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Any advice for someone who wants to get into wedding cakes as a business?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hello, I am fairly new to this website. I have lurked for a while, but this is my first post. :bounce:

I would like to know if there is any advice that anyone can offer for someone who would like to go into the wedding cakes business. I enjoy cake decorating and baking. I have taken one decorating course at a local store and have lots of books on baking/decorating. The thoughts of taking it further have crossed my mind. But, I wanted to see if anyone had any advice for those who are just starting out.

Thank you in advance. :)
post #2 of 21
Before you invest your time, money, and heart into your own cake business, you really should get a job in a bakery. You need to learn how to do cakes professionally, if you intend to run a business.
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your response. I have considered getting a part-time job in a bakery, but it seems like every place that I have looked, they want you to have experience working in a bakery setting. The reason that I want the job is to get the experience, but how can I get a job without the experience? :)
post #4 of 21
Offer to work for free, if possible. You may start out doing menial work, but that shouldn't matter; you can learn a lot just by watching. Eventually, if you keep at it, you may earn more responsibility.
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks alot for your response. I am going to give it a shot. It doesnt hurt to try. I did contact one bakery a few weeks ago regarding part-time or volunteer work. She informed me that they didnt need any help at the time. I also put an application in another bakery yesterday. I visited another bakery today, however, the person that I needed to speak to was on vacation. I will contact him when he gets back. We'll see what happens!!

I have always heard that one should volunteer to work for free to gain exposure and experience. I dont mind at all, but I wondered how many people would be willing to take me. I know some bakeries offer internships, but I am not currently enrolled in school.

What should I be saying when I contact the bakery about working for free?
I want to make sure I dont goof it up!! :)
post #6 of 21
Jut tell them that you'd like to help them out so that you can learn. Some bakeries may turn you down, but keep trying. Where are you?
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks, that sounds like a great suggestion.

I am in NJ, not far from Philadelphia.
post #8 of 21
It is just as important to understand the business aspect of ownership then it is to decorate.
Working for free is getting to be a thing of the past. Unfortunately there are legal implications if you were to be injured while on the property. This should not keep you from trying though. Be very upfront with the owner. Let him or her know exactly your intentions.As Momo says, you may not be decorating but just being in the enviornment will teach you a lot. I'm more apt to bring someone on that tells me they just want to get a feel for a professional kitchen then someone who wants to learn how to decorate.
There are many aspects of business just as important.bookeeping,sanitation,ordering & receiving,sales etc.
Offer to do anything in the bakery, clean-up, sales, anything.
Good luck in your venture.
IMHO I would not ask an owner to work for free but would offer to do anything that needs to be done for any compensation.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response, Panini. I was kind of concerned about the issues you mentioned about when it came to working for free. What I have done when I approach a bakery is to first ask if they are hiring part-time. Then, I will ask if they accept interns, but explain to them that I am not in school at this current time.
Oh, I am not looking to decorate. hahaha I am not ready for that yet!! I would like to learn the other things though. I would just like to see how things operate.

I have approached a couple of bakeries. I have an interview this morning for part-time work at a local bakery. I think it is just for a front counter position, which is fine. I dont mind. I also checked out another bakery, but the baker was on vacation. I have to check back with him when he returns.

Thanks again!!
post #10 of 21
Good luck wit your interview.
Wish you were in the South :D
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Geez, I forgot to come back and give an update. Well, I had the interview. Let's just say, I left there hoping that I wouldnt receive a phone call.

I dont know what the problem was. The interview just didnt go well. I was tempted to walk out the interview. The lady, who is the manager, got
on my nerves so bad. I dont want to bad-mouth anyone, but I just didnt think that the manager had good interviewing skills.

When I first sat down, she called me someone else's name, which I got passed. Hey, it was a minor mistake. She asked me if I had attended college. I informed her that I have a BS in a non-related field. She asked me why I wasnt working. I told her that it was and it was indicated on my application. So, she looks at the application and says, "So, you are working........." I said "Yes, I have a full-time job." She said, "Oh, ok." She kindly explained to me that she could not pay me what I was probably making in my current field. I told her that I was not looking for that salary. She said, "Well, on your application, you didnt indicate your salary." I said, "Yes, I know." She said, "Well, it's part of the application and you have to complete the entire application." I said,"I never fill it in when seeking a part-time job." She said, "Well, you are supposed to b/c it is part of the application." I said, "Well, I dont understand why you need to know that." She said, "We just need it b/c it's part of the application." I said, "I dont understand why. I never fill it in when I am applying for a part-time job." She said, "Everyone fills it in. We have a lady who works for Reebok and she had to fill it in." I am saying to myself "Yeah, and, so what?" After going back and forth with this issue, I informed her what the salary was although I didnt think it was necessary.

She asked me how much I wanted to make. I informed her that I was open to receive what they were offering. She continues on and asks me if I was looking to supplement my income. Confused, I just answered, "Huh?" She said, "Well, the reason that I ask is b/c it is only a few hours a week." I said, "Ok, that is fine." She asked me if I had a family. I told her that I did. She asked me if I had children and how old they were. I told her that I had one son who was a teen. She responded, "You dont have a problem being away from him?" I said, "No." She says, "Well, this isnt an easy job. I dont want people to think that it's easy. We dont bake the cakes here, but we do sales. It's a very tough job. We sit down with people and help them plan their parties and let them know their options. We sell expensive $1800 cakes." I said, "Oh, ok." She said, "We need smart people who have good customer service skills. We let customers know their options. For instance, if you go into Macy's to shop, you dont want to just be shown the cheap section, you want to know about the entire store." I said, "Right. It's about letting them know there options." She says, "This isnt an easy job. It takes an entire month to learn the job. We recently hired some new people, but I dont think they are going to work out." She whispers "Well, we usually start with $8 an hour and that's for usually for experienced people. But we can bring you in at $8." I said, "That's fine. For me, it's not about the money." She said, "And our raises are unlimited."

She just got on my nerves. Personally, I didnt care for her tone. She wasted too much time on how much I make, telling me it's a hard job instead of explaining more about the job, and all of this other stuff instead of focusing on the important stuff. Never once did she ask me about my skills or qualifiications.

So, needless to say, I got discouraged after that! I am not going to give up. :bounce:
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Another question, would either of you recommend school to get the experience? I considered it and enrolled for one quarter, but stopped going b/c of the expense of it. I still have my books and the starting supplies.
post #13 of 21
School might give you a foundation for baking, but the skills you need for decorating, you can really only develop through on-the-job repetition.

I'm sorry that your interview didn't pan out. Sounds like a severe clash of personalities.

Too bad you're not here in CT; I could use an extra pair of hands!

Keep trying, sweetbrown. Someone out there could probably use an ambitious helper!
post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yeah, baking is the reason I entertained school. I would like to improve my baking skills, learn how to do things more efficiently, learn about the aspects of baking professionally, etc. But, the high cost of tuition is what has me rethinking school. Arggh!! There are lots of sources on decorating (i.e. books, specialized classes, etc.) My books have alot of info on baking, too, but I wanted to learn how to do things "the right way".

Oh, how I wish I were near either one of you guys!! Now, that would be too good to be true!!! :rolleyes:

I wont give up. I keep saying, "if I could just hit the lottery, I can go to school." It's sad because I dont even play the lottery!! hahahaha
post #15 of 21
where are you?
if you have any backround or specific talent ie. gumpaste or sugar work, you could try for a scolarship. CIA has many as does J&W. The best thing to do is ask. At Peter Kump's, now ICE, a student could pay some tuition by staging.
look into other options like using your day job talents (bookkeeping, print work, technical writing) to help out a small business owner in exchange for time in the bakeshop or decoration room.
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry
post #16 of 21
You just have to keep getting out there and selling yourself. There could of been a very good reason that manager was hiring people. Maybe she didn't have the people skills herself.
A successful salesperson will tell you, you must have rejection. The more contacts, the more rejection. You'll score if you keep at it.
Somehow the word got out that we were looking for our holiday support staff early this year. It has been a blast interviewing! When the decorators arrive, they are greeted with a quick tour and given an apron and all the tools to spin a cake. It's old fashioned, I know, but to see the look on their faces :eek: .
The ones who dive in, get my attention. I'm not really looking at their decorating skills, fact is, the less the better, less training for us. It is harder to break bad habits then to teach. I"m looking at their composure. Gathering the tools they like, asking where this is and that is. This is what I look for.
sorry, rambling.
School never hurts, but I agree, try working to see if you like it. Most people in the bakery business have both feet facing forward but have their heads screwed on backwards. It's the opposite on the savory side. :D
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys!!

M Brown, I am closer to Philly. Although ideal, NY would be too far to travel. I wish I did live closer to NY. :) They have good schools to choose from.

Panini, I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. I just have to keep going. It can only help me grow as a person. Even though it didnt work out, I appreciate having the opportunity to interview. I just thought, since this was a customer-service oriented position, that she'd be interested in knowing whether or not I have such experience, which I do. Although I thought the position required different duties, I was excited to hear about the responsibilities and felt it would be great experience. Oh, well!

I am going to make a list of places to contact and go from there. What do I have to lose. :rolleyes:

As far as schools, if I were to pursue school (which would be later on, if at all), which is better to have? An associates or a certificate? Or does it matter? There are two schools in my area that would I have considered, but would have a hard time choosing:

1) Academy of Culinary Arts in Atlantic City -
- offers certificate program (almost half the cost of the associates program, but doesnt include things like food cost)
- offers Associates

2) The Restaurant School (Philadelphia)
- offers an associates. (I am not sure of the price, but I think it may be similar in price to the above Associates Degree program.)
- offers associates program
- offers community education/recreational programs (I dont think this will cover enough for me.)

Thanks in advance. :bounce:
post #18 of 21

Illegal interview questions

I career changed into pastry - and what put me over the edge was being made an HR manager! I even passed the exam for a PHR certification. A question like "do you have a family" is not allowed under labor law. Yea, I know, you won't be suing to get a job at this place - but you seem to have picked up on the vibe, and it wasn't good. the hardest thing for me, when I wanted my first job so bad I'd do anything, anything was staying upbeat, and trusting my gut. My first job wasn't the best, but I advanced quickly (hey, everyone kept leaving!) and learned a lot. If you have a family, a scholarship to one of the big schools might not be possible - but what a wonderful opportunity! One thing I heard at a talk given by Christopher Kimball, and some chefs, was that writing directly to the top people in the field (and, he added, offering to take them to lunch to talk about your goals) was often very sucessful. If you see some work you like - call the owner, offer to take them to coffee, and tell them you love their work! One thing I found was how much hiring chefs look for what they call 'the love'. If you have it, it shows, and is a great influence on hiriing decisions. I got hired for pastry assistant when I was over 50 (and most people burn out, or their feet give out, in their 20's) Good jobs do happen, eventually - but that eventual is such a tough time to live through.
I wish you the very best of luck.
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for everyone's help!! :)

Annie, I forgot that you arent allowed to ask things like that in interviews. I just think that it was uncalled for. I havent heard back from her either. However, that is fine!! :)

Yeah, I know I wont qualify for a scholarship if it is based on need. And the ones that I saw based on merit, you either had to be a high school student or already enrolled in a program.

I do have minor updates: I wrote a cover letter explaining my interests (and practically begged for an opportunity to do anything) and sent it along with my resume to 3 bakeries/patisseries. These are places that arent in my local area. I will also visit a few other places (in my local area) this week to inquire about opportunities. We'll see what happens!! :bounce:
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
Ok, a letter and resume have been sent to three places. I havent heard back from any of them yet. :confused: Should I call them to follow up? Oh, this is tough.... :cool:
post #21 of 21
I would give a follow-up call. When I worked in pastry at Whole Foods, we would hire as a team and applicants who made a follow up call won points, as well as people who took the time to get to know our product. One of our trick questions was, "Do you shop in our bakery? Oh you have? So what's your favorite item?" Anyhow, personally, before I worked for myself, I would wait 2 - 3 days then do a follow-up and ask if the position has been filled or what the status was on my application.
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