I bought a book: Starting a Cake Decorating Business from Home. It felt a bit silly buying a book about setting up something so specific, but I think it has saved me six months of research and I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the same as me. I’ve already read it twice and while I have struggled with the ordering  – there’s a lot of jumping back and forth between chapters – it has helped me compile my to-do list of everything I need put in place before I even consider making cakes.

I have been trying to get my business hat on, and have written about half a business plan. It’s actually been a lot of fun writing a plan that’ll determine my future rather than one that’s for the business I’m employed by. I am grateful for my degree and years of writing strategies though; not sure I’d know where to start otherwise, even with my handy book. I’ve prioritised two things to focus on at the outset to keep it simple and not feel overwhelmed:

  1. A name
  2. SWOT analysis

I realise a business name isn’t necessarily a priority, but it’s one of the few things I can focus on while still finishing my old role, and I’ve also noticed that to do things like register my food business with the local council needs a name too.

Choosing a name has been affected by a couple of things; what is the market I want to be attracting and what names haven’t already been taken with websites and social media sites? I haven’t yet done vast planning around my target market but I do have an idea of where I want to get to. I’ve had amusing emails from friends with suggestions of names, and discussions about whether Bake to Work Mummy would also work as the business name. There are clearly benefits to using the same name for everything, but my personal feeling is that the name needs to convey the type of work and design I’ll be doing.

When I set up the blog, I’d already decided that ‘mum who bakes in her spare time’ wasn’t the image I wanted to portray with the business; this is just my side-project. So on to other ideas. Some of the most comedic include Cakey McCakeface, wemakeanycake.com and The Crusty Cookie. Who’d have thought the first two are already genuine company names?! We’ve been through every variation imaginable of Claire’s Bakery, Claire’s Little Cakery, and anything else related to cakes, bakes and Claire. And every name I liked, someone has already beaten me to it.

And then one day I struck gold. I found a name that conveys the high quality, bespoke service I’m aiming to offer. And better still, no one else seems to have thought of it (I’m not sharing it yet!). So I’ve set up the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, with the website soon to follow, to ensure I don’t suddenly lose out while returning my focus on the proper business set up.

First step here was to consider my strengths and weaknesses, as well as what’s happening in my local area. So my first step was to carry out a SWOT analysis. For those who don’t know, this is a simple and structured way of assessing internal and external factors that may affect a business, part of a business, or a product. It involves a considered look at the internal Strengths and Weaknesses alongside the external Opportunities and Threats.

Turns out the hubbie and I are a little sad and enjoyed spending ages doing the SWOT. Personal strengths and weaknesses were reasonably easy. I know what I can and can’t do when it comes to cake decorating, what my strengths are in terms of coming from a business background, and where I need to build more skills. There would be no point lying since the SWOT is going to inform the business choices I make going forward, so it’s futile pretending I’m not stubborn or messy.

Local competitors form both my opportunities and my threats, and have been easy to research as local Facebook parenting groups contain daily requests for cake makers. Key things I’ve spotted so far:
– The market is pretty saturated with at least ten recommendations every time someone makes a request;
– Quality across the market is mixed – I can spot 4/5 companies I feel stand out above the rest (I’ll be looking at them in more detail); and
– Looking at the stand out companies has already helped me identify where I might be able to fill some gaps in the local market as well as reassure me in terms of my planned offering.

Next week I’ll be considering the competition in more detail. How do I plan my offering to stand out from the crowd, and be clear what services I offer at what time of year? All ideas welcome!

Meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite cakes: the first of many kids cakes I’ve been making for years now!

Childs birthday2