Tips for Home Bakers starting a baking business

We’re always getting a lot of inquiries of regarding baking at home. I did a live Q&A (Question and Answer) session on our YouTube channel some time back on the same. Today we’re going to be going through those Q&As on Baking for Business with a focus on home bakers.

Featured questions are those we asked home bakers to contribute their own questions regarding the topic on our social media pages. If your question wasn’t tackled however, no worries, ask away in the comments below and I’ll make sure to respond below.

Question: I have done my costing and purchase of ingredients is wholesale. However, I feel like maybe I’m not doing it right? (Pricing)

Answer: I tell bakers all the time that the first step is always costing your goods. I also encourage bakers to buy ingredients in bulk instead of at the supermarket or shop. Why? Because not buying ingredients in bulk (instead buying retail from shops) is part of the reason why your cakes are so expensive.

If you want to cost your cakes effectively and sell at a certain price, you need to figure out how to buy things in bulk. This way you even save costs on ingredients. However, you may do all of this and still struggle to make sales. Why is that?

You might be selling your products to the wrong people. To give you an example, if you have a premium product, say a 1kg cake that goes for Kshs.3500. However, instead of selling it to premium clients who would pay that amount, you sell it clients on a budget, you’d be working against yourself, right?

Another thing when it comes to costing; you might not be including all other costs e.g. airtime, internet costs, Mpesa charges, bank charges, other transport charges for the business, etc. Make sure that you are capturing ALL expenses that you pay for in your business, not just ingredients and packaging. If you need serious help when it comes to Costing and Pricing for your baking business; please join our 4-week Online Costing & pricing class for bakersClick here.

Question: How do you pick a niche?

Answer : When it comes to picking a niche I’ll ask you just one question. What are you good at?

You might want to venture into the wedding niche but you don’t really know how to make wedding cakes. So the big question would be, what are you good at, and more so, what need/gap have you identified in the market?

When it comes to picking a niche, first look at the skill(s) you have. If you haven’t quite advanced your skills in making wedding or custom cakes, then it might NOT be a good idea to start taking wedding cake orders within your first month of business, right?

Instead, take time to learn the skills involved in doing wedding cakes. Meanwhile, what you can do is, perhaps you’re really good at doing cookies and pastries; do just that. Sell cookies and pastries to people looking for cookies and pastries. Or if you’re able to do cupcakes and easy Whipped cream cake designs; you can start with that.

Identify your products, whatever it is that you settle on. Figure out who wants those products and where they stay (or where their attention is). You might find that cookies and pastries do best in corporate settings like offices where they want something they can have as a snack really easily. Your target market would then be corporate working class people in offices or parents looking for snacks for their kids.  

When you find your target market and give them a product they actually need and that you know how to make, that’s how you identify a niche to sell in.

If you know how to bake cookies, start with that ^_^

Question: How to get noticed and known for people to try you out. It’s really tough for me and maybe for other beginners like me.

 Answer: Now that is true. The one thing that we will never lie to you about is the fact that starting a business is easy, especially as a home baker. It never is.

There are a lot of bakers in the market right now which means it is quite saturated. You have to prove to people that your baked product is worth buying. Otherwise, why should they move from their current baker and start buying from you?

That is why I advice home bakers to get into business knowing that when you start, it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, which is why you need to have a marketing plan. 

If you join any of our masterminds or mentorships, you will become familiar with our tradition of sitting down every month and doing a marketing plan for your business.

The first step in the process is always identifying your niche; for example, celebration cakes. These are cakes celebrating some occasion such as birthday cakes, baby shower cakes, etc. You can choose to specialize even more, perhaps your focus can be on Celebration cakes decorate with Soft frosting only.

Start by showcasing your skills on soft cream cakes. It doesn’t matter even if you’re not getting orders. All you need to do is start practicing and taking very good photos with good lighting in a nice background and start posting those pictures on your social media pages.

You need to go onto Instagram and share your work in your stories. Then you need to go to social sites like Facebook, if you’re in Facebook, and post in retail, foodie or baking groups.

Depending on the niche that you’re in, you can start doing samples as you start looking for your target market, but be careful about samples. Tell people you have samples; for them to be aware that you sell cakes and let them know if they want them they have to order and pay. You can even give them a copy of your menu.

You can also give cake/pastries samples in exchange for reviews. The individual can share a review on Twitter. They can share a photo and tag you on Instagram and write what their feedback was of your product. They can even go on Facebook and leave a review on your page. Whatever the case, you need a good review and you need it to be public (social sharing).

Why? Doing this may give you your first customers. You can also identify potential clients who are your target market; give them samples, have them taste your products in exchange for feedback. We call this social proof. All that means is that the person is telling other people, “I’ve tasted his/her cake and guess what, it’s really really good.”

So the first few months you want to give samples to your target market. Not everyone of course, just some few people, and all they have to do is taste your cakes and give good reviews.

The good thing about reviews is it lets your clients know you’re not the only one who thinks your cakes are awesome, other people do too. That way if you have at least three to four reviews on your page, you’re off to a great start.

An example of feedback we’ve gotten from our own Chiffon cake products ^_^ This really helps with marketing

You can also do cake tasting. I know it’s a little difficult now with Corona, but if you can manage an estate cake tasting safely, that would be good for your business.

Social proof goes a long way in boosting your business. Depending on your resources, you can even look for foodies who do food reviews. Then you can just send over your product and they’ll review it online for you. It does wonders in letting people know about your products and draws them in towards eventually buying from you.

So the truth is, starting out is not going to be the easiest thing, but that’s okay because you’re in it for the long haul, right? I hope your answer was yes. If you’re seriously considering starting a home bakery business, you need to be in it for the long haul.

Question: As a home Baker, can I bake and sell to friends and neighbors without the legal requirements of a bakery?

Answer: As a home baker, this is a really common concern that I like tackling and talking about very honestly. First and foremost, the rule or law of Kenya and specifically the City Council which is the legal body that would handle such matters is very clear on the issue.

For one, the city control law states that you should never do business from a residential property. So starting out, it is important to be aware of this. Number two, there is a rule that says you cannot sell manufactured products like food from a house or place that is adjacent to your sleeping area. In this case that constitutes your house,

As a result, you may have noticed that a lot of people who are home bakers start by looking for a separate unit outside the house. Now of course you’re going to start at home, and you can sell to your friends and neighbors. However as your business grows, it becomes a little harder to keep running the business from home.

When the business grows exponentially, people start to pay attention to you and some will realize you’re baking from the house. Not everybody’s very happy with that fact. To avoid this, as you start your business, set goals. Tell yourself something like, within 8 to 12 months, I’m going switch my kitchen from home.

There are some options you could explore. You can opt to find a shop outside somewhere close by that you can rent. That way you can still bake from the house and take your goods to the shop. It can also be a pickup point or somewhere you display your cakes. The point is; it’s a step in the right direction as far as adhering to the law is concerned.

So yes, you can start selling to friends at first. You can even sell from your house, just know the rules and how far you can go. Fact is, as the business grows, you will have to find a more favorable location.

The other thing you could do, which is something we did, is relocate the kitchen. If you live in your own home and own your own land, you can build a separate kitchen on the side. It would still be in the same compound, yes, but it would be strictly for the purpose of conducting your home bakery business.

Please do note though that according to law, the land you set up your separate kitchen on cannot be residential (Of course; there are exceptions of cottage industries – please visit your local county council offices for clarification please). It either has to be a commercial property or what we call a multipurpose property. Ours for instance is a multipurpose property which legally is quite okay.

The most important thing though is to take the first step to come out of the house. It can even be to use a Servant’s Quarter (SQ) if available. That way it serves as your business’ legal premises in your 8 months to one year plan. If you’re looking to get serious about your business, please look into that.

If you don’t have this option but have a big space in your house, then find a room that’s separate from the kitchen. Again we’ll repeat, as a home baker looking to grow your business commercially, you can never work and stay in the house, that’s illegal. KRA and the government have been quite vigilant on telling business owners to do things right. Please do things right so that it doesn’t develop into a legal issue.

Question: Which is the best and safest cake preservative?

Answer: It’s very ironic to call a cake preservative safe, after all, these are chemicals. Over time, in excess, they’re not really good but in moderation they’re fine. Our advice is to find goods sold by a certified food merchants. These include but are not limited to Pradip Enterprises LTD and Topserve Limited Kenya. They stock goods that are KEBS verified.

If you go to a cake supply shop or a food additives vendor like Pradip Enterprises, they sell food-safe preservatives. You should never buy preservatives with no labeling on them.

That’s why we advice that when it comes to preservatives, go to places like Pradip Enterprises. They manufacture the preservative themselves, they write the instructions on usage.

 Realize that there are different types of preservatives; there is one that is used for bread preservation i.e. Calcium Propionate, and there’s are also variations of cake preservatives e.g. Sorbex.

We don’t particularly use preservatives ourselves. If you would like to know more about cake preservatives, kindly visit the manufacturer. They will be at the best position to tell you how to use them safely.

Question: How is a business plan done depending on the area one is so that one can know how to sell?

Answer: A business plan is very important. It’s a blueprint of your business and will answer a majority of the important questions e.g the name of your business, what niche you are in, what products you’re selling, how you’re going to cost them and who you’re going to sell them to.

It also tells you how to structure your business. Let’s say you’re in business with someone else, maybe a spouse or a sister. You’d need to write who the directors of the business are and what they do. Getting things very clear in terms of exactly what everyone’s role is in the business is a prerequisite of the business plan.  

If you are the baker and the other individual is the delivery person, or if they’re doing the business financial accounts, their job description needs to go into the plan. If you’re going to do business with someone else, make sure it’s included in your business plan. Note down all their tasks and this includes mentioning any contracted labor that you need e.g a baker or delivery person.

Also take note that business plans change. You might have to alter it every year. When you have one in place though, it makes alterations so much easier.

Question: Do you need any food safety or health certification to operate as a home baker?

 Answer: Yes, you do. It’s called a Food Handler’s Certificate. What a Food Handler’s Certificate is supposed to do is prove to people, and the government that it is safe for you to be handling food and selling it to your clients.

Remember once you choose to start doing business, you have a responsibility to prepare food safely for someone else to consume. If you had typhoid for instance, and prepared food without taking the necessary precautions and somebody ate the food, then you would infect your clients as well.

It is therefore your responsibility to ensure that you are healthy and taking safety measures to prepare healthy safe food to give to another person.

The first thing I’d tell you as a home baker is to go online to ecitizen.go.ke, sign up and pay for your Food Handler’s Certificate. If you have never signed into ecitizen.go.ke, sign in now and sign up for an account. This is how you access, many things like a driver’s license and passport. It is also where you can pay for the Food Handler’s Certificate.

Question: Having a full time job and you want to start a home based bakery. How do you juggle?

Answer: It’s tricky, I won’t lie. When I started, I had to quit my job and then start my baking business, but that was a personal choice. I do know people who have done both (being employed & run a baking business) but you need resources – which is a good thing when you’re working. You can take your money and pump it into the business.

What you want to do when you’re working is identify early enough who is going to help you in your business. This means you can’t be the one who’s baking all the time. You can choose to be the one who’s baking in the evening and even that might be tricky because you’re going to be stretched too thin.

You can choose to bake at certain times and deliver at certain times. I know of bakers who allow clients to order at any time, but only do deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Therefore choose to have specific delivery days. This will help you collect all your orders, bake them at a certain time and deliver the cakes to your clients. It also helps you manage your time.

The second thing I always advocate for is having systems in place. This means training a baker to start assisting you. You can start by just having the assistant baker on bake duty. Then come home from work, decorate the cake yourself and deliver the cake the next day, that method can work.

However, when I talk of systems I’m also referring to ensuring you have a person who delivers the cakes for you. That way you’re not at work and trying to figure out how to deliver a cake. If your cake is ready, your delivery guy can just come, pick it up in the morning as you go to work and deliver your cake for you. Having systems in place is what actually really helps you balance having a job/being employed and running a baking business.

If you’re interested in getting mentorship as a baker doing business; consider joining our 3-month online Mentorship Program – click here for details.

Published by Maureen Kamari

Amari Baking Center offers baking classes to those who want to learn how to bake. We train our students using Cookswell original charcoal ovens. We also offer basic business start-up training for those who want to start small baking businesses. We do groups vocational training anywhere in East Africa as well. We hold classes in our home-based bakery workshop located on Ndwaru road in Riruta, Nairobi; off Naivasha road, next to Pelida School. We use original Cookswell charcoal ovens to bake and train our students due to their efficiency, effectiveness and economy. They are the best option for anyone starting a small baking business on a budget.

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