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  1. Business – Spreading the word.

    When you decide to go into business you spend a lot of time choosing a name, getting the official boxes ticked and practicing your recipes. What comes next often seems like a mountain to climb. Spreading the word that you are in business and building a client base.

    Hopefully some of my hints and tips will be of use. Let me know how you get on.

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    The first thing to do is look close to home. Where does your family work? Do they have companies making deliveries for things such as books and occasional stationery from home workers? If so there is a good chance they would be interested in a cupcake or cake sale. I have been into companies at a lunch time before and sold a small selection of my range. It was like a “taster” of my work and they all went home with a postcard flyer which detailed what I could do and how to reach me if they wanted more. The sales were always a success and I would gain between 6-7 orders following the sale for things like birthday cakes and cupcakes.

    The postcards I used were from Vistaprint. They are great for reasonably priced business cards and postcards. They are a great size for adding all the info of what you can do, how to reach you and possibly a photo too. Think of them as a large business card. You find lots of people will keep these for future needs as they aren’t too big to be a nuisance and they are big enough to catch their eye when stuck to the fridge or are placed on the notice board at work.

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    Next you could try thinking of all the places you go to on a regular basis. Many of these will hold potential customers. Look out for notice boards or a few business cards left on the side. It’s a good indicator that they are happy to help promote local businesses. In places which have staff try taking in some samples of cake to show them what you do. Then if they hold your cards they may be likely to tell anyone who picks up a card how fabulous you are.

    Some places to try are: Schools; Hairdressers; Supermarket notice boards; florists; bridal shops; greeting card shops; and newsagents.

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    Speak to your friends. Have a tasting evening. Get each of your friends to bring someone along that you don’t know and hand out samples to them all. Use it as a chance to network and get to know everyone. Take an interest in each of your guests, you never know if they have an event they are planning or it they may work somewhere that is looking for a corporate cake for a special event.

    You could have some sample designs on display and have your photo album to hand so you can show that you are able to provide something to suit every occasion.

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    Contact your local press. They are always looking for public interest features and in the current economic climate they are pleased to support new growth and more so when it is local. I was featured in my local press in October. They came out and talked to me about the business and what it was I did that was different. Don’t panic about being different. They will find the story angle for you, it’s their job.  Make sure you have some samples of your work to show off in the photo. I decided to have both wedding cakes and cupcakes to show I could do a variety.

    Just because you have been in the paper once doesn’t mean this idea isn’t useful for future marketing. Not only was I in the paper towards the end of October but I was then in again just a few weeks later when I won a bronze award at Cake International. My cake this time was a huge novelty roast dinner cake so again it showed another style of work I was able to do.

    These are just a few ideas to get you started. They are things I have tried and tested and which have worked for me.  I really hope they can help you boost your business and get you started. I will later share some more long term marketing ideas which will be more useful for when you need to expand. Until then these will get you started locally. Please let me know how you get on or what you think.

    Until next time

    Shelly

    x

  2. Setting up a business is a complex procedure and not something I can fully cover in just one blog post, so today I want to give you the essential start-up check list for starting a cake business.

    This is a UK specific checklist and whilst many steps may be the same in your country. Please refer to your local tax offices for more specific advice on what is applicable in your country.

    1. Register with HMRC as self-employed – Whilst you are registering ask them if there is a local business start-up team who can speak with you and tell you if there are any ways they can help you. For example some counties have on going grant schemes which you may be eligible for. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/startingup/ 
    2. Do a food and hygiene certificate at level 2. Whilst level one is available most local councils will require you to do the level 2 so save yourself the money and do this one straight away.  There are many online companies now providing the certificates. Check out www.saferfoodhandler.co.uk this was one site I came across when researching this blog. They seem to be the lowest priced site online.
    3. Register with your local council’s environmental health department. They will want to do a home visit to check your facilities and give you some advice for your business. Don’t be scared they’re there to help you as much as protect the customers. They will let you know of any changes you need to make. Home cake businesses are often seen as low risk, so don’t panic they will not require the same level of inspection as a commercial premises. Most councils are now signed up to the “scores on the doors” policy which will give you a star rating and help you show your customers where their food is coming from.
    4. Get yourself some product and public liability insurance. I have mine with Direct line and it only costs me around £6 per month. http://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/liability-insurance/public-liability-insurance.htm this will protect you if you have any customers wanting to make a complaint for any reason. Without it you could find yourself in hot water should a client have an issue with a cake you have made.
    5. Speak to your mortgage company and check it is ok for you to run a business from home. Many home deeds still have rules on running home businesses and having any signage on the property. It’s best to call them and go through everything to make sure before you start taking orders.
    6. Order a safer food better business pack from the food standards agency. Most councils will like you to fill this pack out when baking and will check your diary when they do an inspection. The pack is free and you can even get updated diary inserts for free when you run out. Call 0845 6060667 to obtain your pack. Some of the information doesn’t apply to you so give your environmental health officer a call and they will clarify what you will need.
    7. Start good accounting from day one. Literally every penny should be accounted for and a good way I have found is to use a tax return note book I found in Staples it was less than £10 and has columns for everything.
    8. Will you let customers in when they collect a cake or make and order? (wedding consultations) If so call your home insurance and advise them so they can adjust their policy to match your requirements. If you want to avoid this do your wedding consultations in a local hotel most offer a great lounge and if you call to check they don’t mind you serving your client cake testers you usually find it’s a great place to hold your consultations and it will seem more professional too.
    9. Are you going to offer to deliver cake orders? If so adjust your car policy so you are covered. It often costs less than you think and will ensure you and your products are covered in the event of any accident. How else will you explain to a bride her cake is squished and so is your car?
    10. A good book which I find really useful when I am unsure of what I can claim for on the business is the tax guide book. It has everything applicable for that tax return year in it and will guide you as to what you can put through the business. A must when you are working from home and unsure of the percentages for things like electricity. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Daily-Mail-Guide-2011-2012/dp/1846684722

     

    Some websites you may find useful are

    http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?r.s=tl&topicId=1073858805

    http://www.mumsclub.co.uk/ - Ideal for those who are mums in business.

     

    So there you go the essential start up list. You will have thought of pretty stationery and gorgeous cakes, just make sure you do these steps too.

     

    Until next time

     

    Shelly x  

  3. The old cake competition at the village fete has come on leaps and bounds since the introduction of Facebook. No longer are your wares tasted, prodded, poked and drooled over by the crowds. There are no baking professionals judging, you will not win a rosette or even a certificate for this is the virtual world and rosettes are so 1999!

    Today's small time competition consists of competitors spamming sites for votes, getting friends to share the links and generally announcing the competition with every status update. These competitions are rarely judged on talent anymore they are all about how many silent tagging groups you have joined or how many pages you have added your link to.

    Whilst this is a sure fire way to win a competition what satisfactions will you be left with after the competition ends? Tour cake may have won on its own merits, but you will now never know.

    Whatever happened to a cake winning because it tasted divine or looked like it should be in an art gallery? Why vote for a cake because you've been asked for instead of finding one which takes your breath away?

    Today a cake competition was launched and will be being judged by the owners of the page. I think this is the way forward for these competitions. It's the only way real talent can be judged. Whoever the lucky winner is will know they have really done a great job and will be left with a feeling of pride and achievement. This is how things should be.

    If you enter a competition based on people "liking" your entry, let them do just that. Asking them to like it defeats the object.

    If you have a talent for baking check out the real competitions where hard work is rewarded and the effort you go to making the cake is worthwhile. Look out for the next Cake International show they hold two every year. One at the NEC in Birmingham and one in London at the Excel. There are categories for every level of baker and each cake is judged individually. Entry is very easy and you always gain some great feedback from the judges on your efforts.

    When speaking to the judges last year when I entered they all commented on how they would love to see more amateur bakers taking part. They even have a cupcake category this year!

    So forget these competitions which are simply popularity contests and instead go for one which really will make you feel good no matter where you come.

    If you do take part please share your entry and how you got on. I will be entering again myself this year. Last year I won Bronze this year I'm going for Gold!