Business start-ups: Ms Cupcake
Published:  03 June, 2011

So do you want to be a baker or run a business? No matter how much you love baking, Ms Cupcake's Melissa Morgan says you have to let go of the piping bag.

When you decide to open your own business, it is usually because you feel you are very good at the 'thing' that you do and you cannot understand why you are spending your time working for someone else. Or maybe you are stuck in a career that has nothing to do with where your passion lies.

In the early days of Ms Cupcake, I began researching and meeting with people to further understand the bakery market. Back then, I was asked a very important question by a business advisor: "Do you want to make and decorate cakes for a living?" My answer was "No".

His response was: "That's the right answer; you will run a successful cake business."

Seems a bit odd doesn't it? Surely that's why you should open a cake business because you love making cakes and want to extend your hobby into a profession. Sure, I love making cakes. I am also passionate about food and creating new recipes. And at the risk of sounding immodest, I am very good at what I do! Yet this passion and skill will only make you a good baker, not a good business owner.

When you start your business, you do everything. You bake, sell, clean, balance books, get the supplies, update your website etc. You don't mind all the hard work, because you have the passion. But it becomes very clear (very quickly) that it is impossible for one person to do all of these things and move past the 'hobby/part-time income' stage. Something has to give. You think, "Great I'll get an accountant, a website developer and someone to sell the cakes for me"

But as soon as all of those people are in place, you need to start paying them, so you need to figure out a way to make and sell a lot more cakes. You start working even longer hours in an attempt to get enough income in, but you don't have time to consider the big picture, pursue new markets, shops or ways to retail your cakes, because you are too busy making them. And here's the difficulty: you cannot hire someone to 'run your business' that's your job. So if you want your business to grow, you have to give up the thing that got you to open the business in the first place.

Now don't get me wrong! I still 'make' cake. I still invent every recipe we bake and I still control which of those recipes we bake every day. But I now have a very skilled team behind me who can turn my culinary visions into a reality. All of our cakes are still hand-crafted under my watchful eye, but I have allowed my company to grow organically and flourish.

So when people who are interested in running their own cake business ask me for advice, I ask them: "Do you want to run a cake company or do you want to be a baker?" If you want to be a baker, save yourself the hassle and heartache and go find yourself a job working for someone. If you want to run a business that enables the making of your cakes, then accept that you will need to hand over the 'act' of baking to someone else. Then take a deep breath and let the journey begin!




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