Professional Baker Felicity Price Turned Her Passion for Cupcakes Into a Sweet Business
Turning her baking hobby into a profitable business has been as much a labor of love for Felicity as a money-making venture, but only after countless hours of playing with the ingredients to find the perfect mix.
According to Felicity, the old saying "speculate to accumulate" is still an effective way to generate business. But she also told us that spending too much time indulging in a passion can hurt a company’s bottom line.
To get the inside scoop on baking as a profession, on why freebies are an effective marketing tool and how time management is crucial, we talked with the mom of Buttercream Babies.
What inspired you to set up Buttercream Babies as a business?
Apart from my love of cake, I really wanted to do something creative. Like most people I wanted to work for myself, but the real reason I started baking full time was because I love it!
If someone said to me before I started, "You have do this all day and you won't get paid for it," I'd probably still do it. Unfortunately, the bank won't take a batch of cupcakes instead of rent, so I have to try and make money as well.
But the main reason I set up my business was because I love baking and I wanted to do something I enjoy. It's actually part of the reason I called the business Buttercream Babies — because each new design is like a little creation.
So, your business is one part passion and one part financial?
Yes, that's basically it. A business owner could have all the right ingredients, but if they don’t love what they’re doing then it will never work. My goal was to build a company that I'd want to buy something from.
Anyone can make cupcakes if they follow a recipe, but to really stand out and do something worthwhile, there has to be passion. My goal was — and still is — to be passionate about what I do, because without that I wouldn't have a business.
At what point did you know your business was going to work?
Before I started baking professionally, I always saw the smile my cakes would bring to people's faces. Everyone loves something sweet, so I knew there was always going to be a market for my cupcakes.
I guess you could call my early work "market research," as I was just baking as a hobby. After that, it was a case of breaking down my costs and working out the profit margin I needed per order. All that was left was to create a service people would pay for.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
Time! My biggest asset has also been my biggest downfall because I've wanted to go above and beyond expectations. Very early in the business I was taking far too long agonizing over every little detail.
Time is extremely precious when you're running a business, and I don't think I really appreciated this at the start. When it was a hobby, I could afford to spend more time on a cake than I can nowadays. That doesn't mean the product is lower quality now, but it does mean I have to be more focused.
What is your most effective means of getting new customers?
Word of mouth was the first marketing tool I used. Because I'd baked for people in the past, they were willing to recommend me anytime someone had a birthday party or celebration.
Once I'd decided to turn Buttercream Babies into a business, I createdmy Facebook page. At first it served as an online portfolio where I could post pictures of all my latest creations. Because cupcakes are as pretty as they are tasty, it made for a good-looking page. Once people started leaving comments, word began to spread and the page became a way for people to contact me about my products.
Another technique I used, which is a little less technical, was to get business cards made. I live near a research park with hundreds of companies on it, and every office has a party or two during the year. I put a business card through every door and offered free samples to the larger companies.
So you didn't mind giving away something for nothing?
I actually think this is a marketing tactic a lot of people dismiss too quickly.
Obviously, giving away free cupcakes is easy and very few people will say no, but the proof really is in the pudding. If a business owner has faith in their product, they should be confident about providing someone a free trial. That goes for any company, I think. While it might cost some time and money, giving someone the chance to actually try before they buy can help bag a new customer, and that makes it all worth it.
It's like saying to someone, "I'm willing to sacrifice my time and money to show you something good."
What's one new thing you're hoping to learn next from a community of other small business owners?
Recently, I've been thinking about how to scale up my business. Because I'm my own product — as I do all the baking — I don't really know how I can increase my output. Do people think that outsourcing is a good idea? If so, how do I make sure the quality doesn't drop?
Can *you* help Felicity out with her question on how to scale her business?
Have you found success turning your passion into a business? When it came time to expand, how did you learn to let go of the reins and scale your business effectively?
Share your own thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below!