Now all your friends have got that bug in your ear about how you are going to make thousands…no…millions by selling your sweet creations. You can’t stop thinking about it. While your toddler naps, you’re Googling cake companies in your city to figure out who your competition is. While you’re out shopping, you’re scribbling ideas down on the back of the wrinkled receipts in the bottom of your handbag. You’re doodling potential business names in the margins of your notepad while you’re meant to be listening to your boss talk about whatever bosses talk about. You’re typing “www.awesomebusinessnameidea.com” into your browser to see if anyone else has thought of it. In short, you’ve already designed your ideal business and all of it exists right there in your head.
You can even see the packaging, can’t you? (It’s probably pink.) (And it has a cool graphic which looks a bit retro.)
The thing about awesome cake is, if you’re not actually selling it, you’re not making any money. It’s pretty simple.
NO sales = NO business
This post is not about how to make sales, it’s about knowing what you sell. Why? Because no sales is a big problem, but not knowing what you sell is an even bigger issue. Everyone’s telling you that you are awesome at cakes, but that means nothing unless you can actually sell it. There are a number of ways you can do this, but ultimately the way you go about selling it will depend on your product and your target market.
Wait a sec. I need a product? I make awesome cupcakes. Isn’t that my product?
Well, sure. In theory that’s your product.
But you and everyone else makes cupcakes, or have you been living under a massive rock for these past few years? (In this example, you can substitute ‘cupcakes’ for ‘macarons’ if you like….) We’re going to talk about developing your unique selling point and working out your target market a but later, but for now – you’ve actually got to work out what it is you DO. You’re supposedly going to be a mogul cake seller, but all you’ve got is, “I’m going to sell cupcakes!”
That’s not a great business model.
Think about it for a minute.
Are you wanting a cupcake business that has a retail shop front?
Are your cupcakes only going to be available at markets?
Will you sell anything other than cupcakes?
Are you planning on having a cake business that only bakes to order?
Have you always wanted to own a cafe that sells cakes?
Are you going to be a company that makes cakes for the corporate market?
Are you a custom cookie company?
Are you going to sell wholesale only?
Are you a company that will sell mini cakes to cafes?
Are you really great at baking French pastries?
Do you love making muffins?
Are you really just wanting to make a bit of money on the side selling to friends? (By the way, this is totally okay if this is the case.)
Are you wanting to sell Mexican cookies? Danish tarts? Vegemite scrolls?
Are you a mixture of all of these things?
In short – what business are you in, exactly?
Unless you’ve got a clear idea of the type of business you want and the product you are going to sell, you can’t go any further. Do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars. Without more thinking, right now all you have are friends who think you make great cake but don’t want to pay for it, and a desperate desire to leave your day job.
While in you’re head you’ve got an idea about adorable packaging, cute aprons and business cards cut into the shape of a piping bag, you really need to have an idea more about the type of business. Sit down and do some planning about this business of yours. Dream. Dream BIG. Dream in DETAIL. This fantasy business of yours isn’t set in stone. Things will change. The business will evolve. YOU will evolve. But for right now all I want you to do is answer this ONE question: WHAT BUSINESS AM I IN? (or do I want to be in?) Be as specific as you like – hey, this is *your* baby and it can be whatever you like.
You’ve got to do this step. It’s a hard one to do. We’re all afraid of admitting out loud what it is we want to do when we grow up and here I am asking you to do exactly that. We are all afraid to take our dreams and commit them to paper. It’s scary to admit that you want something different for your life. Writing it down is like a confessional almost (minus the little stuffy room and the guy in the suit.) Trust me when I say, you will not regret the time you took to figure out what you’re going to build. To put this in cake terms: it’s a lot easier to make a cake when you’ve got a recipe to work from. It’s a lot harder when you’re looking at a pile of eggs and flour and trying to guess what you’re baking that day.
Write a recipe for your business. This recipe will act as the building block to every single decision you make from here on out. This is not about a formal business plan (but eventually, you’ll need one of those.) This is about thinking, and thinking hard – about where this is going to lead you.
Here’s the really amazing thing about this process. Once you start putting pen to paper, you’ll find that the ideas will come. Sure, the doubts and questions will come to – but the creative juices will get going and I think you’ll suddenly find you’ve got an entire HEAD full of ideas just waiting to come out. Some of you will do this and realise that the baking business isn’t what you want at all…the business which is in your head is actually a cafe, or a flower shop, or a coaching business. Do some soul searching.
The best part about this whole exercise? It continues to have value for you every single step of the way. When I am faced with a business decision (to expand into a new product, when I’m considering a new angle for promotion, thinking about adding another service to my business) I always first ask myself, “What business am I in?” Over time the answer has been modified, expanded, and become different to what I started out with – but that I can answer the question, succinctly and immediately, every single time – that is what drives every business decision I make. It’s not the only driver, but it’s certainly a major factor of how I make decisions.
Have you ever wandered into a shop that sells a certain product, but they also just sell something which seems totally unrelated and thought to yourself, “What the heck is a X business doing selling Y?” Or you’ve met someone and asked them what they do and they say, “Oh, I’m in IT and I also sell model trains, plus sometimes I waitress, and I’m also re-training in water therapy, and on the weekends I sell heirloom tomatoes at farmer’s markets.” It’s the sign of a desperate business owner – or desperate person – who behaves like that. Without an idea of WHAT it is you want to do, effective decision making becomes very difficult. We’re also going to talk about WHY we do what we do (which is another major part of how I make decisions), but in the meantime let me leave you with a story.
A few months ago I went to a networking event (I hate them. Truly. But sometimes there are parts of business ownership which fall under the “boring but important” category and networking for me is like that.) Anyway this nice woman came up to me and asked me what I do. When she found out I make cakes, she said, “Oh! My partner and I own a restaurant and function venue! Maybe you can provide us with some celebration cakes when we have events?”
Sounds great, right? I could get an entire new place to sell cakes to, and they already do several functions a month. It almost made me think that standing there in uncomfortable shoes and eating mediocre canapes was going to be worth it.
“Let me give you our brochure,” said this lady, “and we can catch up in a few days.” She dug around in her handbag for a minute and produced one of those glossy oversized postcards. She took a minute or so to tell me a bit about the venue, which sounded pretty nice. I was enthusiastic and made all the right noises about the venue.
In almost the same breath, she says to me, “And on the back is all the info you need to know about my miracle anti-aging cream! It’s fabulous stuff! It will truly transform your life, it erases lines, it’s like the poor woman’s Botox, it’s just ah-may-zing and…blah blah blah.” I must have given her the “What the…?” look because she then said, “Oh, you know, I’ve got my fingers in a lot of pies. I got the anti-aging stuff printed on the back of the venue postcard because it saves money to do it that way.”
Exactly what business is SHE in, I wonder? She didn’t seem so sure.
Just quietly, I don’t want any anti-aging cream anywhere near my creations.