How to start a cake-making business: The insider’s view
From catering to niche markets to dealing with health and safety regulations, award-winning cake designer Elsa Santana shares her business story...
About our insider
Founder: Elsa Santana
Tell us why your cake-making business stands out?
Customer service is very important to our business and with so many different allergies and tastes, you have to make sure to cater to everyone. We have developed a huge range of cake flavours, and also offer gluten, dairy free, and eggless options.
Nobody should go without a slice of their own birthday cake.
Why did you start a cake-making business?
I love cooking and baking, I do everything from scratch for my own family and nothing is more satisfying than watching them enjoying their meal or desserts. The same principles apply with Let it be Cake.
All our artisan products are made from the very best ingredients and natural flavours whether it’s almond or vanilla we only use vanilla pods or ground almonds to flavour our cakes. Quality and taste are very important to us and we felt that there was a gap in the market for good quality fresh cakes.
I absolutely hate supermarket cakes! It really annoys me when I read the ingredients list on each one. Instead of the usual flour, eggs, butter and sugar contents, it also comes with a huge listing of preservatives, flavouring and colouring. I’m Portuguese and we were brought up with freshly cooked meals every day, every meal time. I used to love eating the cakes even if they were still a little warm, from where it hadn’t cooled down completely.
What was essential to get the business up and running?
Having a Level 2 Hygiene certificate and being inspected by our local council to ensure that our home premises met the requirements to begin trading.
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
How much did it cost to get your cake-making business started and how do you manage cashflow on a day-to-day basis?
We literally started on a shoestring and all the money we made was pumped back into the business, either to buy flyers or to secure a stand at a wedding show.
What is the best way to find new customers?
Word-of-mouth still works wonders and nothing is more pleasing than knowing that a new customer has come because of a good recommendation from a previous customer.
Social media plays a very important part too, sometimes we have been recommended through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by our customers.
What’s your biggest market?
We have developed our range in order to target this market, both by offering different flavours and free-from options, and by creating personalised designs.
What is your average working day like?
Answering emails, prepping staff on what is needed for the day, and then baking. Sometimes training in different aspects of sugarcraft or baking in preparation for the different seasons of the year.
What’s the biggest challenge for cake businesses right now?
Cakes are priced according to the number of hours it takes to decorate, bake and put together, many people undervalue the work that goes into each cake.
You will find lots of local hobby bakers, claiming to produce the high standard of work that we do and undercutting our prices. Yet they are not qualified, vetted or licenced by the council to be trading.
How have noticed a shift in the industry due to the growth in ‘freefrom’ and health conscious diets?
Definitely, there is more and more demand for gluten free, eggless, and dairy free cakes all the time due to the ever growing number of allergies.
What’s the best business advice you ever got?
Perseverance and support. There have been many times when I’ve had a terrible day or have been working too much and I just feel like giving it all up but a very close business friend pulls me together each time.
What rules do you have in place for choosing and managing staff?
Staff need to be friendly, approachable and always willing to learn.
What do you think the cake-making market will look like in two years?
Home baking is a hugely popular due to so many baking shows and I think this a trend that will definitely continue for a while longer.
In regards to opportunities, I think a variation of flavours and the continuation of being able to cater for niche markets like gluten free will continue to rise.
It’s certainly a very populated market so you need to make sure you stand out.
What’s the best resource for cake-making business owners?
No doubt, it’s our kitchen aids.
What regulation affects you the most as a cake-making business?
Health and safety is tricky but essential, and as your business grows and you take on more staff – it gets trickier and even more important.
The way we handle it is by making sure that all our staff are Level 2 hygiene certified. This way they know the dangers and potential dangers of food dealing.
What’s the biggest misconception about running a cake business?
The number of hours that we actually put in, not just in terms of making cakes, but marketing, sourcing and training. And it all costs money! I think many people start a cake business as something on the side to make a bit of pocket money and then realise the long hours you have to put in to actually finish it and deliver quality cakes.
If you launched your firm again, what would you do differently?
Delegate more, and not think I am a wonder woman who can do everything.
Think you have what it takes to be a leading cake maker? Check out our steps to starting a cake-making business.