Top 10 Tips for Starting a Baking Business

snugglemuffin owner, juliane grasekamp at cake stand at big feed, glasgow
There are so many great pieces of advice out there for starting a baking business - I probably read most of them when I set up my own! Everyone's take on what transcends you from hobby-baker to bakery boss is valuable; and personal to them. Because everyone's journey is different. But whilst our experiences are unique, there are some common threads that we would probably all agree with. Here are my Top Ten Tips for starting a baking business …

1. Just Go For It

You know there will always be a market for cake, but there will also always be a million reasons why you feel you should hold off building a business around it! I say, if you've done your homework, the number one piece of advice anyone can give is to just go ahead and do it. Get over the idea that ‘I can’t because (*INSERT ONE MILLION REASONS HERE)’ and decide that you are going to go through with it. You can figure out the 'how' later. The first step is making the decision to take the plunge.

2. Plan Meticulously

Everyone would say of course, that it's not as simple as 'you bake, you sell, you make money'. But a way it actually is. There are just an awful lot of steps in between those milestones! It is so important to do your research and know exactly where you are going and what you will need to get there. From researching suppliers to developing your processes, you need to take a bird's-eye view of where you are now, and then formulate the steps towards your goal. I'm not a big fan of overused idioms, but I have to say it's true - ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’. Get the legwork done at the beginning because you won’t have spare time to spend on it once you launch.

3. Get Organized

Being organized is simple but essential. It would be awful to miss an important meeting just because you forgot where you wrote down the time. Or to lose track of which invoices have been paid and which are still due. Find a way which works for you and start keeping records of everything. I recommend finding a few great technological tools to become your best friends. My business could not survive without iCal, and a good ‘to do’ app is vital It’s also advisable to get yourself a basic CRM tool and some sort of accounting/bookkeeping software – this will save you so much time in the long run.

4. Use, Abuse, and Expand Your Network

Networking is a hugely underestimated essential. First of all, think about the people you already know who may be able to help you with various aspects of the business. It could be a graphic designer who creates a logo for you, or a business banker who gives you tips on getting investment. People you know are often more than happy to help and can save you a great deal of time and money. On top of that, grow your network as much as possible. Attend networking events and speak to as many people as you can, you never know who you might meet, who might be able to help you out, or even who might be a potential investor or customer. And it goes both ways, try to think of any ways you may be able to help others or connections you could make for people, being thoughtful goes a long way.

5. Embrace the Fact that it's Going to be Astonishingly Hard Work

Nobody can ever prepare you for the amount of work that is involved in starting a baking business, or any business for that matter.  It seems obvious, but trust me, you are not prepared! It will be difficult, your social life will suffer, you will lose sleep and eat irregularly – but you are going to love itIf you are pursuing something you are passionate about then the tiredness, lack of social life and ridiculous working hours won’t bother you, because it’s your baby. Soo yes, it will be hard, but it will it be worth it!

6. Understand that you are Constantly Learning

Nobody should ever get to a point in life where they say 'Yup, I know it all now. What next?'. We are always learning. And in a baking business, you need to learn to be good at a lot of things besides baking. During my years of running a cake business, I had to turn my hand to managing, accounting, baking, joinery, marketing, sales, delivery, plumbing, customer relations, procurement, graphic design.. the list goes on!  I didn’t know how to do most of these things when I started, but you have to teach yourself as you go. Even once you are set up and in a routine, there are still so many things to learn about how to grow, improve, and adapt your business to its environment. Suck up any advice you can from books, other businesses or people that you meet. Even if the business does not work out you will have learned an invaluable amount from the process.

7. Recognize your Strengths and Weaknesses

Although it’s important to adapt and learn new skills, you also have to know how to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. There will be some things you’re a pro at, some you can learn to do, and then there’s the stuff that you just shouldn’t touch! Because it’s not always about whether you can do something; it’s about whether doing it is the best use of your time! Can you quickly fix an oven fan? No? Don’t sit for 2 hours fiddling about with it; make an executive decision at the outset and get it done by someone who does do these things. Get help where you know you need it, and get on with what you do best.  You don't have to do it all on your own.

8. Prioritize your Time

When you get really busy, it's important to prioritize how you spend your time. There will be several important things that you need to do in a day, but often it’s just not possible to get them all done. Spend a little time putting what you need to do down on paper (or your phone, or laptop:) Put a time next to it and stick to it! And if you find that you're not getting things done because you're running in and out of the kitchen, answering calls or cutting out fondant bows, allocate time slots each week for specific jobs. Regular tasks like book-keeping, social or email marketing, or planning your next week all fall into this category. 

When it gets really busy I find it useful to split up the day in my calendar into half hour chunks and assign the tasks and meetings throughout the day with an approximate time it will take me to complete them. I find this really helps with de-stressing.

9. Get the Right People On Board

Getting the right people on your team can make or break a start up. You want someone who is passionate about the business and really wants to see it thrive. People who just want to show up, do their hours and go home are of no use to your business, and you can bet there will be someone else out there who would love to be involved if this is the case. People who share a passion for what you are doing will not only work hard to see it succeed, but they will breathe life into the business and their enthusiasm will spur you on when you haven’t slept in four days, you’re living off of Ritz crackers because 'who has time to shop?'  and you have a pile of paperwork the size of a small pony on your desk.

10. Always Keep the End Goal in Mind

It can be so easy to get caught up in the everyday comings and goings of your cake business. Try to keep one eye on the bigger picture and your vision for the company. Make sure that you are working 'on' the business and do not get trapped working 'in' it. [LINK] - a common failing of small businesses. At times when I feel overwhelmed and I am not sure what to do, I find it best to think about where I want to end up and work backwards from there. This helps me to mark out the steps I need to take to achieve it, and keeps me focused on my short - and long-term goals.  It will not only help you to figure out what to do, but it will remind you why you are doing this in the first place and inspire you to continue on to achieve your dream.

If you have these Top Ten tips down, you’re well on your way to creating a business that will not only succeed but will also give you the time and headspace you need to enjoy it as you build a life around it.

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