This is a post – originally from a YouTube video where Sheeroh – a professional baker shared tips and advice to new and upcoming bakers.
Hello everybody, my name is Sheeroh Wanjiru Kariuki. I’m a cake artist. I run a bakery called Taji Cakes. We are located in Ruiru. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram as “Taji cakes“ and YouTube as “Shee Bakes”
Now, this COVID period has brought with it a lot of interesting things. For most people who have been home I know baking has become the easy go to thing or hobby that people are doing to supplement their income. That means that we have had an increase in the number of new bakers coming up.
I want to applaud you first of all for starting your business. It’s not easy and it’s not everybody who can run a successful business. So congratulations if these few months you’ve been in business and you are making money.
Now, unfortunately what has been happening, if you are keen on looking at what is going around on Facebook, Instagram and other various baking platforms, is that there are a lot of cakes that look interesting. I am trying to be polite here.
I’ve actually seen someone I know who has started baking during this COVID period and they’re purporting to train people on how to bake and decorate. I looked at that cake and wondered, okay, what exactly are you going to teach people because you yourself actually need training in the first place.
So I wanted to drop in here and give a few tips or my thoughts to all the new and upcoming bakers because I once was there. I know the excitement, the passion and the zeal that you’re experiencing right now, wanting to just hit the road running and take on all the cake orders that you can.
Before you do, consider these tips that I’ve gained from my own experience;
Don’t take on a cake order that you cannot execute
I have actually had people come to my inbox to ask me, “So I have this cake order I don’t know how to go about it. It’s a fondant cake.”
First of all, you’ve never touched fondant before and yet you’ve already taken an order to do a design that requires you to work with fondant.
Please, please, please, before you take on any cake, make sure that you’re able to execute it. Do not take an order with the hope that you’re going to run to a YouTube tutorial and learn in an hour and then execute the cake. That is the reason why we’re having so many cases of what was ordered versus what was delivered. I am not sure that is the position you would want to put yourself in.
So before you take on any order, make sure that you can execute on it. Ensure that your skill level matches the kind of orders you’re taking. If you’re good at doing soft cream cakes for instance, stick to that, start with soft creams as you build up your confidence to work with fondant.
Invest in your skills. Take Classes.
Another thing I would like to mention is, if you would like to get to that level where you’re taking complex custom orders, please invest in classes. I will repeat, please invest in classes.
If you’re just starting out and you want to get to the level of the bakers you really admire. You know, those bakers you look at and you’re like #goals. If you want to get to that point of #goals, please invest in lessons.
Get a baker who you admire, get into a training college, have them train you on what you do not know. It is very unfair to take a client’s order and then fail to deliver on the design.
Most of these clients -I don’t know about your own – but most of my clients actually know how to bake, but they come to me for the art. That is why I introduce myself as a Cake artist, because I put art into cake. But it has taken me years of learning to get where I am. I have invested in learning. I have gone to school I have learned, I’ve been taught by bakers in this industry who are doing awesome things.
So if you want to get to that level, please invest in learning. This is not a competition, it is also not a race. Go at your own pace. Do not start doing a PhD when you do not even have a Form Four Certificate. Go at your level, learn, enjoy the process and continue learning as you go.
Now Let’s Talk About How to take and confirm a cake order. Here are some tips:
Understand your client’s needs.
If a client comes to you, they will reach out probably through your phone, on your WhatsApp, on your business page looking for cake. Most of them will tell you – “Hi, I want a birthday cake for a two year old.”
They’ll probably not tell you what flavor they want, how many kgs they want and all that. So as the baker, it is upon you to get to understand your client first. Get to understand their needs.
Yes, they have told you they want a birthday cake for a two year old, but what I would do myself is first find out: What flavor would they like? Do they have a favorite cartoon or a toy that they love? What are their interests?
Because remember, your goal is to make sure that you give your client exactly what they want. In fact you want to even exceed their expectations but you cannot do that if you do not first understand exactly what they need.
So even before you go quoting the price of the cake, first of all understand what your client is looking for. Do they want a PJ Masks themed cake? Get to know what they need, then discuss what making that cake entails.
Let them know if you’re going to be ordering any special toppers, if you’re going to be custom making figurines, whatever it is, go through that process with your client, let them understand what goes into bringing their cake to life.
Educate your clients where necessary
At times you might even need to educate them. I’ve had clients come to me to do a cake for a birthday for a one year old and they want to do a chocolate cake. Now there’s nothing wrong with a chocolate cake although personally I feel like chocolate cakes are a bit too rich for kids. So in such a case I’d try and advise the clients to go for simpler alternative flavor like vanilla and orange for the good of the kids.
So it’s up to you to educate your client, even in terms of flavors and all that culminates into you giving them your price.
Communicate order execution time or duration with the client
The next thing to consider especially when dealing with custom cakes that may require you to order some few things ahead of time like toppers is to make sure you have ample time to get everything you need together.
There are cakes that you can do as last minute same day orders. There are also some that require you to prepare in advance. In the case of the latter, make sure that your client understands that you need time to prepare the cake and get everything ready.
Get a deposit payment
After you’ve agreed on everything concerning the cake – please get a deposit payment and I’m saying this from experience. I have had instances where we have baked and we were left with the cake in the bakery, because the client went quiet and we didn’t know what to do with it. It may be decorated and even be highly customized to that specific client so you can’t exactly sell it to someone else.
Ensure to get a deposit payment first.
This assures you that you’ve locked down on that business. It also helps you to cover yourself so that you don’t incur losses in your business.
So in a nutshell, make sure you educate your client, know exactly what they need and ensure that you have understood the vision they have for their cake and that you’re able to execute that vision in the best way possible.
There are a few lessons I have learned when it comes to dealing with customers.
They say that customer is king, and I will not refute that.
Listen to your Client
The first thing I learnt to do when it comes to customer care is to listen to my clients, like really listen to them.
Understand what they want, not what you think they want. Thereafter, try to make sure that the solution you’re giving them in terms of the cake flavors, design and everything fits their needs. I mean they’re paying you so the least you can do is meet their needs.
Not everyone is your customer and that is alright
The other lesson I learned is that I cannot serve everybody. Not everybody can be my customer. I’ve had some people who after the cake consultation and I’ve given them the price they tell me that you’re too expensive than baker ABCD.
I want you to know that it is okay if people at times find that you’re too expensive and cannot afford you. It is okay. In the beginning I used to really beat myself up for it and try to fit into my clients budget, and I’m not saying that is wrong.
When you get to know your client’s budget you’re able to see if you can fit within that budget, but if really truly cannot fit into that budget, that is fine.
Say for example you normally sell your cake for 2500 per kg then you get a client telling you they want the same cake for 1200. I don’t know about you but I’m honestly personally not able to go that low.
So at that point I will just tell the client it’s okay, thank you for checking with us. We hope to serve you next time, and I wish you the best.
So don’t feel like you’re losing out or anything, just understand that clients have different budgets, and you cannot serve everybody. Your client will come. Whatever is meant for you is meant for is.
Always be cool, calm and collected
Then finally, always be cool, calm and collected. At times you’ll get clients who really get on your nerves. So do not be tempted to shout or to get rude or anything, so listen to your client. Be polite, above all, be polite to them.
Good customer service is what keeps people coming back, over and above your great cake, good customer service is what keeps them coming back. Clients remember how you made them feel, so make them feel important, make them feel treasured, make them feel like you value the business they’re giving you.
With that said I wish you all the best as you navigate business, as you figure out how to go about this baking industry. I wish you the very best. Please get someone to work with you, get a mentor if you have to, keep on learning. You never stop learning. The day you stop learning is the day you start dying. So thank you very much for your time.
God bless you.