Updated: Oct 19
This is a classic scenario in the cake world. Teach self to bake/decorate. Make cakes for friends and family. Word gets out about your awesome cakes. Clients start rolling in.
Naturally, if you become really good at what you do, have consistent work, and your clients rave about your cake, than you might be thinking about how you can further your baking career. Even if it's just you in the kitchen, and behind the computer answering quotes, you can absolutely create a high-end wedding cake business!
I'm going to outline the most important factors that go into creating a wedding cake business that will succeed!
I'm going to go ahead and get this one out of the way real quick. As a baker/cake designer of course taste and aesthetics matter. As with any business, you'll need to have a solid foundation to build on before you contribute to a couple's big day. So, having a menu with a variety of flavors (even if it's only a few) that you bake REALLY well is crucial to success!
I also, personally believe (you may not) that not every baker is ready to delve into wedding cakes as soon as they learn to frost a cake. To me, designing wedding cakes is almost a right of passage that truly comes after years of practice. Though, I also believe that you can absolutely learn to do it, it just takes time and patience!
Make sure you know how to stack perfectly level cakes, how to transport them safely, and a feasible back-up plan if something goes wrong! Wedding vendors across the board generally feel a ton of pressure to not mess up a couples big day, and rightfully so! This is why I think taking on wedding cakes really is a big responsibility, that should not be taken lightly!
The wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. And it's also very unique because nearly everyone who is getting married is doing it for the first time. Although they can and will ask friends and family for advise on which vendors to use, we live in an age where things change very quickly and many times the same vendors are not around, or have changed in some other way. The best referrals come from other wedding vendors. Hands. Down.
Yes, you can spend money on fancy websites. (of course you usually have to pay more to be at the top) but, I have found (my own experience) the when you get other vendors to rave about you and your cakes, there is hardly any competition!
Styled shoots are pretty common these days. If you're not familiar with this term, a styled shoot is where a group of vendors (florist, baker, photographer, planner, linens, models, and sometimes specialty vendors) get together and throw a pretend themed wedding. This is highly staged, but the results can be gorgeous! Many times the cake for the shoot is not real, but here is your chance to shine with a beautiful cake design, and yummy samples for the other vendors to try! I have personally met some of the BEST vendors at these shoots, and have developed some wonderful friendships that will truly last a lifetime! It's not only great practice, and great networking, but you'll receive some amazing shots of your cakes for your portfolio. :)
Photography: @dewittforlove Planning/Concept Design: @the7thfloorplan Venue: @thehoweymansion Florals: @flowerchildflorist Makeup + Hair: @tsunoorlater Cake: @cakeapig Table/Dish/Chair Rentals: @southernchairs Bridal Gown: @lilysbridal Invitations: @etuiandco Sofa Rentals: @oceanhawkrentals Models: Brooke Mooney @brookekayy_ and Hunter Hedman @hh.harry Men's Jacket: @JCpenney
This is a big one for me. As a cottage baker, I feel that exuding professionalism has played a big part in helping me to get where I am today. I don't have a fancy bakery, or a full staff. In fact I have 4 kids, and my house is usually a very loud place to be.
Before I had my littlest in daycare I didn't have my phone number listed anywhere. I knew I wouldn't be able to answer client calls without tons of background noise, so I opted for email instead. I made sure to have a great signature, with my logo, and all the places where they could find me, just like I had always seen on any business email I had ever received. It looks so much more professional than "send with my android" as my signature. I also encourage everyone to have a bomb website, one that looks cohesive and luxury (if that's what you're going for), with matching colors, font, etc...
Whenever I show up at a consultation, a meeting, or to a delivery I am always wearing either my branded polo, or my chef's coat. This lets people know that I'm serious about what I do, and absolutely makes me look professional!
One of the most important things to me when it comes to professionalism, is that I make sure I am always representing my brand, even in my personal life. This does NOT mean I always look amazing (4 kids remember?) nor does it mean that I have to be perfect. But it DOES mean that I will not over-share on Facebook or anywhere else, and because I live in a smaller "town" I'm always aware that there's a strong possibility I will run into someone who knows me or knows of me, so I am very conscious of myself in public (especially with my branded clothes on!) This might sound a bit extreme to some, but this is how I personally choose to live, and having my own company only holds me more accountable to presenting myself well.
Put yourself out there!
A lot of times once we start getting really good at what we do, we start comparing ourselves to others, or start wondering how others get these amazing gigs, when we feel like we have just as much to offer if not more. If that's the case, than why are we being overlooked?
Whether it's for a spot in a magazine, or to opportunity to be a preferred vendor for a popular wedding venue, it's crucial for you to let people know you're here! Reach out to those venues and event coordinators and ask if they would consider using your company. Let them know what you have to offer, and ask if you can bring some samples. I'm pretty sure it was Duff Goldman who openly speaks about how he made a huge wedding cake, set it on a cart, and rolled it up and down the sidewalk of a busy wedding venue in order to get his business out there. How awesome is that?!
There is a definite possibility that more than one venue will say no, but the more venues you reach out to, the more likely you will receive a call back! Once again, relationships with wedding vendors (especially venues!) are the absolute best way to get into the wedding industry, and with a great reputation, you will stay there!
For cottage bakers it's usually not ideal to host potential clients in your home. Whether it's because of pets, kids, or just too much distraction, it's more common to meet clients at a local coffee shop, or even a Hotel or close-by venue.
I'll never forget my first wedding cake consultation.. I met the couple at their house (it was an old high-school friend-turned amazing client!) and I thought it would make me look so much more legit if I had fancy glass plates, and tons of samples, and different bowls and spoons for everything! Um, no. That just led to a bunch of dishes to be washed, and way too much time setting up and breaking down. Lesson learned! I now bring my samples in labeled airtight portion cups in a box that they can either throw away or take home with them.
Be confident, be professional, and talk about them! Make the couple feel special, because even though you're at a coffee shop, they have probably been looking forward to this appointment for a long time! It's supposed to be the best experience, because cake!!
Oh, the dreaded topic of pricing! This is one thing that I find MANY bakers struggle with (including myself for awhile!)
While pricing your cakes is definitely for a different post, I will say that custom pricing principles are WAY different than what we see everyday while shopping for the lowest prices on purchases. Many times future Brides and/or Grooms will shy away from the cheaper bakeries, because they understand that with value comes a larger price tag. This is not to say that you will not find business with cheaper prices, but it will almost always be harder for you to get the high-end clients with larger budgets that you may want.
Making wedding cakes is a highly rewarding experience. It's exciting, it's terrifying, and once you're done, you're going to want to do it again!