Saturday, 17 September 2011

Running a Cake Business: Points to Consider

First of all, I should mention I do not run a cake making business, nor do I profess to be adept at producing perfectly presented cakes. No, I leave that job firmly to the experts. One such expert is the delightful Shikhita Singh who runs Fair Cake Ltd ; a business primed at running cake making/decorating courses from the new Vanilla Workshop in Greenwich, South East London. 
Vanilla Workshop: Business Premises of Fair Cake Ltd
Having a background in business and being an avid food blogger, my interest in attending the course "Run your own Cake and Cupcake Classes" was to gain an understanding of the considerations and challenges involved in running such an enterprise. 
Am I alone in thinking the world has gone cupcake mad? There seems to have been a proliferation of cupcakes emerging with varying flavours and colours of late and this week celebrates our very own National Cupcake week! Who would have thought?
So what did I learn? This is by no means an exhaustive list but what made an impression on me:

  • You don't have to be trained by Michel Roux or any of the talented pastry chefs to be successful in this business
Indeed, Shikhita is self taught. A former Programme Manager in the city, Shikhita harnessed her passion for cake making and decorating and turned it into a very successful, polished and professional business. Shikhita welcomes attendees from countries afar as Thailand and India. When I attended the class I was one of the very few people living in London.
  • Equip yourself with the necessary Food Hygiene rules and regulations and register your kitchen with your environmental health officer. On-line training is available here
  • Decide which business model you are going to pursue
Are you going to register as a limited company? Or are you going down the self employed route? Familiarise yourself with HMRC guidelines for both routes.
  • For as long as feasibly possible, run the cake business from home and save on additional expenditure accruing from a separate business property 
Shikhita started trading in 2008, running the cake business from home and it has only been in June of this year that she has started running courses from the Vanilla Workshop. This delay in using business premises allowed her to save up and invest in the right space. The old adgae "you get what you pay for" rings so very true in this case. The workshop has been well worth the wait. It is light and airy and very conducive to cake making and meeting fellow cakemakers.
Vanilla Workshop: Light, clean and airy space
Photo Credit: Fair Cake Ltd
  • Be realistic with financial projections on running the business 
When Shikhita revealed the operating costs involved in running the business, it was an eyewatering amount. Always be prudent to factor in a contingency margin in your budget. Consider the cost of items such as product and public liability insurance, council tax for business premises, electricity, salary and wages and parking permits. If the business premises is being renovated, consider building, architect and lawyers fees as well as any fees due regardless of whether the business is turning over sales. Strong attention to detail and scheduling for all project tasks including planning permission and building delivery dates should be closely monitored.

  • Pitch a variety of classes to audiences with the same skill level and inject fresh content
For example, basic classes should be aimed at beginners and those classes requiring a bit more technical ability should be aimed at intermediate/advanced levels. This will limit frustrations and produce more satisfied/repeat customers. All class descriptions should be informative enough to allow the customer to decide which course is the most appropriate.
Different themed courses should be introduced to stimulate repeat customer business, to enthuse trainers and to compliment the seasons. 

Picture Perfect Roses
Photo Credit: Fair Cake Ltd
  • Structure the cake class accordingly.
Remember to schedule in breaks and ensure practical exercises begin at the earliest opportunity. Factor in time for elements to dry/set and for assembling cake boxes to transport cakes. 
Shikhita has decided to strike a balance between teaching and growing the business. Teaching for 6 hours, 3 times a week can be quite tiring and she wants to be able to provide the best courses to her clients. It is for this reason, she will deliver no more than 3 classes a week. During other periods, her assistants help or she has guest teachers in the form of Naomi Henderson, founder of Hello Naomi or Kaysie Lackey, owner of The People's Cake.
  • Do not neglect to grow the business
As well as delivering the majority of the classes, Shikhita needs to maintain customer interest in her business. She invests heavily in marketing the business and a quick search on Google for "cupcake classes" will find Fair Cake ranked very highly in the results. Connecting and networking with fellow cake business owners and potential clients on forums and social media such as Facebook and Twitter  is also a good way of promoting her business. Faircake has more than 20,000 "likes" on Facebook and over 4,000 followers on Twitter.
  • Photography. First impressions count.
You will notice the photographs used in this blog entry are the property of Fair Cake. Using mine, would only do Shikhita a disservice. Shikhita is a very skilled photographer and produces her own photographs for the website. She posts all her photos on flickr and uses picnik to manipulate her photos. Both resources are free. Throughout this discussion, Shikhita emphasised the importance of lighting and the spacing of cupcakes; they should be equal distances apart.

A variety of cupcakes: Equidistant to one another
Photo Credit: Fair Cake Ltd
This course I found to be invaluable to those wanting to start their own cake making business. It is one thing to read about starting your own business from textbooks, quite another to hear of Shikhita's experience first hand. She gives a very frank account of what to expect and how she has overcome many challenges to date and will happily take questions from budding cake entrepreneurs.

Look out for the course "Tricks of the Cupcake Trade" or "Run your own Cake and Cupcake Classes"
For further information click here.
Alternatively, if you want some inspiration and have a interest in learning more about cake design have a look at the other courses on offer here
My thanks to Shikhita, Jessica and Louise for the kind invitation. It was a very enjoyable and informative day.


  1. EXCELLENT and useful information and all so full of common sense the cakes are amazing ~ great photos!

  2. Interesting. Very beautiful cakes too.

  3. Karen thanks for your comment. It was a really useful course for those wanting a taste of making and running cake classes.
    Janice thanks for the lovely comment. Yes, Shikhita's photos showcase her talent very well:-)

  4. great post! I did cake making for a while from home too and Fair Cake was one company I looked up to, love her work :)

  5. All good common sense ideas especially the bit about working from home. I very nearly went down the shop route but glad I didn't. Your cup cakes look fantastic! But have they had their day? Macaroons may be taking over as they're popping up everywhere! Good post.

  6. Selina - thanks for the comment. I agree if there is one business model to follow, then Fair Cake is a very good option. The success and popularity of Fair Cake says it all really.

    Thanks for dropping by Christine and the nice comment ;-) I'm afraid I can't take the credit for the photos - they are all the property of Fair Cake! Yes it does seem the popularity of Macarons is growing!

  7. What's not to love about cupcakes? And yours here look fabulous. It's great to see you injecting fun into life! Great post, my friend.

  8. Mario, thanks for dropping by ;-)

  9. Whether you have a big business or a small one, it is of the utmost importance that you know how to handle it first. It is advisable to conduct thorough research on your target market. It would also be good to observe other entrepreneurs. This guide is pretty easy to follow.

    Dylan May

  10. I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the public liability insurance