Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Laura Serrano, Owner of Laura's Cake Design, located in Staten Island, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
At Laura's Cake Design, we create gorgeous custom cakes and treats for clients who want to bring their events to the next level. The cake is always the star of the show, and our clients are people who appreciate this and want to invest in their memories.
Tell us about yourself
I found my passion for cake decorating shortly after having my second child in early 2013. I was at a friend's party, and that was when I saw my first custom-decorated fondant cake. It was beautiful, and everyone was impressed, but when the cake was served, it was horribly dry and flavorless! My friend was embarrassed and very disappointed. People at the party were saying that this was, unfortunately, the norm for a custom cake!
I was inspired and amazed at what was possible with cake and knew I could do better! That became my mission. To combine my artistic talent and skill for baking to make cakes that dazzled the eye as well as the palate. I am so happy to hear the feedback from my customers time after time as they tell me how beautiful and delicious their cake was, how impressed their guests were, as well as how much they enjoyed it! No embarrassment or disappointment for my customers. And that is what motivates me.
Providing the kind of customer service and product from start to finish that I would have liked to see my friend receive so many years ago. I know there are many places a person can go for a custom cake in NYC, but I want people who come to me to be glad they did. My favorite thing is when a customer reaches back out to me year after year. I have clients that I still serve that have been with me since the beginning, 10 years ago, and that speaks for itself.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I feel very lucky that I have been able to work with organizations such as Icing Smiles to provide dream cakes free of charge to children who are facing illnesses and other medical conditions. It was one of the best moments of my career to deliver an Icing Smiles cake to a family and see the joy it brought to them as well as to hear their story. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy one of these beautiful cakes can and does bring to people.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Time away from family. This business requires a lot of time with clients before any money is exchanged. Discussing budget, designs, providing sketches, tastings, and the list goes on. Then the making and delivering of the product. One cake can take days to create. The worst is when you have done all of the above communication, and things don't work out with a client for one reason or another, and you have spent all that time with them... it's the hardest thing. But that is the price of doing business, as they say.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My three tips for an entrepreneur just starting out in this business are:
- Take a year or so and make cakes for friends and family. Make a cake for anyone who will let you. This will show you what you are getting yourself into and provide you with real feedback as well as allow you to test the limits of what you are capable of. We, as custom cake creators, rarely make the same cake twice, so you have to know if you can do something before you have even tried to do it.
- Never accept an order for a cake that you don't think you can create to a customer's satisfaction. There is nothing worse than going through all the trouble to get to a certain point with a cake and then realizing that you don't have the skill to make it happen. Panic is a mild word for how you will feel, especially with a paying client.
- Once you have reached a point where you know how to bake, assemble and create a truly beautiful and tasty cake, I implore you not to be afraid to charge for it! Nobody wants to be the cheap cake lady (person), least of all you. Make your prices fair but charge for your time, supplies, and skill. Reach out to other businesses in your area and see what a fair rate is and set your prices accordingly. Remember that your pricing reflects your confidence in yourself, and people will pick up on that. Don't ever haggle with clients either, no matter how tempting. If you are out of their budget, then they are not for you. A specialty cake is a luxury, not a necessity, and your time is valuable. If you have done the above work and are genuinely skilled, then you will attract clients who appreciate you and will pay you a fair price.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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