Larger companies enlisting "secret shoppers" to find out what's going on while the boss is away. If you think an employee is stealing your business away, have someone you know call or come in while you're away and see if happens.
Awww, thanks for the link love @TheNerdyBaker! Cake tools are so expensive so I'm always looking for ways to make my own. I have been practicing with making my own stencils lately because you know, I'll do most anything to keep from writing on a cake!
Congratulations and best of luck to you! I'm not sure about acrylic trays, but put Restaurant Equippers ( http://www.equippers.com/ ) in your favorites list and check them out. When I was building out my bakery I got so much stuff from them, and their prices and very reasonable.
To that I would say that filet mignon lasts just as long, winds up in the same place, but the stores still charge a premium for it! Some people will never appreciate the artistry that goes into something like cake, and that's something I can live with. It was a good day when I finally realized that not everyone can afford my product and I shouldn't feel bad about that.
Don't forget things like:
Food Safety courses
Continuing Ed (cake classes)
Once you figure out why that photographer needs to charge what they do, you'll be better off applying it to yourself and your business. When I was still wet behind the ears (they're still a little damp) I started wearing a stopwatch while I was working on a cake. The clock was running as long as I was "working" on that cake. That included...
I LOVE having a local cake "buddy" - someone I can call and complain to or bounce questions/ideas off of. We share stencils and tools, and have even agreed to be each other's backup in case of some horrible emergency. We met at a mini bridal show and just hit it off, but there's always places to meet people. ICES has already been mentioned, but do you have any local cake clubs? If you have any supply shops in town, check with them. And you might even think about...