Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Highlight Reel


When I started Truly Custom Cakery, I did it out of necessity. I was starting to get a LOT of requests from people to make custom cakes for them. But, without being licensed, I had to turn them away. So, we decided that instead of watching money walk away, it was time to take the next step. It was an easy decision because the laws of our area allow me to work right out of my home kitchen. For a very small financial investment, I was able to get my inspection, license, insurance, and file all the necessary legal paperwork.

Over time, I started getting too many requests for what my kitchen would allow me to handle. I decided that it was time to raise my minimum order amount so that I could work smarter, rather than harder. I've done that 3 times since Truly Custom Cakery, LLC opened in November of 2009. Then a year ago, we renovated the kitchen so I could have 2 ovens, move counter space, and more storage in my small 10' x 12' kitchen. Raising my minimums increased the quality of the orders I was receiving from a financial standpoint, but as a result, I've had to turn away a LOT of business. It was a decision made out of necessity. I just can't do it all. And if you could choose between a $75 cake or a $350 cake, which order would you rather have??? No brainer...

BUT... What if I could take those smaller orders too? What about all the people that were my customer when I started and can't afford me anymore? What about the people that taste my cakes and like it so much, call to order, and then walk away when they hear my price? Is it good business to turn them away? Or should I have been growing instead of shrinking my customer base? And how do I combat the feast/famine scenario? It happens all the time. You have a week with more orders than you can handle and you turn away several more. Then, the very next week, NOTHING! Not even a phone call! I'd probably have cakes those weeks too if I hadn't raised that minimum... But, like I said, I can't do it all. I'm just one person.

And therein lies the next question. Should I remain just one person? When is the right time to expand? How do you know when you should take that leap of faith and change your circumstances so that you CAN take all the orders that come your way. When do I say "YES" to all the Pastry Arts students that ask to intern with me?

And of course, if I do move forward.... HOW? I mean, the economy is pretty lousy! Do I get a business loan and take a chance at a brick and mortar shop? Isn't that a bit risky in this economy? And then I'm not a stay at home mom anymore. Which I really would miss! Do I build a garage out back for my husband and convert my existing garage into a shop? I could have displays, a workroom, a place to meet with clients, and a place for staff/interns to work! But all that takes money and a loan... When is the right time to move in that direction?

And of course, all my insecurities... Am I good enough, am I ready, would I get all the business back that I turned away, would I be able to pay the loan back, would it be worth it? WILL I FAIL?

And it is always worse when you look around. I should know better. In the last few years, Cake Shows have made the custom baking/decorating business EXPLODE! People are flying out of the woodwork to try their hand at it and succeeding! And not only that, but they have blogs, facebook and twitter accounts, pinterest, flickr, and a whole bunch of other stuff I know nothing about. And they have followers. LOTS OF THEM, thousands of them! And it's no wonder. Some of the work these people put out is phenomenal! It's breathtaking, astounding, and downright intimidating!

When I look at some of their work and see that they charged $12.00 for ONE CUPCAKE and the order included about 100 of them plus a super fancy cake and they have only been in business for 1 year, I start to doubt myself. SERIOUSLY! OH, and they do it out of their home kitchen... And they have about 10,000 followers on facebook...

And here come more doubts... am I doing things right? Why don't I have 10,000 followers? Do I engage my fans properly? Do I come across as a snot? Am I not thanking my customers and fans enough for their loyalty? Etc.. etc.... etc....

It doesn't take long to make yourself feel like you are doing everything wrong. I was chatting with a friend of mine this morning and she reminded me of something. That "when you compare yourself to others, all you are seeing is their highlight reel too". 

I needed that! People look at my work and see what I've accomplished. They don't see my insecurities, fears, doubts, and struggles. They just see the final product. And when we compare ourselves to others, we are ONLY seeing their highlight reel. We don't know what they went through, their fears, challenges, finances, or insecurities. We see the best of the best. What they want us to see. As if they'd walk around town in their underwear. There's always more going on than what you can see. And often, that more, is layers deep.

I know that the Bible tells us in II Corinthians 5:7 "that we walk by faith and not by sight". AND I do have faith in my Savior and I know my eternity. What I do not have faith in, is myself and the economy. So if you are a praying person, I covet your prayers. Somethings gonna have to give and I just don't know what or how.

And a BIG thank you Kristie, for reminding me not to compare myself to someone else's highlight reel. I love you Chickie!


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15 comments:

Becky said...

Wow, this is a great post - I have a small cake/cupcake business I'm trying to get started out of my home (on the side at present) and can't tell you the insecurities I struggle with constantly. And the "What ifs" or the "Should I's?". So to hear someone such as yourself who's been at this longer than I asking the same questions and struggling with issues I wonder about - it's appreciated to have you share your heart! Thank you!

Life with Kaishon said...

Your work is so beautiful! I think everyone, no matter what their field is, struggles with this. I wish you all the best.

Kelly Sze said...

Great post Stacey! I have to say that, as someone looking at you from the outside, I have continually been impressed by what you are doing and how you are doing it. Very professional, confidant, and, always, the emphasis on quality. If you hadn't written this post, I would have never known all of the doubts and questions that you go through. Your friend was so right in saying that we only see the highlight reel of peoples' lives, but you have had some excellent highlights and I expect to see many more of them from you going forward. I am thrilled to have known the before "Truly Custom Cakery" Stacey and still can call you a friend now. Lol...I feel like I know a celebrity! Keep doing what you are doing because you are doing a great job!

Stacey - Truly Custom Cakery, LLC said...

Thank You all so much. The struggle within is sometimes our worst enemy. I am so very appreciative of your support, understanding, and to Kelly, your friendship.

Anonymous said...

I have to tell you that the second I saw that you were a believer in Jesus Christ, I knew what I needed to say to you. God has given you an amazing talent that you have recognized & already put to good use. Your creations are your way in blessing others through the blessings God has given to you. In these times, fear & anxiety are almost a disease! But if we let fear rule us, we will remain contained & may never realize our full potential that God has planned for us! We can also miss out on huge opportunities for success. So, instead, blast through those feelings & trust that God will lead you & be faithful to you for sharing your talents. He will give you the wisdom you need & caution you when the need arises because above all else, He gave you this talent to help you succeed! Your creations never cease to impress me, inspire me, & give me something to smile about. Stay confident Royal Princess! Whatever you decide to do, it is obvious you will make it a huge success! God bless you & your business! ~CaRa (a stay-at-home Mom who makes cakes for fun on a much smaller scale). ;)

Kristie Wooten said...

Awww you are so very welcome Stacey! You are so dear to me and I TRULY believe with every ounce of my being that you are AS TALENTED, if not more, as the other cake decoraters out there. When I see your gorgeous creations, I just smile. You deserve success Stacey! Don't doubt it! Say it in the mirror if you have to "I am GIFTED at this, I deserve success!" Then jump! You can do this girlie, it's your gift! Love you too:)

Stacey - Truly Custom Cakery, LLC said...

Thanks so much Kristie! You'll always be an inspiration to me with your "get it done with a smile attitude". You never give up even when things seem so bleak and each and every time, you overcome. I love you!

Stacey - Truly Custom Cakery, LLC said...

Thanks Cara! I needed that.

Mandy McQuillis said...

Stacey,
I feel like i could have written this post myself.I'm also in PA and i've been struggling with the same kind of feelings and "What If's".I'm my own worst critique.I just recently raised my prices for the very same reasons you've written.I think alot of these cake shows out there make it seem like it's so easy to do what we do getting people to think we can just whip together a sculpted cake within an hours time.Our time is valuable.I have always been a huge admirer of your work.Whatever it is you decide to do i think you will succeed at it. :)

LisaLou said...

I'm a fan of yours who found you through Cake Central's website. I keep hoping I'm going to see YOUR creations on Food Network's Cake CHALLENGE or other such shows. :) You are very talented & I hope to grow up to be like you. (I'm 41 btw) ha! Thanks for sharing your talent, and your dreams, and your fears with us. Praying for you.

Tracy said...

Stacey,

Thank you so much for your comments today on your blog. I really really needed to read this today. I too have a small cake business and also teach Wilton cake classes. I go back and forth sometimes when I have busy periods on whether to teach or just focus on my small business. Thank you again.

Caseys Creations said...

wow! i think you took the insecurties right out of my motuh!! i get asked that same question all the time! why don't you open your own shop!?! your so brave for putting it all out there in your post! you inspire me to raise my bottom price and believe that YESS my work is worth it...THANK YOU!!
caseyssweetcreations.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I am in the same predicament right now. The difference is I already found a small space (209 sq ft) and opened a retail storefront. The rent was inexpensive because I can't bake there, only sell.

Everything was fantastic in the beginning, lots of business, lots of very excited people because of the novelty I guess. I had already established myself with decorated cakes for 2 1/2 years out of the baking kitchen we added on to my house, so my clientele base just shifted over to the store. Plus all the extra people that "discovered" me now that they could see me.

Well here I am 6 months later, wondering if I should renew my lease next month. I am tired, worn out really, and financially no farther ahead than I was when I was at home taking orders over the phone and internet due to all the extra costs of having the storefront.

Plus (and this makes me VERY sad) my creativity is gone. Production level with decorated cakes and cookies is NO FUN. I have lost count of the late nights, alone in my kitchen crying with an early morning deadline looming with several orders still yet to finish. I am sorry to say I am beginning to HATE cakes.

I don't have any help, so I am basically being run ragged trying to keep up with everything. I tried having help, but the reason I became successful at this in the first place was because of my high quality. The people that want to help don't have the skills and standards I have or else they would be doing their own thing. It truly is a Catch 22.

I miss my family, I feel guilty for all they have sacrificed with me devoting myself to this business so much.

SIGH. And for what?

It's tough deciding when everyone wants what you have, but in the end you have to decide how much is enough.

Kerry said...

Reading your post made me realize I'm not alone. I'm not alone in feeling that I'm not good enough. Not alone in not knowing where to take this cake stuff. And there is comfort in knowing you're not the only one who feels this way.

Thank you for being so open, honest and transparent about your business and your struggles. This always brings me peace.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Val at Val's Custom Cakes said...

My goodness! I don't even know you and I like you! I came across your Romeo & Juliet cake (and fell in love with it!!) and ended up at your blog. I like your work, I like that you are a professing Christian, and I like that you are so honest! I am at a crossroad also - I feel like I could have written that post! I raise my prices and I lose customers but I just can't spend 6-8 hours on a $75 cake anymore! It's not fair to my family. For me, I have to keep it small and at home until the kids get older. Even though I'm just itching to branch out! But I know one thing for sure, at the end of my life I am not going to regret lost cake opportunities but I will regret lost time spent with my kids when they wanted and needed me. It's obvious you have the talent and more, it just may be a matter of timing. May God make your path clear to you.