I don't think any business can truly, truly succeed if the owner is having troubles with workload and stress! Its very hard to run a business from your home AND be a single Mum too, I expect. BUT, many people do it. I congratulate you for taking the Wilton courses, as these are a good start on learning the basics. First of all, you need to ask yourself if cake decorating is your passion, and is this the best way for you to earn an income and support your family. IF it is, then read on...
I am sure many of the US members will chime in with some helpful, but more specific, advice. I think its important to look at several different areas. By NO means should it take you all of 18 months to get started, and if you know the key areas, you can certainly get ahead faster.
The main areas (as I see it):
- Food safety, including being certified to be able to make and sell cakes from your home (including any restrictions on types of ingredients, eg cream cheese). Depending on your location you may need to pass a Food Safety course (very simple, and can be done online in some places). The other side of this is your state and town regulations for operating a food business from your home. These two things are the top of anyone's list when starting a cake business.
- Small business management. Technically, many cake businesses at home are "micro-businesses", so once you are allowed to trade in cakes from your own home, you will need to think about not only the day to day paperwork, but the financial reports you will need to generate for your tax authority. I recommend a simple software package like Cake Boss, which allows you to keep track of all your purchases, stock levels, clients details, recipes, calendars and so forth. This software is NOT essential - if you are savvy with software you can create your own alternate systems at home. I recommend also backing up daily, and keeping a paper diary as a back up too as you get into the business, just in case. I am sure there are plenty of free resources online for learning basic book-keeping, if you want to try this all on paper.
- Skills as a decorator. This is more the fun part of your work, but still related to the financial side of things. You will want to invest in equipment, courses, books, magazines and of course publicity. You need to work on your own recipes and eventually find your niche in cake decorating. This is something you can do once you are up and running, and after you've done some dummies and get a basic website up an running! And from personal experience - you never stop learning!
There are MANY mothers on cake central who work from home and have kids to pick up from school and take to soccer or dance classes etc, and we all learn our own ways of aligning our home life with our work/business. Its not all easy. If you have a separate room or space to work in where you don't need to clean up to make room for the kids to eat at the table, etc, then that is a great bonus.
I will let the US members post more details pertaining to these three main areas I think, because as a newby to the industry I am sure you are craving SPECIFIC information :-)
I wish you all the best, and hope you stick around CC and eventually feel comfortable enough to post some photos of your work. We'd love to see it!