A lot of people have romantic notions about starting a food business, particularly if that food business is party-inspired, like the craft of cake-making and/or decorating.
While cake makers and decorators may find themselves attending lots of social events, it is by no means an easy business venture, particularly in today’s highly competitive dessert market.
Before you can carve yourself a slice, you need to ensure you’re adequately equipped to handle anything that you may get served. StartupSmart does some market research to help you have your cake and eat it too.
What is it and who is it suited to?
Cake making and decorating might sound easy enough but, like any business, it demands hard work and exceptional organisational skills.
It may sound funny, but you also need to enjoy eating because you will spend a fair amount of time testing cake mixtures and the finished products to ensure they are up to standard.
Rules and regulations
Even if you’re planning to run your business from home, food hygiene and preparation rules apply to any premises in which food is prepared.
If you’re planning on using your kitchen or another site which isn’t purpose-built, make sure you keep all pets and soft furnishings out of the room.
You also need to be aware of cross-contamination, particularly if you’re running the business from home. Be aware that equipment, pets, cloths, cleaning products and packaging can spread bacteria, so ensure you keep a close watch on what is coming into contact with your food.
Research and competition
There are plenty of cake making/decorating courses in Australia, and it is definitely advisable to complete one if you don’t have any cake-related qualifications or experience.
While there are plenty of cake decorating schools and TAFE courses available, there are also “couture” cake shops like Planet Cake in Sydney, which teaches the art of modern cake decorating.
“Students will learn contemporary designs and updated cake decorating techniques with artists that create cakes for celebrities and VIPs,” the company says.
With more than 15 courses available, participants learn a range of skills including cutting and sculpting, piping, painting, creating decorations and using the right equipment.
Once you have a course under your belt, you need to decide whether you want to start-up at home or in a shop, and whether you intend to sell your products online.
Because cakes are often judged on their aesthetic value, your shop front and/or website should reflect this. People purchasing cakes are typically doing so for a party or wedding, so you want their experience to be as pleasant as possible.
Costs and earnings
Your start-up costs will depend very much on how big an operation you wish to run. As with all businesses, the fewer overheads you have, the lower your expenditure.
The first cost you will be faced with, if you decide to run your business from anywhere other than home, is the cost of business premises.
Your next decision will be whether to employ staff to help out or not. Although casual administrative staff can be hired for relatively little, specialist cake decorators come at a significantly higher cost.
When you start up, you will invariably need to invest in equipment, but this is not a one-off purchase. You need to purchase equipment on a regular basis to ensure your work is of the highest standard as old utensils could compromise the finished product.
With regard to earnings, a cake maker and/or decorator can expect to take home between $24,000 and $45,000, so starting up on a part-time basis might be the best way to go, at least initially.
An average day
Ghazaleh Lyari, founder of Ghermez Cupcakes, opened her first store in 2008 after working for more than a decade as an investment banker, proving you don’t have to come from a culinary background.
Lyari now has three stores, predominantly catering for corporate events and weddings, with 80% of all orders customised for clients.
A mother-of-one, Lyari says the hardest part of starting up was forfeiting the creature comforts of corporate life, such as regular working hours.
“There are days when I get to spend 10 quality hours a day with my son, and days when I don’t see him at all,” she says.
More than likely, you’ll prepare food as close to the event – or trading hours – as possible. If you plan on catering for after-hours events or private parties, be prepared to work antisocial hours.
Having said that, you’ll be involved in celebrations and festivities on a daily basis.
Australian National Cake Decorators Association
National Baking Industry Association
07 3831 5961
02 9810 3843
Australian Government Small Business Support Line
1800 777 275
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
02 6273 2311
03 9668 9950