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What to do without imploding my business?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I have always wanted to do wedding cakes only. That is my goal and where my creative heart is. However, I started out just being so grateful that anybody would want to buy a cake from me that now through family functions and friends kids birthday cakes, word of mouth, etc. I serve a large group of birthday-style cake purchasers.

 

This is a supermarket cake town. Walmart is doing wedding cakes. 15-18 dollars per 1/4 sheet. I can get 35 for a 6" & 8"  plain-ish stack.   

 

When I think about my average wedding cake earnings, taking into consideration the time and materials I invest in baking and deco-ing, the return is hands down so much greater than spending the same amount of time doing birthday-style cakes. I know this applies everywhere.. but for me, around here...  

 

8 hours-average wedding cake-few hundred dollars

8 hours- birthday cakes- sometimes 80-120 dollars depending.

Not trying to be greedy, just work smarter and get more dollars and time with my family

 

I see so many successful Cake businesses doing mainly wedding cakes and corporate cakes and a small percentage of the celebration/birthday cakes. Anyone have practical advice on a safe way to transition my business to mainly wedding cakes and occasional birthday cakes?

 

Impose a minimum order amount? Pretty sure that would knock out a big percentage of my current customer base.     

post #2 of 10

Well sooner or later some of those birthday cake kids will grow up and need wedding cakes. Right?

 

And those kids having been raised on your good stuff will not go to Wal-mart for their wedding cakes. Right?

 

The best way to steer customers is to show mostly wedding cake pictures on your website and other publicity. Get as many tiered cake pictures up as possible. Rename some pictures as "shower" or "grooms cake" and use those carefully.  Don't say anything about a minimum order, just refocus your publicity.

 

You can also look at neighbouring towns that have a higher income base to promote wedding cakes and not any other kind.  Your town sounds like a very low income area to sell a 1/4 sheet cake for $15.00 these days. 

 

You will still get some word-of-mouth birthday orders.  You can accept those when you have no other orders.

post #3 of 10
Where are you located, who is your target market, where is your target market located, and what is your advertising strategy?

If 8 hours of work on birthday cakes only yields $80-120 you're doing something wrong. Targeting midmarket consumers and imposing a minimum order in the $40 range should result in at least $200-300 gross per 8 hour shift. If you are set up with an efficient process for creating birthday cakes with a competitive advantage you can easily be just as profitable (if not more so) than making wedding cakes.

People who can only pay $35 for a 6"/8" tiered cake should not be your customers in the first place. Imploding your business might be a good first step.
post #4 of 10
You could do several dummy wedding cakes and post the pics all over your website and FB page so people know you specialize in weddings.... Maybe do some bridal shows as well?
post #5 of 10

I do mostly (99%) wedding cakes, and it's an entirely different marketing strategy than having a storefront bakery  or doing birthday cakes. the wedding world runs on referrals, so you need to start networking with wedding professionals. get into a wedding professional or networking group, go to meetings, meet people, etc. If you deliver a wedding cake to a venue make sure that you seek out and talk to the catering director and leave business cards with them. Advertise in the magazines that are local and get handed out at local wedding shows. Switch the photos on your website to be wedding-centric. Make sure that your website has a lot of info about weddings primarily. Brides don't want to go onto a website that has a million pictures of little kids' birthday cakes to order their wedding cake. (I haven't looked at your website so I don't know how you have it set up, I'm just saying that Mickey Mouse cakes don't sell wedding cakes.)

 

I'm so stuck in weddings that I wouldn't even know where to start if I had to switch to birthday cakes only. It's a totally different animal. Just be aware that the world of weddings is highly political and very *****y... it never ceases to amaze me how backstabby people can be with weddings, and certain vendor categories are the worst.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar View Post

I do mostly (99%) wedding cakes, and it's an entirely different marketing strategy than having a storefront bakery  or doing birthday cakes. the wedding world runs on referrals, so you need to start networking with wedding professionals. get into a wedding professional or networking group, go to meetings, meet people, etc. If you deliver a wedding cake to a venue make sure that you seek out and talk to the catering director and leave business cards with them. Advertise in the magazines that are local and get handed out at local wedding shows. Switch the photos on your website to be wedding-centric. Make sure that your website has a lot of info about weddings primarily. Brides don't want to go onto a website that has a million pictures of little kids' birthday cakes to order their wedding cake. (I haven't looked at your website so I don't know how you have it set up, I'm just saying that Mickey Mouse cakes don't sell wedding cakes.)

 

 

Excellent points! You're right, I don't know but maybe one other cake maker in my area personally, but I know they're out there. And increasing in numbers all the time. I just had a young pastry school graduate ask me for a job not long ago declaring she would like to work for me for a while then open her own wedding cake business in our town. Um, no. I just told her to maybe look up a caterer in the area and good luck. I have tried to make friendly with another at a wedding event and got silence in return. So i relate to your point on that. Thank you for the great post!

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar View Post

I do mostly (99%) wedding cakes, and it's an entirely different marketing strategy than having a storefront bakery  or doing birthday cakes. the wedding world runs on referrals, so you need to start networking with wedding professionals. get into a wedding professional or networking group, go to meetings, meet people, etc. If you deliver a wedding cake to a venue make sure that you seek out and talk to the catering director and leave business cards with them. Advertise in the magazines that are local and get handed out at local wedding shows. Switch the photos on your website to be wedding-centric. Make sure that your website has a lot of info about weddings primarily. Brides don't want to go onto a website that has a million pictures of little kids' birthday cakes to order their wedding cake. (I haven't looked at your website so I don't know how you have it set up, I'm just saying that Mickey Mouse cakes don't sell wedding cakes.)

 

I'm so stuck in weddings that I wouldn't even know where to start if I had to switch to birthday cakes only. It's a totally different animal. Just be aware that the world of weddings is highly political and very *****y... it never ceases to amaze me how backstabby people can be with weddings, and certain vendor categories are the worst.

When I first started, I wanted to be in the wedding business but didn't take wedding orders because my mother was on hospice for 3 years and I never knew which week would be the one I might have to choose between being there for my mom and someone's wedding. Or rather I'd have to cancel at the last minute. As a result, by default,  I managed to carve out a niche in birthdays and am so grateful not to be competing in the wedding business. It is a rare bride who wants me for a wedding, but a few do and it tends to be something unusual.

 

You are right on target about the "mickey mouse" website issue - most of the wedding  inquiries I get are obviously from brides who have sent out a mass email to 30 bakeries. When they call, I usually try to give them some tips on how to go about finding a wedding cake since so many are using horrible advice from some article they read.

post #8 of 10

I went from doing 75% celebration and 25% wedding to 75% wedding and 25% celebrations in about 5 years. I'm just more passionate about weddings and there are only so many hours in the day. So last year I decided to set a $75 minimum on any custom celebration cake. I wanted people to go elsewhere if they were going to give me grief about little Johnny's bday cake. And it went EXACTLY how I wanted it to. I made WAAAY more money with this approach, and on the whole I was happier. 


Then I got stupid. 

 

I tried to go back to doing both with a helper/partner who was going to take the celebration end from me, so I opened up the whole shebang again to offer sheets and rounds, not just specialty. Ugh. There was a REASON I don't do little celebration cakes. And while you can teach someone to decorate, it is more difficult than I anticipated to both give up the control of customers (many whom I know from years of business), and to urge the partner to treat them the way I would. It's not working. (though I admit, my problem not hers!)

 

SO, I've got to reign it back in and go back to the majority weddings. My hubby says go to ONLY weddings. I don't think I can do that, but I would love to only have one type of cake to worry about!

 

All this to say Costumeczar is right (of course), referrals is what it takes. from brides, cousins of brides, vendors, venue managers, florists, etc. And a good website catering to what brides want. They want to feel special and like they aren't getting a "run of the mill" cake, but something perfectly done that exceeds their expectations. At least the ones I meet with are! And if you deliver that, you will never want for business. 

 

Also, the minimum order allows you to say no more often, and it sets boundaries right away with your interaction with the customer. I found that those who were willing to pay $75 or more for a specialty cake (and that $75 didn't include a whole lot!) were more flexible, open to ideas, respectful of my time, and thrilled with the product. They treated me like I was worth something, because I was outright telling them I WAS worth something. 

life is short, get a cakesafe.
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life is short, get a cakesafe.
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post #9 of 10

I completely agree about the referrals! We have been open for 8 months made-to-order. My first wedding was October 1 and we will be completely our fourth wedding January 1 and already have one booked for July. We do gourmet cupcakes as well as custom cakes so I think that has been a real draw for my area. We don't have too many bakeries in town that are doing both amazing custom cakes and delicious gourmet cupcakes. I think everyone else gave great suggestions! Just be really friendly with everyone you meet. So many of my customers have fallen in love with our (my mom and I) personality and our story. Thankfully, our brides have been low key which helps out! 

 

Best of luck to you.

Ali

Birthday Cakes
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Birthday Cakes
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post #10 of 10
Can you partner up with a wedding planner or a reception hall ,flower shop, dress boutique..I have no clue how it works there but here we have one stop wedding planning..So if i went to a reception hall to book they would give me info on cakes and flowers etc..Sometimes you will even get a coupon for a discount or something..just an idea
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