Tag Archive | business

Side Effects

They say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Often, as we hope, wish and strive to accomplish our goals, we forget that there will be A downside to reaching any of them. Let’s think about medicines for a moment. Commercials are rampant these days for every disease out there. After it tells you how it will help you, an announcer quickly glosses over all the bad things that medicine could cause. 

One day as I watched a commercial with friends, one of them asked why anyone would want to take that medicine. I answered that the benefits to the person had to outweigh the risks. Take me, for example. When my last leukemia medicine failed, I had to switch to Tasigna. I’ve been on oral chemo for 15 years, so I didn’t figure it would be a big deal to change. The doctor say me down and told me that I needed to fully understand the potential side effects of this drug. The number one side effect?  Sudden death. Let that sink in. SUDDEN DEATH. 

I told my doctor that I had always said that I didn’t care if the medicines made me grow two heads, I was taking them. I wasn’t through with life yet. But it still gave me pause. I remember holding the first two pills in my hand, wondering if I should take them. I documented the dose on Instagram, just in case it was the last thing I ever did. Clearly, my heart didn’t react badly to the medicine and I am very careful to follow all the rules with it. 

I see similar things in the cake world all the time. We dream of success, without thinking about its cost. If you are dreaming of more customers, you will find that invariably you are going to have less time for yourself. Those lazy days can disappear. Those weekends at the lake?  Gone. 

Many of you dream of owning a retail location. You will definitely find that your schedule is now ruled by the business. You may find that as your business grows, so do the headaches with employees, taxes, vendors, etc.  you might look up one day and realize that you aren’t even decorating the cakes any more because your day is filled with the operation of the business. To give it your all, you have to give less somewhere else. Often, I see marriages crumble and fail in this situation. 

Maybe you want to travel and teach. And then you find that you never have a date, because it is hard for someone to handle the life you’ve built. Do you board your pet?  Do your relationships at home suffer?  Do you find that you hate airports, or driving, or hotels?  

It is so easy for us to think that “if only x happened, my life would be perfect”, but that is rarely the case. The person whose life you are idolizing could have a lot of side effects that you cannot see. Remember, most of us only show the world what we want it to see. 

So as you map out your dreams, be sure to think about the side effects. Taking fewer orders gets you more free time, but maybe less money for yourself. Taking more orders gets you money, but less sleep and time with family. In the end, we have to look for the balance that works for each of us. Don’t try to live anyone else’s life. Pick your goal and the side effects that make your life happy. 

And because I haven’t said it yet in this blog:  I believe in you. You’ve got this. 

The Cake Muggles

At orientation for law school, the professor warned us that we were stepping into a black hole for the next three years. We all laughed, but it turned out to be true. To do well there, we had to eat, sleep and breathe the law. So we did.

When I moved into the baking field, it was just for fun…at first. It was a hobby that let me do cool cakes for my step son and for my coworkers. When it becomes your profession, especially if you work for yourself, the black hole opens up and swallows you. I knew when I started my own bakery that it would take long hours. I underestimated. I was easily working 12-18 hour days, six to seven days a week. I insanely thought that I would never turn down an order, so I took everything that came in the door…even if that meant I didn’t get to sleep that night. It became a source of pride to brag about how many hours straight I had been working.

Unless my friends or family helped at the bakery, they simply did not understand how the bakery life goes. Family get-togethers were invariably planned for 2 pm on Saturday…right in the middle of wedding deliveries and birthday pickups. They planned the family Christmas Eve party for Christmas Eve Eve several years in a row. That is the single busiest night of the year for a bakery like mine. Everyone picks up their orders for Christmas Eve. I was blessed that my family were not critical to my face, but I could tell I disappointed them when I fell asleep on the couch at the parties. (We decorators know that as soon as you stop moving, you are toast!).

I visit with a lot of decorators who ask me how to get their family to understand. I wish I had the answer. I really do. It is so difficult for an artist to explain their passion.

With respect to a spouse, you simply have to keep at it and negotiate a compromise that works for both of you. It could be that they let you go to Cake Camp if you let them go on a hunting trip. Or that you only do cakes every other weekend so that you leave time for family. When you do cakes from home, I think that it is harder for friends and family to look upon it as a business. To them, you are at home playing. You and I know that it is the hardest “playing” you ever did!

I decided that it is a bit like Harry Potter’s world. The Muggles don’t understand. They haven’t been exposed to the wizarding world and cannot begin to comprehend what makes the wizards tick. Your family is the same way. They haven’t experienced the rush of making the first buttercream rose you don’t hate or the first figurine that looks like what it is supposed to be! They don’t get a rush when someone posts a new Craftsy class or when your dream teacher is coming to a city near you. They don’t mean to hurt your feelings…they just don’t understand.

You have to be the one to educate them, cajole them and ply them with sweets until they offer you their support. Sometimes they are just waiting to see if this is a temporary fad. Once they see your level of commitment to making a career of cakes, they often will become your biggest supporter.

Besides, cake is still cool. My dad never bragged or got that excited about my law career. And I had a decent one…won some awards, won most every hearing, was in the paper…it wasn’t tangible to him. But put me on a cake TV challenge, have me give him sweets for his Sunday School class or let me do a cake with his race car on it, and I was brag worthy! The poor nurses at the hospital – they all had to hear about me right up until the day he died.

So my message to you is to remember that YOU are the one with the superpowers, so you have to help your family fall in love with your talents. Over and over, I have seen families embrace and support their decorators once they fully understand. Don’t give up on the cake Muggles….they’re just like us, just less “Sweet”.


A Ripple in the Water

Recently, in the same week, I got to watch two separate social media meltdowns. One made the national news; one just swept the cake industry. Both involved cake artists. In both cases, the cake artists fed into the drama instead of ignoring it or rising above it. I honestly do not know what the long term effects of these meltdowns will be, but I would not be surprised if long term damage has been done to reputations.

In today’s fast paced world, one drop truly does ripple out. Seemingly small choices can have large impacts. If you blow up on a public forum, you have to expect that it will be shared and shared and shared. Whether we like it or not, people are watching our posts. People are judging us. If we are constantly negative, people will unconsciously think negatively of us. If you are constantly upbeat and encouraging of others, people will be drawn to you. If you make a mistake and are honest about it, people will forgive you.

In the case of the national meltdown, a bakery was on a tv show and made some unusual comments. People went onto their Facebook page and poked fun or derided their philosophy. The bakery owners then made the fatal mistake of engaging these critics. The better and more expedient solution would have been to block the people and to remove the comments. Anytime I had someone place a negative post on my bakery Facebook page, this was my solution. Yes, it takes a little time, but it removes their power. The only thing they want is to create drama in your life. You can join in the drama or wipe it from the face of the Earth.

In the other instance, a well known cake celebrity was subjected to a prank. She did not laugh it off or simply post that the prank was a prank. No, she blasted the creator of the prank. When others found humor in the prank that she could not see, she blasted them, as well. In the end, she blocked numerous people. So what did all of that gain her? Not much. Many people were offended by her reaction to the prank and it may, in the end, cause her to lose supporters for a project dear to her heart. This is sad. Sometimes, in hindsight, we can see where we went wrong on social media, but it isn’t always easy when we are in the middle of an emotional situation.

Another example occurred last week. A talented sugar artist in England closed her business due to cyber bullying. She was driven to a suicide attempt by the behavior of a few self described sugar witches. As with the cases above, she tended to go into the drama instead of removing the drama from her life. I think she initially tried to ignore the posts or block them, but, at some point, began to post about the treatment she was receiving. While that did get her sympathy from other artists, it also fed into the drama. I still believe the best approach would have been to block the people posting on her page and to remove their comments. As a business page owner on Facebook, you have that ability. When the people who live to create drama find silence, they will move on.

Does this silence mean that you are validating their treatment of you? Aren’t you supposed to stand up for yourself and call them out, so that the bullying stops? Kind of. Calling them out publicly, as seen above, did not stop the bullies. It magnified it. The better approach is to take away their forum. Report the tactics to Facebook or the proper authorities. Punish them through the proper channels.

When the British artist posted that she was closing her business, her followers immediately wanted to go attack the people who harassed her. They wanted to bully the bullies. I cringed as soon as I read those responses, because I know in my heart that this will create a nightmare situation for all involved.

There is so much good in social media (take for example the pages that sprung up after the Oklahoma tornadoes to give assistance to those affected, to reunite pets and owners and to give out important, life saving information to people in the area). This is when I love Facebook. Social media connects us to our friends and family and to people we don’t know who share our interests. It is not Facebook or social media that is evil. It is only some who use it.

The next time you are about to start on a rant on Facebook, please take a deep breath and ask yourself if this smothers the drama or feeds the drama. My guess is that you will realize it will feed the fire and that you will delete your post. I know that I cannot please everyone in my personal or professional life, so all I can do is try to remember that I hate drama and do my best to keep it out of my life and off my Facebook pages.

When did we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves? Why do we let one or two people ruin our day? We must not let them have so much influence over our lives. Sometimes the hardest, but most eventually rewarding thing, is to let time and karma show the world who is wrong. Lets try to be sweet to each other. Lets try to support our fellow artists. There is plenty of business for all of us out there. Bake love. Not war.



Find Your HappyPace

As many of you know, I do marathons and half marathons to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since I am a walker, I am out on the course for a long time. I like to observe human nature and always seem to find a way to relate it to my cake life. I was thinking about how differently people approach a race and realized that it is very similar to how people approach business. As always, I am not going to tell you one method is better than the others, but you need to think about your choice and what it means for your business.

Forward Focus
My first marathon mentor told me that she picks out someone ahead of her and works towards passing that person. She is very goal and task oriented. She achieves time goals and feels a reward for her efforts. This symbolizes the bakery owners that pick out their biggest competitor and decide that they want to work to be that good. They don’t copy what their competitor does, but they strive to come up with their own signature items or style. They will put in whatever work is necessary to achieve their goals.

When I first opened my shop, I was definitely a forward focus girl. I decided what I wanted my bakery to be known for and went through the necessary steps to create that image. I pushed myself to always do more, to give more, to do better. I did not choose any particular shop that I wanted to “beat”, I just wanted to be one of the most recognized and respected.

This is a great type of focus for a new business. The hard work usually pays for itself. The important thing is to not lose focus on your goals. At some point, once you start achieving goals, you may find that this approach is exhausting. It is hard to push yourself twenty four seven for the life of your bakery. Unrelenting focus can flat out wear you out. I equate this with when runners “hit the wall”. When you see people burn out at the top of their game, I think this is caused by the mistake of not taking a break.

Rear Focus
Even if you’ve never done a marathon or race, you’ve probably experienced this type of person. This is the runner always trying to make sure that no one is going to pass them. I see this on the highway all the time. Drivers will feel threatened if you start to pass them and they will speed up to prevent it.

I think this is so much more involved than that. It is almost an over zealous protectiveness of your business. These bakery owners are constantly worrying about whether someone is copying their cakes. I understand that you might feel violated by it, but really…how does it truly impact you if someone in another state posts your picture as theirs? What is the real damage to YOU? Not much. The greater damage will be to their own credibility when they cannot recreate your work. I see so many decorators who seem to burn a lot of hours checking to see if their cakes are being copied. That has got to be incredibly draining.

There is an old racing adage that you don’t look behind you because that motion to look back actually slows you down. People have lost races for years doing this. I worry that this contributes to the burnout some decorators experience. You’re so busy holding on to what you have, that you forget to look ahead to the next goal. Invariably, you will be passed by someone who is running their own race. The next time you sit down to start scoping out what competitors are doing and whether they are copying you, consider looking forward to doing something no one else is doing instead. What will be the next big thing in your town? Try to go out for a new goal instead of looking at your past goals.

Wavering Focus
I am a walker on race day. I maintain a pretty uniform pace and I can do it for a long time. Invariably, I end up crossing the finish line with the run/walkers. This is a well supported run method where you run for a set amount of time, then walk for a set time. The theory is that for runners who cannot maintain a fast speed the whole time, this gets them time to rest and keeps the run portion of their race productive. I have a lot of friends who do marathons with this method and it does make them faster.

For the bakery world, this is someone who sets goals, achieves them, then coasts for a bit before setting the next goal. Maybe they only focus strongly on their business during the busier times at their shop. They use the rest of the time to simply enjoy the bakery and cakes. They do not burn out nearly as much as the Forward Focus owners. This became me at some point. I had established my bakery brand and would not push for another goal until I could sense that it was time to introduce a new product. Sometimes I would go to a cake show and come back with a new idea or focus. This allowed me to conserve my energy so that I could love the bakery for many years. I firmly believe that many long term bakeries fit in this category.

No Focus
I have a few friends who run races like this. They have no time goal. They don’t care who passes them. They just run or walk as the mood hits them. If they see a picture opportunity, they are off the course for a bit. On the highway, these are the folks putting on makeup, eating or texting while driving. Their focus is NOT on the road ahead. While they will pay attention from time to time, they really just wander.

I see these bakery owners on Facebook. I guess calling them bakery owners might be a stretch. These are the folks who will do a cake order every now and then. They might focus for a brief time on building a business, but they cannot seem to commit one hundred percent to being in the cake business. This isn’t to say that people who do cakes on the side, but have a full time job are this type. In fact, I know many people who juggle what amounts to two careers. These are people like one of my former employees.

She started a web site to do cakes from home. She struggles to get through any order she takes. She usually had to enlist help from friends to complete the order. She had an idea in her head of running a business, but not the focus to see it through. If you keep stopping and starting your business, I am probably talking to you. If you truly want to move forward, you will have to find a focus.

Internal Focus
This is my marathon personality. I have an internal rhythm and keep to that steady pace. I have forced myself to stop worrying about who beats me. I forced myself to work at the pace that keeps me happy and that I can maintain without injury or burnout. I know that a run/walker may pass me during their run portion, but that I will pass them when they start to walk. Neither passing truly matters.

In business, this person does their own thing without worrying about what anyone else in town is doing. They don’t go in the other bakeries. They don’t troll websites seeing what others are doing. They decide what they want for themselves and they simply do that. I think one of the best examples of this is my Sugar Sister, Pat Jacoby. She has had her bakery for over thirty years. And she still loves it! She decided a long time ago what types of cakes she wanted to do, established that brand and does her thing. While she has been copied by competitors when she introduces new things, she does not attack them. She just lets her work and the taste of her cakes do her work. She sets goals, but realizes that sometimes the line isn’t straight and sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.

I have been finding that, since I shifted to just teaching, I am having to work on building an internal focus for my business. It is easy to worry about things like someone teaching a similar class. It is easy to feel like I got passed when people get to teach internationally or get picked to do a Craftsy class. If I am completely honest, I struggle with not letting these things make me feel bad. We decorators can get down on ourselves so easily. What I try to remember is that I cannot look at anyone else’s race. The truth for most of us who do marathons is that we are not going to win the race. Therefore, the goal has to be something different. I am working to remind myself that my steady teaching pace will pay off in the end. People might pass me professionally here and there, but that doesn’t make me less of a teacher. In the end, I must be true to myself and my goals. I am not Marina or Nick Lodge. I am not anyone but me. And if I just focus on that, perhaps thirty years from now I will be like Pat Jacoby…still in love with the business I built. And, in the end, isn’t that much better?



When I first opened my shop, I took every order I could get. I was scared to say no and thought I was supposed to please everyone else. I was working over 80 hours a week, 7 days a week and was at a dead run every day. One day, as I met with a bride and her mother, they asked about the shop. I told them how busy we were and how long the hours were. At the same time, the shouted out “TOTM!!”

I am sure I looked at them like they were crazy. I asked what they were saying to me. They laughed and said “Think Of The Money”.

After they left, I made a sign to put on my bulletin board with those four letters. At 2 am on those long cake nights, I would replay their words and I took heart that my work was not in vain. Without the money, there was no business. I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem like the money is worth it, but remember that those busy weekends or months pay for the ones that are slow. You work harder and do more some weeks to afford the luxury of taking no orders to go on vacation or to a cake show.

I hope on your next all nighter, when you are close to tears because you are just THAT tired, you will hear me whispering in your ear, TOTM, and that you will remember it is good to be busy sometimes.

The Grass is Always Greener

Have you ever been driving along and you can sense that the car next to you
wants to be where you are…they covet your lane and want to be in your spot?
Maybe you are the person driving and you want to be in that other lane – the
road just looks better there or it will give you access to whatever it is you
are driving towards. It is tough to not feel envious sometimes.

I find myself getting these little pangs now and then. Why didn’t I get picked to teach at that event or judge at that show or whatever. I find myself wishing that I
was walking in other people’s shoes. Then I catch myself and remember that there is probably someone looking at my life wishing they were in my shoes. And you know what?  That is true for most of us. We look ahead to where we want to be and forget that where we ARE was once our goal. We forget that others are
working to achieve whatever we have achieved.

I caught my husband  getting irritated with a driver the other day…the person was in the lane that  he wanted to be in so he could make the next turn. I said, “How would that driver know that you wanted over?  You did not signal. “. After he forgave me for pointing this out, we started discussing that wishing for something to  happen simply wasn’t enough. He said that moving in the new direction required Patience, Persistence and Perception.

No one gets to their desired success level overnight. You have to be patient and have a plan. I think that a lot of people give up on dreams when they were SO CLOSE to realizing them. It can feel like forever while you are waiting for it to be your turn. But wait you must.

It’s funny. So many people think that the highly successful people
in this world never experienced failure or rejection. If you look into their
stories, however, you discover that they simply were persistent until they
achieved success. J.K. Rowling was turned down around a dozen times before
someone took a chance on Harry Potter. I have been turned down spots as an
instructor – or worse, not even been acknowledged several times. I could let
that shake my confidence, or I can tell myself that they simply do not know me.
I have to force myself to stay at it to be able to teach at my desired

Perception is the one we usually forget about. Just like Rob forgetting to signal the other night, we have to think about what signals we are sending into the universe. Does anyone know about our goals?  Do we have something to show the world what we want?  Just like when I wrote Cake Camp many years ago, you have to help people have the right perception of you. I put together a cd of photos of my work, a resume of classes I wanted to teach and a list of references from their other instructors. I signaled where I wanted to be.

As a baby lawyer, they used to tell us that if it walked like a duck and quacked like a duck and looked like a duck, then it is probably a duck. What they were telling us was to dress for the job we wanted, act like people act in that job, be like those people and everyone would assume we were that. If you want to be on tv, observe those who are and work on those traits. If you want to teach, comport yourself like the instructors you see. If you want the birthday cakes, be like those who get the orders. In other words, send out the perception you want others to have.

I want to add one more “P” to Rob’s list and that is Please. You must
ask. If you sit at home having a pity party because no one asked you to be on
that tv show or compete in that live challenge or whatever, you have only
yourself to blame. Many months ago I was seeing a friend pop up teaching all
over the US. I kept thinking I was doing a bad job as a teacher because I wasn’t
being invited to all these places. She and I were talking one day and I asked
her how these shops heard about her. She laughed and said, “I wrote them and
introduced myself and asked if they would have any interest in me teaching
there.”   You could have knocked me over with a feather. She asked. I kept
thinking what an idiot I had been to just assume that people had hunted her down and I sucked. She put the fourth P into action. Once I started to ask for the
opportunities I wanted, I started to get more of them. That does not mean that I
always get a yes…in fact I can list several recent nos. I know in my heart,
however, that I go more places because I ask.

My final thought for you today, is to try to stem your jealousy or insecurity.  You are seeing what others CHOOSE to show you.  They are probably only showing their successes, not their failures or doubts.  Lord knows I’ve had my share of those, but I have committed to happy posts on Facebook most of the time, so people don’t hear about those things.  I saw this quote and think it sums it all up beautifully.

So my advice for today is to put the 4 P’s into play in your life.  Signal where you want to go.  Don’t judge your life by someone else’s highlights.  Don’t let the green eyed monster of jealousy get to you and don’t let failure be forever.  Your best days are ahead.

Going Up

How many times do we fill up with gas in a month, watching the gas prices rise and fall? Milk might be one price one day, and a little higher the next. We get the menu at a restaurant and notice that the entree costs a bit more this time. In each instance, someone made the choice to change a price. In my pricing blog, I talked about the computations required to accurately price a cake. Let’s face it. Most of us, including me, are unwilling to be that precise. We know that we are not going to change our cake prices weekly or even monthly. So how do you know when to raise your prices and how frequently should that happen?

If you are constantly booked and are turning away orders, you can raise your prices. Demand exceeds supply and those that want your cakes will pay a little more to be one of the winners who get to have your cake that week. Even if orders go down for a week or two…hold on. The customers who love your cake will find that inferior cake simply will not do. They will return like the swallows to Capistrano.

Maybe you are just noticing that costs are going up in general on all of your supplies and you need to make an adjustment. These price increases may come whenever warranted. Honor any bookings at the lower price, but begin charging the new price for all new bookings.

In my retail shop, we knew that we would be doing our best business in October to December. My cookie business was ridiculous. The last few years, I would raise the prices of everything as of October first. This way, I received an extra $1 per dozen on all decorated cookies during my busiest times. We could never make cookies fast enough and I am sure I could have charged even more for them. Since people open up their budgets more at the holidays, no one would flinch at the price increase.

The second advantage to this was that most of my summer brides would come in to reserve dates during the end of the year. I would be able to book them in at a slightly higher rate, which was perfect for me. With weddings, they book so far out, that you almost have to anticipate what that cake will cost you 9 months from now. Since you are probably not psychic (else why would you still be reading?!!), you need to take your wedding price increases ahead of when you book the majority of your wedding season cakes.

When I first opened my bakery, I had initially set a lot of my prices the same as the grocery store bakery I managed. One day, a man came in and asked how much my coffee cake in the case was. I told him. He said “for the whole cake?”. You KNOW that I raised that price the next day! I knew then that I was not in the grocery store anymore -and I had to leave that bargain basement mentality behind. I had amazing gourmet brownies that would not sell. I doubled the price and suddenly could not keep them in the case. Sometimes you really need to know who is shopping in your store!

The biggest key I can tell you on this subject is to not apologize for raising the price. You are entitled to try to make a profit. If you are not earning a living doing this, you will not be doing this for long. Other businesses don’t apologize and we should not either. Now that you have read this, is anyone going up?


The Cake Guru

In every career I have had, I have been blessed to have someone that was always ready to offer advice and guidance when I needed it. These mentors have spent time with me and shared with me the benefit of their experience. Many times, they saved me hours of heartache when I would have been doing something twenty times if not for their well timed information rescue. Sometimes, they helped me to focus my energies on the right task or in the right direction. Occasionally, they told me I wasn’t ready for something. In every case, I was better off for having them in my life.

I am writing today to encourage you to find one or more mentors. Look around your cake club or city and see if there is someone who can be your guide. It is possible that you will have one or more Facebook friends who act as mentors. There is no right or wrong person to use as a mentor. The person does not have to be older than you…they just need different or more experience than you on the subject.

You may not even need a mentor from the cake world. If your friend is great at using social media, let him advise you on ways to improve your use of that form of advertising. If a friend is a great writer, see if they will help you rewrite your web pages for better impact. If your friend is great at numbers, ask for their help with your budget.

The perfect mentor for me might not work for you. Think about who you can speak honestly with, who you can trust and who offers realistic encouragement. Remember that if everyone of you seeks out Mike McCarey ( who is a great mentor, btw) or someone “famous”, know that they might be pretty busy and unable to get you quick answers. I know I get questions a lot and try to always answer each to the best of my knowledge, but I am rarely instantaneous about it these days. The best mentors are going to be people who see you regularly and know your situation.

I almost wish that there was a cake guru at the top of a multi-tiered cake mountain somewhere who had the answers to every cake question, but I am realistic enough to know that no one in this industry knows it all (although some act like they do!). We all have strengths and weaknesses. Find the balance for your weakness by finding your mentor.

How do you get a mentor? Remember when I said that you needed someone with whom you could be honest? This is part of why. You need to feel comfortable asking your questions and, more importantly, in asking for help. Be brave and reach out. I promise you that there are mentors all around you right now. Who will be your cake guru?


One Bad Apple

“My five year old could do a better job!”. “That is the ugliest cake I have ever seen!”. “I was so embarrassed, I could not serve the cake.”. “No one could believe I paid $xx for such a terrible cake.”

I have read countless Facebook posts by people hurt to the core by comments like these. I have endured more than a few over nearly 20 years in retail. Sometimes, I could tell that the customers had overspent and were trying to recoup some money. Sometimes the customers were having problems completely unrelated to the cake, but you were close and it was easy to take out their frustrations on you. Sometimes, the cakes truly aren’t great.

When you get a complaint, it seems like the end of the world. You worry that your business is doomed. You begin to doubt your talent and wonder if you made a mistake going into cakes. Your insecurities grow and you start to second guess every design choice. Occasionally, you get angry and defensive. Your next several cake orders are stressful and anxiety producing events.

We drive almost every day, but very rarely are in traffic accidents. If we have one, do we instantly lament that we are the worst driver in the world? Do we consider giving up our cars? Of course not! We understand that in life, accidents happen. We need to take that approach with our cakes. Admit the mistake. Accept it. Move on.

There were weeks at our shop where I had a couple hundred cakes go out. We could have been told that 199 were “perfect”, “awesome”, “beautiful”…but the one negative comment would be what stuck with us. We would replay the comment and my employees and I would be in a funk for the rest of the day about that order. My sleep that night would be an endless loop of the conversation with the unhappy customer.

Why do we believe the negative comments more quickly than the positive? Why don’t we savor the compliments the same way we stew over the criticisms? I read a quote the other day that made me think of a lot of the young decorators who are so easily hurt by the complaints. It said: ” There are 7,012,472,832 people in the world. Don’t let one bring you down.”. The longer we are in business, the more we start to realize that one bad (or so so) cake doesn’t define who we are. The longer we are in business, the more we can tell which complaints are real and which are crap. The longer we are in business, the more confidence and experience we have when handling these situations.

I wish I could write down some magic words to tell you how to handle this situation. To some extent, I gave advice about handling the caketasrophes in my blog When Bad Things Happen To Good People. The key is to hold your temper, apologize, offer whatever you think is appropriate and maintain your professionalism. If you did do something wrong, learn from that mistake and work on preventing similar mistakes in the future. If someone who works for you screwed up, you still have to accept ultimate responsibility. (Yes, that sucks).

If you believe that you did nothing wrong, then you have to stick to your guns. Tell the customer that you are sorry that they did not like your recipe, or the way THEIR design looked or whatever. If you feel that they are not entitled to a refund, then do not give one. Be aware that they may complain on a social network, but that could happen any time any day, regardless of whether a customer talks to you about an issue. Know that your core customer base will stay the same and that this one incident will not make or break you.

Post the happy comments somewhere that you can see them when you work. Let the positive notes keep you company as you work. As soon as you can, get that negative incident out of your head. Do not let one person crush your spirit. Remember, we are all artists, but not everyone likes the same art. Believe in yourselves and the joy of decorating. Make today a great day to be designing cakes!

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I received a Facebook message from a friend who had had a 4 tier cake collapse. She was understandably upset and was seeking advice. As I read posts on Facebook from other friends, I realized that numerous people were having a really rough cake weekend. I wanted to let each of you know that you are not alone and that cake-tastrophes rarely define your career.

What would I know about it? More than you could imagine. I am going to be very honest with you and share a couple of the worst day of my life. Well, what I thought at the time were the worst days of my life.

One day a bride had called in her credit card number for final payment on her cake. I took down the number and handed the file to an employee to ring up. Long story short, the employee never rang up the charges and at some point tossed the file on my desk with a bunch of other papers, where it became buried. If you can connect the dots, you know that means that the bride’s wedding day came and went with no cake from us. I came in the next day to find the most hateful, awful phone messages. I nearly vomited on the spot.

I found the file buried on my desk, after a frantic search to figure out how we missed a cake. I did the only thing I could do. I called the mother and apologized. I wrote a letter to the bride. I paid her for the cake…not a refund since we never charged her…I gave her what it would have cost. I gave her gift certificates for a two tier cake and an anniversary topper. And you know what? I survived. The family saw how distraught I was and saw that I was trying to make it right. The best part? Her church continued to be a source of many weddings for me. I handled it like a professional and it all worked out in the end.

One of my favorite brides ever had a six tier cake. As I finished setting it up, it was beautiful. My husband Rob, who usually points out any flaws, said “I’m really proud of you…that is a great cake”. I was ecstatic. A few hours later, I received a call at home from the wedding planner. The top two tiers of the cake had ” fallen” off the cake. The cake could still be served, but they needed a dummy cake for the reception.

I couldn’t decide whether to cry, scream or hide under the covers. I took a breath, and ran to my shop to get a dummy cake. I ended up refunding the wedding cake price. To this day, I believe that someone did something to my cake, but the country club denies it. The florist added flowers after I finished, so who knows. There was a prom going on upstairs and every teenager had to pass the cake. I still have no idea how two tiers can jump off, but the rest of the cake is fine.

Even worse, the local high society newspaper mentioned it with their picture of the bride and groom. It cost me most weddings at that country club (high end, two blocks from my shop). All I could do was do my best on every bride’s cake and hope that eventually people would realize that I did nice work. Eventually, my reputation did speak for itself and the wedding planner began to defend me if asked about the incident.

In each case, I thought I was done. That my bakery was done. That I would need to leave town. But the sun rose the next day. People still needed cakes. Life went on. Someone told me that if something won’t matter ten years from now, it doesn’t matter and to move on. The process of moving on takes every bit of courage you have. But you CAN do it!

Sometimes your errors are simple misspellings, learning that you cannot stack cakes that high, that cardboard cake circles absorb moisture and give way or any number of other lessons that are out there waiting for you. In each case, accept responsibility. Try to make it right with the customer. Pray you don’t end up on CakeWrecks. Let the customer yell or cry if they need to – let them release their emotions without getting emotional back.

When I was an attorney, I went to see a judge, who had a quotation on his desk. When days seem too hard to handle, I repeat this quote. It was spoken in a speech by Abraham Lincoln. “And this, too, shall pass away”.

Don’t feel like a loser. Don’t give up. Believe that you are better than what just happened. I promise, this too shall pass. Promise.