Sunday, 11 August 2013

"I just want to make cakes!" I can often be heard groaning this when I have so much to do and the admin side of business seems insurmountable! I freely admit how fortunate I am when I have a husband who helps me with everything he can, accounts, ordering, shopping, emails, and any practical aspect he can, leaving me to design and create. We have 3 children, a 5 yr old, 3 yr old and 7 month old. I took a career break after my second child to be able to stay at home to bring them up, paying childcare costs just didn't add up. During that time I discovered I had a skill in cake decorating and I made many, many cakes and took a small business start up course before deciding to register Candytuft Cakes. Many of you reading this will be just like me and therefore know how difficult juggling family life and a business from home actually is, especially a cake business! It takes over your home, your life, your every being. You live, eat and sleep cakes, you cannot escape them, and most of the time you don't want to, it's an addiction!

You may or may not wonder why I have opened with this, well I want you to know how serious I take my business, I can truly say I have never worked harder in my life, staying up until 2, 3, 4 a.m., even the occasional all-nighter. The sense of achievement I get from seeing my cakes finished is one of the best feelings ever however I can't raise my family on my sense of achievement! Each cake I produce is custom made, I aim to make each cake unique and personal and as with everything custom it comes at a cost! I can spend hours, sometimes over several days, thinking about a design, making sketches, researching styles, ordering specialist equipment, just to complete an idea in my head and that's even before the ingredients are bought, measured, mixed and baked. Each finished cake takes a combination of thought, planning, foresight, time, money, and skill. I have been blessed with this ability, I am very fortunate to be able to stay at home with my children but it wasn't a decision I took lightly. The truth is, without making a living from my skill, where does that leave my family? How many times do you hear people say "It's only a cake!" ? Try telling that to my children when mummy's too tired to play and falls asleep reading them their bedtime stories. Try telling that to my husband who spends his evenings helping me after a full day at his own job. Try telling that to my friends and family when I have to turn down invites!

There have been many blog posts circulating about the cost of cakes and I agree, there are people who want a custom made cake at supermarket prices, but there are also people who understand the value in the skill and time that goes into a custom cake. The question I have is this, "Where does the problem of pricing lie?". Is it the customer who is unwilling to pay the price for experience and expertise? I don't think it is. With a huge rise in the number of people starting to sell cakes and cupcakes for profit, the difference in pricing, not to mention level of skill, is astonishing (you've only to take a look at www.cakewrecks.com, go on, give yourself a chuckle!) I am sure many of you with cake businesses recognise this but with no regulatory bodies as such I guess it's up to each individual as to how they choose to run their business. I am under no illusion that every person selling cupcakes runs a legitimate business, but either way, there are people selling cakes and cupcakes for barely cost price. I do not know how or why they do it but what I do know is they are making a mockery of the rest of us who shed blood, sweat and tears over our creations! (not literally thank goodness!). I don't mean to sound harsh but I feel very strongly about it and I will tell you why in the next paragraph.

Firstly, cakes are not made from fresh air, fairy dust or indeed, imagined into life, (contrary to popular belief!) so immediately there is the cost of ingredients. Secondly, they take time to prepare and bake, yes, you guessed it, another cost to factor in. Thirdly, the time spent decorating can run into days depending on what you are producing, so unless your time is worthless, charge for it, not to mention your expertise and experience (doesn't everyone progress on a payscale?). If you factor all this into the price of a custom made cake why would you sell yourself cheap? Charging less than your work is actually worth is doing yourself an injustice as well as all those who do value their time and skill accordingly!

So what do all these words come down to? By charging silly prices for your work you are devaluing yourself and ultimately all your cake decorating peers. What does this mean for cake decorators everywhere? The buying public will increasingly expect everyone to produce cheaper cakes but still expect high quality. They will think that cheap cakes are the norm and that we, who price our cakes correctly, are in fact, overpriced! Why should this be so? Take into consideration every aspect of the cake making process and price accordingly. Don't sell yourself short. Maybe it's just a little pocket money to you but please consider that it's a livelihood for many! We shouldn't be fighting against each other, there is a difference between competitive pricing and undercutting. We should be reading from the same recipe book and valuing our expertise, time and sheer dedication.

Kathryn xxx

(below are some of my custom made cakes, you can check the rest out at www.candytuftcakes.com and www.facebook.com/Candytuft.Cakes)