but I’ve had a lot of fun meeting new people, socialising and meeting other wedding suppliers.
I’ve had a few challenges along the way like pricing but the biggest has been talking to people about the cost of cakes. I appreciate that non cake makers don’t fully understand the time, skill, cost in ingredients and packaging that’s involved and I used to take it personally.
I love this story of Picasso. It rings true to so many artists out there who have invested in their own time to fulfil their creative needs and it helps others who aren’t artists to understand our view in a nutshell.
One day, Picasso was sitting in a café in Paris where an admirer approached him and asked if he would do a sketch on a napkin for them. He accepted, created a sketch and as he handed back the napkin, he asked for a significant amount of money in exchange. The admirer shockingly asked how he could ask for so much when it only took him a minute to draw it. Picasso replied “No, it took me 40 years”
I love his response as it takes years for an artist of any background to learn and refine their skills and gain more experience in their chosen field.
I have a lot of big plans for M Bakery in the future. In addition to the cake designing and making, I have started cake decorating courses to help hobby bakers feel confident decorating their bakes with the latest cake trends like the drippy cake and chocolate shards.
I’ve also got some styled photo shoots lined up which I’m very excited about and I’ll continue to get involved in as many as I can.
In November, I’ll be attending the Cake International competition and will aim to win some awards.
Top tips and advice for starting your own cake business
As a new cake business, I’ve learnt a lot throughout my whole journey so far. Here are my tips and advice which I hope will help you regardless of the industry you’re in:
- Write down your “why”. This will be your rock when you’re feeling low or lost. As much as I love what I do, there are occasions when things can seem overwhelming but going back to my “why” helps keep me get back on track, stay positive and focused on the end goal.
- Research and write down who your target market is, what your goals are and what you’ll be offering. Are you specialising in novelty cakes? Do you only want to make cupcakes? Are you looking to be the best gluten free baker in the UK? Stay true to yourself.
- Get involved as much as you can. Whether it’s helping out with various cake communities on Facebook, complimenting on people’s images on Instagram, doing wedding fairs or styled photoshoots. Building an identity and brand awareness is important and will build trust with potential clients.
- Speak to other cake makers, network and have a mentor or someone who’s got your back. This will help you learn more about the industry and give you the support you need.
- Be organised! Whether it’s for a wedding fair, taking and making orders, posting on social media, make sure you are as organised as you can be.
If you’ve already started your own cake business or looking to set it up and would like to get further advice from a mentor, I would highly recommend Pia Canto who’s the owner of The Vanilla Pod Bakery based in Cheltenham. She’s also the owner of Make Money with Cakes and you can find her here where she can help you start or grow your cake business like she did.*
I hope you found this blog really useful and interesting to read. If you would like to know or find out more, feel free to leave a comment below or send a direct message to [email protected]. Have you started your own business? Which industry are you in and what are the challenges you’ve faced? Tell me by commenting below as I’d love to hear your thoughts!
* Please note that I have recommended Pia on my own accord and would not suggest this if I did not believe in Pia’s work.