Welcome to the Business of Baking. I'm so glad you're here! Every Tuesday I post something new, with a rainbow sprinkling of other posts through the week.  Please comment on posts that resonate with you, and become a part of the BoB community by signing up for the newsletter or joining us on social media. Happy Business Baking!

If 2015 is the year you start or grow your baking or cake business, I invite you to come along to the Business of Baking On Tour.

Starting Your Business Newsletter

Company newsletter

Last  week I wrote about why you’ve got to build an email list of your clients and potential clients. This week, I’m going to give you some ‘how to’ info on how to get started with doing it. The most common way to communicate with your list is simply via a company newsletter that you send out regularly.

Setting it up:

I recommend using MailChimp, as it’s free (for your first 2000 subscribers), very easy to use, and you can easily integrate it with your website. There are plenty of other sites you can use – AWeber, Constant Contact, etc etc (there are so many it’s crazy) – but I really love MailChimp and no, they don’t pay me to say that. The reporting is great, you can easily see who signs up and who unsubscribes, you can link it to your social media and the help centre is one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen or used.


No less than monthly. In my business I send a newsletter monthly but would send out extra ones for special events like Mother’s Day cupcakes or Christmas products. Like all marketing activities, newsletters work best when you can schedule them to happen regularly, so in your diary or planner, put “Send company newsletter” on the 5th (or 15th or whatever) day of each month so the reminder comes up for you.

Who should get your newsletter:

Current and past clients, friends. You also want potential clients to sign up, so you need to make it really easy for people to opt in. One thing I suggest is that on your “contact us” page, you have a sign up spot for your newsletter so people can sign up from there. I also strongly suggest having away to sign up on every page of your website so that it’s really, really easy for them to sign up and they are encouraged to do so. You don’t have to do this as a pop-up unless you want to (some people find them annoying) but I can say that a pop-up will increase your list a lot faster than a static sign up box will.

What to write about:

One of the biggest struggles people have is knowing what to write, especially if writing does not come naturally to you. My suggestion here is to develop a really simple formula for your newsletter. A short greeting, something new about your products, something about existing products, and something which will improve the lives of your readers. Let me break that down for you:

  • Greeting: A short personal style note saying hello. A way to get your personality across, mention a product or event you’re excited about, or share a bit of behind the scenes type stuff.
  • Something new about your products or business: your class schedule, upcoming specials for holidays or events, a new flavour you’re trying, your new operating hours. Something ‘new’ which is happening in the world of your bakery. If you participated in a charity event, were recently on TV, etc. This is just something exciting and interesting.
  • Something about existing products:  A ‘cake of the month’ feature with a testimonial from a client and a picture of them cutting the cake, a “did you know?” feature where you outline one of the services you offer, a list of your most popular flavours, a photo collage of kids’cakes all around a certain theme.
  • Something to improve your readers’ lives: This is often the reason why people will keep a subscription or open your newsletter, because something in it compels them to keep opening it. So maybe a funny meme, a simple ‘home made’ recipe you want to share, an inspirational saying (make it relevant please), an article about wedding cake design trends, etc. Basically this is the last bit, so you want them to end on a happy note and find a reason to save rather than delete that newsletter. Plus if you’re good at it, it makes them want to open the next one that they get sent.


What if people unsubscribe?:

Let them. You’ve got people who love you and want to see what you have to say. Don’t worry about anyone else.

What if someone tells me I’m being “salesy” or “pushy” with my emails?:

Ask one or two other trusted, long term customers how they feel about your newsletter content. If they seem to like it, just don’t worry about that one comment.  If they say it seems a bit pushy, maybe re-think the way you are presenting the bits in it about your products. I think ALL feedback should be “checked” to ensure how true it is but if it’s really only one person who is bothered, just unsubscribe them. You’re in BUSINESS and you have every right to both market your wares and ask for money for those wares.  They are entitled to their opinion of course, but you are also entitled to make a living in whatever way you see fit.

It’s taking up a lot of time:

In most email software you can set up a template. It’s a bit of work to begin with but once you’ve done it, you’ve done it! Then if you follow a bit of a formula to fill it up (as I mention above) it’s a lot easier to do. Also, as you get things through the month (like testimonials and photos from clients), file them into a “newsletter” folder in your email so you’ve got some stuff to choose from when that time of month rolls around again.

Can I send more than one a month?:

Yes, and I full expect you to if something big is coming up.  Towards the end of the year you’ll be sending a December newsletter but also at least 2 reminders about Christmas products, since the holiday is close to the end of the year and people do tend to forget.

There is a lot more to the art of writing newsletters and keeping in touch with your email list, but the pointers above are a great way to get started. No, you don’t have to have one, but it’s a fairly inexpensive and very effective marketing tool and well worth investing a half hour each month in doing. The key is to set it up so that it’s almost automatic for you to do it and it does not become a major burden or irritation in your life.

In the comments tell me – do you currently send a newsletter? How do you go about it?

Making a Living From Selling Cake


Confused in Cakeland is the series where I answer reader questions. Have a question? Email it to me – michelle (at) thebizofbaking.com

Hi Michelle,

It seems like there are a lot of cake and cupcake businesses going out of business. I’ve been researching my business model, making a lot of plans and saving up to open my dream store. I want to move forward but I have to admit I’m really scared because I see so many closed businesses and people who burn out. If all those people are failing, what chance have I got? I know you tell it like it is. Honestly, do you really think it’s possible to make a living out of selling cake?


Worried Caker


Hey there Worried Caker,

Firstly, I don’t blame you for being worried, it feels a little scary out there at the moment.

That being said, YES, I think that even in this crowded industry, you can make a real, decent living out of selling cake. I think you will work harder than you think you will, I think you MUST diversify your offerings from the very get-go, and I think the best investment you’ll make in your business is in learning business skills. No, I’m not just saying that because I teach a class like that, I’m saying that because it’s been proven over and over again. Your ability to ganache can easily be copied by someone else and is easily learned via YouTube. Dealing with customers, marketing effectively, and having the right entrepeneurial mindset? THOSE are the things you’ll need to succeed in the long term and which can’t be learned in a video.

As for the diversifying part, I mean this on several levels – offer more than one product or service, have staff members with diverse skills but with some overlap, make sure your marketing plan is diverse. To put this into baking terms: don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket, in ANY aspect of your business.

You can do this, my Worried Friend. I still believe – actually, I KNOW, it’s entirely possible – because I’ve both done it and seen it done.



Do I Need A Business Newsletter?


With all the emails we get from various companies, you might be wondering if your business also needs a newsletter. Alternatively you might already know you need and want one, but you’ve too overwhelmed by the tech side of it (exactly how does one send 134 emails at once?) or the writing side of it (“I have nothing interesting to say!”). In today’s post I’m going to explain why you need an email database (and business newsletter), and next week I’ll be writing about the tech side of it, including some sample formats you can use if you struggle with the content of your newsletter.

As small business owners in the era of social media, it would be easy to think that social media is the single best marketing tool you can use for your business. We get told all the time that if we’re not constantly active on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (and G+, and ello, and Twitter, and…) that we are missing out on prime opportunities to market. There are a couple of problems with this thinking. Firstly, we forget that millions of other businesses (from micro to massive) are told the same thing, so they too are across all those media or trying to be. As a result, the online world is becoming an unbelievably noisy place. Secondly, we forget that not all of our target market spends time on one or any of those platforms. It might be hard to believe but, yes, there are potential customers of yours who do not have a Facebook account or use it to make purchasing decisions. Third, we forget that when we signed up to those platforms we agreed to those platform’s terms and conditions, the most important one of which is that they hold all the control. They can turn their platform off, ask you to pay to be involved, delete your posts or pictures, suspend your account, stop showing your posts and pretty much do whatever they like and you have NO say in it. Let me give you the big scary obvious point here: If the only way you currently market your business is via social media, and someone decides to turn that platform off tomorrow…well, yeah, good luck keeping your business going. I’m not saying it’s likely to happen. I’m saying I don’t want to be the guy who is left up a creek with no paddles if it does. Me, I like a good insurance policy!

ALL of those reasons are reasons why you must – today, right now – start building a client database (email list.) An email list belongs to you and only you. You are in total control with that information. Nobody else decides what to do with it and so it becomes an asset of your business. This is vitally important because it means that it’s a method of communicating to your clients which will never close down, suspend you, or lock you out because you posted a picture someone thought was inappropriate (but please don’t do that). With social media, we’ve all become very good at endlessly scrolling, scrolling, double tap, like, pin, scroll, scroll, double tap, scroll. We have less than a second to get someone’s attention.

So if you’ve got a client database, should you be sending an email too, if we already get too many emails?

Yes. Yes you should, and here’s why:

With email, you get their attention for way longer than any other digital medium. Firstly, they’re spending more than a half a second to see what you’ve got to say and secondly, many people KEEP newsletters to refer back to later. Yes, the content of your newsletter is vital to ensure that people do in fact open it rather than delete it (we’ll talk about that next week). The important thing is that you’re getting time in front of their face for a lot longer than your social media post will. You’ve getting a position of prime real estate in their inbox and the value of that cannot be underestimated.



With social media posts, sometimes it can feel like a very lonely place. We say and share amazing things on our pages, only to be told that 32 (out of 5000) saw that post, or we have no idea how many people saw that tweet. With a business newsletter, we might only be sending it to 120 people, but we know those 120 people KNOW us, LOVE us, and CHOSE to hear from us because they signed up. They’re already loving you! You don’t need to work quite so hard to convince them of your awesomeness because they already know it and signed up to hear about it. It’s common business wisdom that it’s easier to keep a client than find a new one and nowhere is this more obvious than in a business newsletter or email list. Speaking from my own experience of this, I LOVE that almost every single copy of the 30 Days of Awesome program was purchased by names I recognised because they are on my list. It means that I’m building a committed tribe of people who like what I have to say, are interested in being a part of my community, and they’ll give me useful, honest feedback about programs I launch. I can also more effectively reward them  – I can telling them something important, share news or free tutorials and release products directly to my inner circle rather than whoever is wandering around my social media accounts. I know they’re more likely to take action and I know they’ll appreciate it.

You cannot underestimate the importance of building a list and then communicating with the people on it.

By now you’re nodding your head and thinking, “Oh yeah, I should totally be creating this list, but how the heck do I create one?” and the good news is, many of you are sitting on a goldmine of a list already. You’ve probably got TONS of emails from past clients, people who contacted you to enquire about an order, and so on.  Those are the people you start with (plus your Mom and all your friends).  This week, your homework is to start thinking about and gathering that list up in one place (Excel is a good place to start.)

Next week we’ll talk about communicating with your list – the tech and creative side of it – how to send and what to send in your first ever business newsletter.