A note to Cake Decorators: Staying Afloat During the Pandemic

This week we read this blog post by ACDN Member Amanda Lee of Sugar Sugar Cake School, and it pretty much summed up everything we were going to write, so credit to Amanda for the blog below with fantastic advice on how to navigate the current health and economic crisis we are facing with Coronavirus

Re-published with permission from Amanda Lee of Sugar Sugar Cake School 

I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Who knew 2020 would look quite like this? We all know what I’m talking about so I’ll cut to the chase.. This blog post is an encouragement and note to all my cake decorating friends who are wondering what the next few weeks & months will look like in the face of the current global coronavirus situation. This isn’t a medical article of any description and I do not claim to know any information regarding health, policy, regulation or your family’s wellbeing. This article is specifically for those of you who make an income from selling baked goods (whether on a part time or full time basis) and are concerned about how the current global events could impact your cake income. There is a LOT of chatter online amongst cake forums about event cancellations, ingredients shortage, economic downturn etc etc… In this article, I would like to propose some suggestions & actions we could take in light of all that’s happening around us to help us “weather the storm” and preserve the cake businesses that we have worked so hard to build.

I want to stress that first and foremost, your priority is the health & safety of your family.. so focus your efforts towards taking care of yourself and your tribe. If you find yourself then twiddling your thumbs at home or empty storefront and wondering “how on earth and I going to continue growing my cake business through all of this confusion?”, then read on… I hope these ideas help you navigate the days ahead <3

No. 1 Consider Clarifying Your Terms & Conditions

It is likely you’ll feel the impact of what’s happening in the form of reduced enquiries, event cancellations or postponements. You need to figure out for yourself what your business terms are in regards to coronavirus-related event changes. Chances are, a lot of our cake contracts that have been signed don’t have specific provisions for coronavirus issues.

For example, how are you going to handle cancellations? What will your course of action be if you or someone you’ve been in contact with becomes unwell? Will you offer refunds and how much are you prepared to release?

Here are some ideas you can consider:

– Suggesting postponements instead of cancellations to your clients

– Offering store credit for amounts paid so clients can rebook at a later time

– Enforcing non-refunds on deposits paid if clients suddenly cancel at the last minute (if you really require it to stay afloat)

– Refunding clients if you become unwell and have to cancel making their order

Thinking of all of this as early as you can will help you know what to do when the emails start hitting your inbox.

No. 2 Communicate EARLY with your customers

Communicating early with your clients helps assure them that you are doing everything you can to stay on top of the situation as a responsible business owner. It can also help protect you if you are in an outbreak location. Some ideas of things you could communicate to your clients (via email is best, though socials might work too):

– Additional health & cleanliness measures you are taking to minimise contamination (gloves and mask is worn during production, extra vigilance in hospital-grade sanitisation for all surfaces etc)

– If you become unwell or have been in contact with someone unwell, clients will be notified straightaway and refunds (store credit or full cash) may be issued (this is totally at your discretion)

– ‘Minimal Contact Policy’ upon pick up and delivery (you could enforce a 2m social distance to reduce possible infection)

– Your appreciation of their continued support to help your business survive through the current climate

– Any new products or promotions that will meet current client needs

No. 3 Ensure Stock Levels

This is gonna be a bit tricky, but if you haven’t yet, now is the time to look into all your order commitments for a minimum of 4 weeks ahead and ensure that you have the supplies and ingredients for all this. If your local supermarket flour shelves are empty, utilise your business registration to buy wholesale. If you haven’t done so before, Google or ask around your local cake community for wholesale suppliers in your area. If you don’t want to hoard 20kg of flour at home, ask your friends and fellow bakers if they’d like to split the cost with you (I would imagine a lot of people are in need of flour at this time as well). Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures…even when it comes to buying flour and sugar.

No. 4 Adapt Your Product

I’m fascinated with all the creative things I’m seeing adaptive businesses take in recent days. Some of my fave examples include a winery creating an ‘Isolation Survival Kit’ consisting of entertainment meal kits for one and a cleaning company changing their cleaning service to a ‘Specialised Disinfecting Service’. This crisis won’t last forever, but it may stick around for a few weeks or months depending on which country you’re based in. If you’re relying on your baking business to buy everything from pasta to toilet paper for your family (if you’re one of the lucky ones to find any) then it’s worthwhile creating a new product just for the current situation people see themselves in.

People still want to eat cake and biscuits when they’re sitting bored out of their minds at home.. Birthdays will still need to be celebrated with a small party of 2 or 6 people in isolation. Ask yourself, “how can I meet people’s needs for joy & celebration in such tricky times”?

Some ideas:

– A home delivered “DIY Cake Kit” with ingredients to make & decorate their own cakes at home

– A petite Birthday cake for “Birthdays at Home”  (standardised design that is simple to make)

– “Immunity Boosting Treats”

– Cake Care Boxes

– Kid’s Baking Box (baking project kits to keep the kids entertained during school closures)

No. 5 Understand that You are Not Alone

If your business struggles, know that your competitors are likely struggling too. The global economic impact is going to affect every industry in some shape or form. The creative and adaptive businesses will survive.. Sadly, there will be many businesses that don’t. Which side of the fence you land on depends on what you do now and what kind of outcome you’d like to reach. If you can financially afford to close up shop for a few weeks then great, that’s totally fine. But if you need to make a healthy income and your family relies on this, then you need to get your thinking caps on. If your goal is to not make a loss and simply cover your overheads, then you can think of the bare essentials you need to do to just stay afloat. Work out exactly what your PRIORITIES and NEEDS are and get creative in making a plan towards it.

No. 6 Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Upskill

“I always wanted to practice and get good at ‘so-and-so’ techniques”… said almost every baking enthusiast ever. Our biggest enemy?

Busyness.

We often get so caught up in the production side of things that we rarely allow ourselves the time to upskill. At a time when we are forced indoors with slow orders, we are unexpectedly granted the gift of time & space to LEARN.

Online Cake Courses like the incredible library we have on our On-Demand Library is the perfect thing to dive into in a time like this. Doing this gives you the assurance that you’re not simply “wasting time” doing nothing, but that you are in fact investing in upskilling that will in turn, allow you to create a better quality product in the future which you can slap a bigger price tag on. Cha-ching!

Trust me.. Upskilling is the best thing you could ever do for your cake career in the long term if you want to do things like “appear in a magazine, attract high-paying wedding clients, win competitions or teach a workshop”.

No. 7 This is the time to work ON your business and not IN your business

You know all the “other jobs” that are on your eternal to-do list that you always know you have to get round to? Stuff like upgrading your website, taking new photos for your portfolio, clearing old emails, bookkeeping, creating a Newsletter… Well the list simply goes on. A lot of these tasks are ‘marketing’ tasks in nature that we often shove down the priority list because they don’t generate a buck instantaneously. But here’s the thing, these tasks are SO IMPERATIVE to helping us generate growth in sales for our businesss (outside of a global crisis of course). Coronavirus won’t be here forever (though how and when it’ll be eradicated, no one can say for sure). But wouldn’t it be great if after the next few weeks/months hustling away behind closed doors, you end up with your books in order, a cleaner website, a glossy portfolio of cakes you actually wanted to make and a database of Newsletter members? Can you imagine how much better positioned you’d be to exponentially grow your sales in the months that followed? It’s totally possible and it starts with the actions you take, in the position you’re in now.

If you are in a place where you are struggling with different aspects of business, or would simply like to get some aid to better improve your biz, check out our Cake Business Resources HERE.

No 8. Find out about Stimulus Benefits or Government Supports

Depending on where you are located, your federal or state government might offer financial support benefits either on a business or personal level. Take the steps to find out what you could be eligible for. If you have an accountant, they would be a good first point of contact for any related information. Otherwise, it might take a few phone calls to government support numbers, searching official government website and perhaps filling out some paperwork; all of which could result in the help you need to get you over the line in the meantime.

No. 9 Take a Break

Caker Burnout is a real thing you guys. And it happens to more cake decorators than you can imagine (myself included). The busyness of being a one-woman-show takes its toll at some point or another and sometimes, it can cause passionate bakers to give up everything they’re spent years working to achieve. Whilst bakers leave the industry for a myriad of reasons, sometimes, they leave just because they’re just plain tired and overworked. They perhaps still love what they do but haven’t given themselves adequate REST, causing them to explode like a bubbly honeycomb mix and suddenly throw in the towel without really thinking through a better course of action.

Maybe a slowdown in orders could be a wonderful opportunity to take some forced leave from work. If you’ve got some “rainy day” savings and can afford a few weeks of loss income, this may be the rare chance to spend priceless time with your family, having the conversations and make-believe games that you never have time for because “mommy has lots of orders this week sweetheart”. A break from the weekly cake-making grind has wonderful implications let me tell you from experience. Cakers often come out of a break inspired, refreshed, full of new ideas and well, a lot less grumpy 🙂

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I’ll wrap up this article with this quirky quote from the movie ‘The Great Marigold Hotel’ that I’ve somehow always remembered: “It will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it is not yet the end”. Let’s turn our eyes upwards in times like these, be wise, stay calm as best we can and work to get through this together.

May God protect you, and keep you and your families safe <3  Psalms 91

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