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Ideas in finding your nitch in cake decorating

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

How do you know what your nitch is in cake decorating??

About a year ago I just walked away from taking orders after 5 years of decorating for others. In the past year I have only done some cakes here and there for family. Looking back, it was not because I did not love what I did but probably just needed to refigure a few things that were not working for me and humbly go back to basics, practice more and find a my own nitch to focus on.
I was taking any kind of orders I could get and really making very little for the time I put in detailing each cake (that is what I love about cake decorating; the creativeness, detailing, and getting to challange myself to see what else I could do.......creating cake art!) My pictures probably don't reflect that since I have not posted any new pictures for a few years at least.

What I did not like about cake decorating is the amount of time each cake took for the amount of money I made. It just seemed that people were not willing to pay what the cake was actually worth. They liked the the outcome but not the price. I think I may have been charging $2 or 2.50 a slice. I was afraid if I raised the price, they just would stop ordering altogether. It is something how people will shell out $3 for a cupcake but when you need many servings at one time, they get shell shocked at the total price for it.

I am in need of ideas of what I could do with cake decorating where I get to be creative and also somehow make enough to be worth my time spent as well.

I thought of maybe just doing only certain types of cakes (maybe weddings but sometimes those are few are far between) or just doing creative cupcakes because people are willing to pay for those. I don't know. Are there questions I am overlooking that I should be asking myself to get a more clear picture of what I should be doing?
Any ideas out there? I sure would appreciate your help!
post #2 of 19
This is a really good question and I am very curious to read other's responses...For me, I am just starting out. I knew from the start I DID NOT want to do sheet cakes. EVERYONE does sheet cakes, so the market for them is already quite saturated in my area and I knew I would not get much for them. I knew the kind of time and detail I was willing to put into them would not work with a "sheet cake price" so I went from there. No sheet cakes means I could concentrate more time on "specialty cakes" so I am practicing getting my cakes as perfect as possible, clean straight lines smooth BC, flawless fondant. I do charge on the upper end of my local market as well, but I am okay with that. I only get customers who are wanting something different and they are aware of the prices and are willing to pay extra to have a cake that will be a true center piece at their event. That is my niche. I do not like working extremely fast...I like taking one cake and working on it for several hours at my own pace. My cakes are not nearly where I feel they should be (but will I ever feel that way!?!?) Business is good though. I am turning down one or two orders a month, meaning that people have a sense of urgency to get their order in, raising demand for them, raising their value. I average about 3-5 cakes a weekend...And anyone that comes to me with a sheet cake order, I very happily send it to the cake lady down the road that does the most beautiful sheet cakes....Not cutting down the sheet cake market, I have nothing against them at all, just don't feel there is room for more sheet cakes LOL!
post #3 of 19
I'm not sure I have any advice to offer, but I definitely know what you mean. I'm just starting out professionally and have had very few orders, which is okay, because I won't be totally set up for several months yet. But once I am, I'll be looking for ways to find a fit between me and my potential clients. Meantime, I'm doing lots of cakes, etc., for family and friends, and I look at each one of them as a challenge and a new experience. I pretty much get free reign over my designs, so I do things that I'm interested in. Great training, but sometime soon, I'm going to need to find out what customers are interested in and how to attract clients that are wlling to pay a decent amount for the cakes I produce. I did learn one interesting thing from a friend of mine who has been doing this for a long time: if you can find a picture of a cake close to what the client wants, e-mail a photo of it to them. If they can see something close to the results beforehand, it sometimes helps them to commit to an order. It's worked for me a few times now. Another thing she does is to have several uncovered cake dummies stacked in tiers with real ribbon, silk flowers, etc., in her tasting room. When she makes the cakes up, she uses either real or gumpaste flowers, etc., but she can give potential clients an idea of what they would be getting, and she can play around with them while the person is there looking on. A great idea for the drawing-challenged like me. I'm doing this, too, when I have the space.
Marianna
"I know my own mind...and it's around here somewhere!"
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Marianna
"I know my own mind...and it's around here somewhere!"
Reply
post #4 of 19
This is a marketing issue more than anything else...when you put together a business plan you will need to identify your target market, and if the demographics in your area don't support making a decent profit you'll want to target a more affluent area instead, with advertising and networking with professionals (caterers, venues, planners) in that area.

You'll also want to identify your competitive advantage -- something you can provide that other businesses can't. If you can't identify your competitive advantage you will have a very difficult time competing on anything other than price.
post #5 of 19
Thanks, jason_kraft, I knew your advice would be gold!
Marianna
"I know my own mind...and it's around here somewhere!"
Reply
Marianna
"I know my own mind...and it's around here somewhere!"
Reply
post #6 of 19
I too have my qualms about doing cakes. I also find it as my creative outlet, and not a profit making machine!LOL I have anguished over trying to start an official bussiness, but have never thought I would have a strong clientel. Not to mention how slow I am decorating. I'm going tomorrow to a class about business ownership, but not for decorating, I think I'll check on openning a supply shop. I definitely know there is a market for that in my area! You have to drive quite a ways around here to buy specialty supplies (more than say Wal-mart and Michaels). I am hoping that this will be my niche. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you, it's nice to see someone else with the same confusion as me! Best of luck to you. Tonya
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
That is a good idea to identify what my target market is and what type of competitive advantage I can offer. Can you give me some examples of competitive advantages in the cake industry? Do you mean like delivering to the client when other places don't do that or offering some kind of punch card maybe (like buy X number of cakes and get one free) or something like that?

I think that was part of my problem in the past. I was trying to please everyone and in the process, I lost what I really loved and wanted out of cake decorating for myself.
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetDreams

Can you give me some examples of competitive advantages in the cake industry?


I'll share the competitive advantage for my bakery...we specialize in professionally-decorated cakes and other baked goods for people with food allergies (nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, etc.). While there are a few other gluten-free bakeries in our area, no one else creates custom-made products according to the customer's allergies.

Just looking at nut allergies alone, there are no other nut-free bakeries in the SF Bay area (population 7 million+). Our only real competition for customers with nut allergies is the customers baking the cake themselves at home.

Your competitive advantage doesn't necessarily have to be product-centric, you could:
- Provide home delivery service for smaller cakes
- Become the exclusive provider for cakes at a popular venue
- Put together an extensive network of wedding planners who know you have a good product and will refer you to their customers
- Specialize in corporate events by building contacts in local companies
- Have a retail shop with an excellent location

...and so on. I would advise staying away from things like discount programs and free offers, they are very easy for competitors to duplicate, and they attract the wrong demographic (i.e. people who shop based on price instead of quality/service/features/etc.).
post #9 of 19
My *niche* is Tall Cakes.......minimum height for any cake is 6 inches.
There are plenty of cakers and bakers out there that do 3 and 4 inch high cakes... thats what sets me apart from others in my area/city.

My reason behind doing Tall Cakes - i just don't like the look of short cakes - so i decided to do what others don't do.... and i am extremely happy to say - it works for me.

Bluehue. icon_smile.gif
post #10 of 19
If you stopped it for five years, then the income is not vital, but added.

This puts you in the perfect position of doing what you want to do vs. what you need to do. Do some soul searching on the things you like to create the most. Then do a business plan as Jason suggested and follow the advice in his post.

My business is set up purely around what I want to do. Every day is enjoyable and it is never the same.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft


Your competitive advantage doesn't necessarily have to be product-centric, you could:
- Provide home delivery service for smaller cakes
- Become the exclusive provider for cakes at a popular venue
- Put together an extensive network of wedding planners who know you have a good product and will refer you to their customers
- Specialize in corporate events by building contacts in local companies
- Have a retail shop with an excellent location

...and so on. I would advise staying away from things like discount programs and free offers, they are very easy for competitors to duplicate, and they attract the wrong demographic (i.e. people who shop based on price instead of quality/service/features/etc.).



Great advice!! How do you suggest building contacts in local companies for corporate events? There are tons out here but I am hesitant to just approach them with my business card and tell them I do cakes... that would look awkward I think?! TIA!
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj22

Great advice!! How do you suggest building contacts in local companies for corporate events? There are tons out here but I am hesitant to just approach them with my business card and tell them I do cakes... that would look awkward I think?! TIA!


Social networking is one way, you could try reaching out to contacts on Facebook or LinkedIn to see if they (or their friends/family) work at local companies.

Cold calling can also be surprisingly effective, just make sure to write out a script beforehand. Showing up in person with samples is another tactic.
post #13 of 19
"I put in detailing each cake (that is what I love about cake decorating; the creativeness, detailing, and getting to challange myself to see what else I could do.......creating cake art!)"

Right there's your niche. You said it yourself.

What do you want?
How do you want to do it?
What are your strengths?
What gives you the most enjoyment?
What bugs you about other businesses, in particular cake businesses? Can you "fix" that in your own business?
What is your vision for your business?

Those are the types of questions to ask yourself. From there, you research to see if there's a market for your niche.
post #14 of 19
Thanks Jason! I'll try Linkedin and cold calling and also the samples. I hope it works!
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
These are really good ideas and questions to think about. I need to really sit and think about these things.
My first inclination is to want to offer really detailed cakes (in topsy turvy or stacked) with sugar flowers or lots of fondant accents. Also, I am a Vegan so I thought I would like to also offer cake flavors that did not have dairy or egg products. I don't think anyone in our area does this. The problem with wanting to do really detailed cakes is that in my immediate community, not many people are willing to shell out the money for them. I would have to somehow get my name out in towns that are about 40 minutes away from me for that type of clientele. Does this make sense doing that from home? or should my focus be on finding something some kind of compromise that works for my immediate local market?
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