Sunday, 24 May 2009

How I started my cake business

Late last year I decided to take the plunge and start my own cupcake business. I work full time so I always knew it would be a part time venture to start, and now business is picking up and a few people have asked me to share my experiences of how I actually set up my business – Star Bakery.

I thought it might be useful to list a few things I have done and note some of my experiences; I hope it can be of use. Please note: this information is based on starting a business in Nottinghamshire in the UK in 2008, everywhere is different so this is just a guide.

Where did I start…well I did lots and lots of research. I was online practically every day. I have a background in Marketing so this was second nature to me but it’s surprising how many people don’t do the market research first. Ask yourself some questions:

  • What business do you want to be in? Cupcakes, cakes, cookies etc. Who will be your main audience i.e. weddings, families, vegan etc. Where will you be based?
  • Is there a gap in the market for your business? What makes your business idea stand out?
  • Are there any other similar businesses in your area? Who are they and where are they?
  • What are their prices like? Can you be competitive and still make a profit?
  • How will your business run? At home, from a stall at a regular market, online orders only etc

This period is when you find out about your competitors and look at what other people are doing. This is really important as your competitors are not necessarily your ‘enemies’ and it pays to know who they are. I still spend hours looking on the internet for inspiration and meeting online buddies to share experiences and ideas.

Really important one - Visit your local Business Link. This was invaluable, I have been to free courses on ‘How to start a business’ and ‘How to write a business plan’ and they have been fantastic. They give you all the support and advice you need and you even get your own personal business advisor for free!

Once you have an idea, try to write a basic business plan. It doesn’t have to be full of detail, my plan was written in a little notebook that I carry around with me to doodle ideas and recipes. The main point is to start to form a plan about how your business will take shape. What do you want to get from this business?Take a look at the Food Standards Agency website they will tell you everything you need to know about running a business from home and it is there guidelines that you will need to follow in order to start up. They can send you a free comprehensive pack containing loads of useful info and you can’t do anything until you have met their standards.

Book onto a ‘Food Hygiene’ course. Most council’s run these courses and they generally last for up to 2 days and cost under £100 (£60 in Nottingham!)

Contact your local council to register a ‘Food Business at home’. This involves completing a form and arranging a visit from the council to approve your premises. The council use the Food Standards agency guidance to check your property so make sure you are familiar with their guidelines. Again, this is another necessity. You can’t legally do anything without registering with your local council or you face a huge fine.

Contact your mortgage lender. Make them aware of your plan to change your home from a residential building to a commercial property. This only applies if you are cooking from the kitchen in your home but don’t risk them finding out and charging you, let them know from the start and they might just need a letter from you to confirm your plans.

These are all the practical things I did to start up. The other main part was about creating a spreadsheet to keep track of finances. My husband set up a sheet which I enter the weight of ingredients into and it pops out with a price per unit i.e. I tell it how much of each product I use and it tells me how much each cupcake costs to produce. This helps me set prices accurately and realistically. KEEP ALL RECEIPTS! Those tax people are savvy!

I had my logo designed by Tru Design, she is brilliant! I also set up a basic holding web page via Moonfruit to ensure customers have a way to contact me and find out more about my business.

Later this year I hope to have a fully functional webpage so it will be a one stop shop for potential clients instead of having to go via Flickr etc but for now, I have to work within a nonexistent budget so I am being thrifty!

I hope this info is of use to you, I didn’t realise there was so much to do when setting up and I am glad I can finally start to make my dream come true.

2 comments:

  1. This is very helpfu. For someone who has always wanted to start my own bakery but do not have the capital to do so. I was laid off my full time postion a few months ago and starting my own business sounds like a actual reality right now!

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  2. Hi Julie, sorry to hear you were laid off. I am about to be in that position myself and its quite a committment to build this business so gradually. I am so jealous of those people who have a spare few thousand tucked away but hopefully my perseverance will pay off. Best of luck with your endeavours!

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