I need a pep talk

TeckPoh's picture

Some of you may know that I've harboured intentions for [url=http://www.tpcalcake.net/home/TPsminibakery.htm]a mini bakery[/url]. At last, I've made the move to begin one, albeit a tiny one operating from home. It will start very small. I haven't done any advertising except told some friends who have been supporting that idea for a long time. And, I'll be working with only 1 regular home oven and a Kenwood Major Mixer.

Today, I got my first 25kg bag of flour. For someone who's never bought more than 2 kilos at one go, that is a lot. The flour I got is australian kialla organic. Then, today, I also gave orders to make 1000 1.5" square sticker labels. How's this? I designed it yesterday.


In my little mind, I'll only be baking from Thursday to Saturday to cater for at most 10 orders? But, just now, a friend called me up to ask me if I can do 40 (A3 size?) cakes in 2 days. And, the past few days, I've been getting cake enquiries. I'm in the midst of working with a mother planning a 2-tier busy cake for her 1-yr old's birthday, and making 50 party packs which consist of decorated cupcakes and a trinket or two, beautifully packaged. Also, working on a 4-tier wedding cake due a day after the 2-tier cake.

I'm thinking, am I biting off more than I can chew? It would help a lot if I had a bigger capacity mixer and a deck oven. I'd have to learn how to upsize recipes. But would I be able to bring in enough business to justify the purchases? Can I cope with the kids' schedules and this venture?

Anyway, I've turned down the 40 cakes order. Without a deck oven, that's madness. But if I were a better businesswoman, I would have leapt at the opportunity. Cakes bring in more $$$ than breads.

Will I ever get out of my 'homemaker' box and be a real baker?

225 users have voted.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 24

I've checked the handful of competition here. Not to blow my own trumpet, I think I'm one of the better ones doing these kind of cakes, and certainly there isn't anyone selling sourdough fresh from home. Martin Prior, who sells the best bread around here, says we must lose the word 'sourdough' to sell with success.

I had been afraid to attack such a venture because I had a feeling it might mushroom into something too big for me to handle. I did open the cake-decorating door 3 years ago when my girls were younger; I was so involved in it that I neglected the family somewhat and made some mess of the house. Hence, my one year break. Having gone through that experience, I think I'm more equipped now...the home front is under good control.

I guess the trick is finding the right balance and accepting my limitations. It will be very difficult to fight the temptation to go big.

Thanks, Jeremy, for pointing out the refrigeration/freezer tip, and, croc, for suggesting the oven. I'll be searching the papers for 2nd hand units. Thank you, Pete, Dom and Nina for your invaluable bits of wisdom and encouraging words. I needed them.

Tks for the listening ear and allowing me to ramble on.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2007 March 25


As much as I would love to visit TP in Malaysia, she is far too wise to allow me anywhere near her kitchen!

TP ... I'm wondering if you need to specialise in the beautiful 'one-off' creations that you are so very good at (you are good at everything, but you have to draw a line somewhere!!) and that you can charge a premium for!

Would you be better of charging LOTS OF MONEY for beautiful celebratory items, than trying to make a little bit out of baking lots of little bits and pieces, breads, etc?

One of my friends here has just sold his very successul patisserie to have a bit of a break. He and his wife both worked there with many staff, but it was a large, fulltime operation which meant horrific hours for both of them. And whilst they did very well from it, the sacrifices to personal and family time were great.

If I had your ability, I would be working a bit like a hairdresser that works from home doing one great job at a time as I could fit them in my diary.

But I wish you every success as you are a great baker/cook/etc!!!


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 25

Ahh, Carol, [i]you[/i] are the wise one.

It is indeed true that I can make more money from one cake creation than 30 loaves of bread put together. Martin Prior told me that too. That's why I [i]am[/i] open to decorating cakes. Only on weeks when I'm free, will I offer the various bake stuffs. And, really, it's more to educate (not to sound patronising) Malaysians, especially, on how breads should be (not that my bread are that great). Also, there are a lot of things I bake which are not available in bakeries here, and people have been writing to me to sell these. I shall come here from time to time to get wonderful reminders from all of you...to keep the biz manageable, my family life happy and my ego small.

[b]Thanks, Carol.[/b] You are very welcome in my kitchen...would do wonders for my biz I'm sure, people would be hanging their tongues envisioning delicious and creative ozzie baking.

p/s I honestly prefer to bake breads than to do cakes. Too many weird (sometimes tasteless) requests to cater for in cakes, and I have to suck it in.

carla's picture
carla 2007 March 26

TP I am sure you are going to make it work this time round. And I can understand that you would rather bake breads than cakes. I am the same here. I will happily do my apple cakes -which have a very thin bread dough bottom and just lots of apples and cinnamon and sugar on top. But when it comes to the cake creations then I am not so interested any more. I always think its a lot of work for not much flavour (in my opinion). Much rather have some sourdough bread with cold-smoked home cured ham, some fresh figs and a glass of wine - which is what dinner will be tonight I think

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 26

Dinner sounds great, Carla. I have to make do with a sandwich filled with pepperoni salami (very good but can't compare with your homemade stuff) which we bought from Melbourne.

Sigh. A lot of parents here equate a children's bday cake with must-have commercial characters. I refuse to do them for too many reasons, though I've done the odd ones in my earlier days.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2007 March 26

Carla - has that recipe been posted?!?!?!!!!! I bought the boys (or rather, the kitchen as I wouldn't let them near it yet) an apple peeling, coring, cutting machine that makes apple slinkies (spirals) ... just the thing for that creation of yours I'd wager!!!

TP ... your reasons for baking are therefore both for a little pocket money AND altruism ... which in my experience leads to no pocket money and LOTS of work! But for the right things, these are of little consequence!!

And don't people usually say that if you are lucky enough to find something you are passionate about, then you can't help but be successful at it?

Just make sure you continue to send us mere mortals the occasional recipe!

If I may place my order now for savoury items as I far prefer these to sweet (gimme some of that salami!).

I have been making sure I visit the Eumundi Smokehouse man (David Kazmaroski) every few weeks when he brings his wares to Newcastle ... for the russian sausages with vodka and caraway ... and the chicken sausages with leek and white wine ... you can stuff any of that into some good sourdough and I'm a happy happy woman!


black dog 2007 March 27

Hi Tp,

I think my first message to you on Danlepard was titled WOW, that was just after i had clicked on the link to your site. You have an amazing talent for cakes and bread.

I cannot offer much advice other than to say, overprice rather than underprice, it is easier to bring your prices down than to put them up. I am a great beliver in paying for quality.

Personally, I will pay a premium price for goods made with quality ingredients and by quality people, the emergence (in the UK atleast) of farmers markets suggest that more and more people are begining to think this way.

I wish you luck, but i honestly dont think you will need it!

best wishes


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 27

Carol, I think you should start a Dear Carol thread here. You have great intuition and perception. The description of those sausages are killing me. We had sausages every day we were in Melbourne.

Alex, hah! Great one to talk. You've been withholding great bread and great pix from us. Thanks so much for the moral support. My daily mantra shall be "Premium Price for a Premium Product".

Will report after my soft launch.

carla's picture
carla 2007 March 27

Carla - has that recipe been posted?!?!?!!!!!

Which recipe Carol???

My daily mantra shall be "Premium Price for a Premium Product".
Will report after my soft launch.

There is no such thing as a "soft launch" TP!
Get in there from day1 and ask premium prices for a premium product!

That way you won't get over run with orders and once people taste your breads they will order more - despite the price!

We pay now 29 dollars for medium good salami in a cheaper supermarket here in NZ - and people still queue up to buy, although most them up here won't take back more than 250-300 dollars a week in pay.

It is amazing that they finally get off the terrible dog-roll (luncheon meat) and buy "tasty" food.

It's been a long time coming though - but now that they have tried it, they are LOVING it. Even "very tasty" items like olives and capers are now eaten.

Ten years ago most salads that turned up at BBQ's were NOT dressed (I used to call them "grazing"). If I brought a mixed dressed salad it was called "very spicy".

But now everybody tries the most interesting things out like strawberrries in balsamic vinegar for dessert or figs with proscuitto for entrees. I am very impressed how the NZ eating culture has developed in just 10 to 15 years!

And I am sure you can do the same where you live TP. Just keep at it and make it really expensive to have a different taste!

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2007 March 27

Carla - the apple tart!

TP - I forgot to say, David's 'russian sausages' are a charcuterie product from the smokehouse, not a 'cooked' product. They are beautiful!! They are the size of your average beef sausage - maybe 3 - 4 inches in length so not very big - and they cost AUS$4 each!!! Which I think is a bargain for a beautiful hand-made snag!

So I'd second what black dog has said and charge a little more than you perhaps first thought!!

I just wish I could BUY YOUR STUFF!

Pab's picture
Pab 2007 March 28

Fair enough to charge a serious price.

The danger is to price so as that a lot of people can't or won't buy - there is a huge promotion of so called premium food products here (UK) and the quality is mixed. Too many jumping on the band wagon without the necessary credentials. Some of the prices are preposterous.

Quality needs to be within everybody's reach and, ultimately, fairly priced.


black dog 2007 March 28

I agree with your point entirely (pab) regarding the over pricing of so called premium foods. But if somthing really is a premium product i do not see the need to adjust the price to cater for the masses.

I am certainly not advocating slapping massive price tags on items that simply do not deserve them (like all of the UK supermarkets do, justifying it by writing "finest" or "taste the difference" on their packaging. On the other hand, if someone is willing to make a product by hand and with a passion and love for their ingredients and product i will pay a bit extra for it. I wont increase my overdraft to buy it, but i will pay extra for it. If it doesnt meet my expectations i will not buy it again, but i will give it a chance.

I am fed up with having discussion with people (especially in my former workplace) about not being able to afford good quality fresh foods, i look down to their feet, they wear 'nike air' trainers, they have sky tv (i cant tell this by looking at their feet), they drive big cars. Their children have all manner of useless toys, gadgets and games, playstations and a tv in every room in their house. The point is they have got different priorities. If food is a priority (as it should be for all, except those who do not eat), then we (in the so called developed world) should be prepared to pay a decent price for good food and we should be prepared to make it a priority.

I am sorry to rant, but this is somthing i am really passionate about. In my work i deal with alot of farmers, they have been f**ked over by the supermarkets for years. Here in wales, where we produce some of the finest lamb, reared on the hills around with no fertilizers and good husbandry practises. Yet an average hill famer in wales can expect to make less than £12,000 a year, this is because the supermarkets have completely devalued food and all for profit.

Most milk producers (in the UK) produce at a loss, they are basically waiting to go bankrupt. Again, the culprit is the supermarkets, they use milk as a loss leader. A farmer has no power to say "no i will sell my milk somewhere else" there is no where else to sell it!

Whilst it is the supermarkets who have aided and speeded the decline of food producers, it is us, as consumers that have the ultimate responsability, as we (myself included), fund these cretins.

It is about time that food was valued properly, when i said "a premium price for a premium product" in my earlier post i should have said 'a realistic price for a premium product', the price we pay for most of our food is unrealistic.

I have said my piece, i will now take a few deep breaths.



SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2007 March 28

Go hard, Alex!!

We have similar problems in Australia ... the photos that TP took in Victoria of butcher store products were interesting because there's a lot of space between ok meat, good meat and sensational meat here!

We have a bit of a feud at the moment with the resurgence of "farmers' markets" ... a great idea of course because you get beautiful fresh produce from the person who grew/farmed/raised it, you can ask questions about it, etc ... but a lot of so-called farmers' markets here have never SEEN a farmer! They are full of re-sellers who buy up big and set up stalls all over the place. Bit like the 'sourdough' vs 'sourdough-flavoured' situation that is utterly un-regulated here, too.

It's the parents who complain that 'fresh food is too expensive' and then raise their kids on McDonald's that give me a big dose!


rbd 2007 April 3

Hey TP

Just found this thread....

I agree with a number of correspondents.

I you truly feel you are offering a superb product, you SHOULD charge a premium price for it. Forget about the rif-raf. and tyre kickers.

One word of warning though.... By positioning yourself at the "upper" end of the market, you want to make sure you can keep up quality each time, every time.
No quicker way of loosing your "upper" market customers by allowing in a batch that may be so-so.

Special Cakes and things are often used at special occasions....
You'll be surprised how this "word of mouth thing" can work, if you offer an exceptional product.

Good luck!

PM me if you wish, I may have some marketing ideas for you....


Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2007 March 24

Bakers percent applies to cakes too, a freezer is good too so you can have lots of stuff ready just to decorate! Time to invest, yes but start with a plan and find some help!

Cheers and wonderful as usual!


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 24

Thanks, Jeremy! Very useful tips. Always in awe of you able to cook for so many people with such time constraints.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2007 March 24

You can't imagine the difficulties with egoes, bad mangers and crappy cooks!

Well your so talented you shouldn't have any troubles, maybe Carol can come and help, a juant to Malaysia and some baking Carol?


Pab's picture
Pab 2007 March 24

I am sure you will succeed, TP - as Jeremy says, your so talented that you will work it out!

What makes me a lousy businessman is that I would always look to aesthetics before £s/$s etc - not the way to get rich I am told.

All the very best for your business.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 24

I'm just the same, Pete. 80% of the cakes I have on my site are gifts. I'm so afraid to take money from people!

Yesterday, I quoted somebody RM5 for 4 hot cross buns (weight 80g). I'm munching on a so-called korean bun I bought from a traditional bakery which is too sweet for my liking but the black sesame seeds in the buns give a very nice nutty flavour...I paid RM3.20 for 2 (weight 55g) and it's not even made from organic flour. I need some serious kick in the butt to wake up and price my products with pride.

SourDom 2007 March 24

sounds like a great idea TP

you certainly have the talent to make it work

just make sure you don't turn what is a great source of pleasure for you into a chore
keep it simple, keep it small (at least to start with)

(just my RM2-worth)


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2007 March 24

Thanks for the gentle reminder, Dom. Indeed, I want to bake for the pleasure (and some deserved pay). This morning, I had someone asking me to quote her on one long list of the stuff I showed on my site and that she would like to order. I told her I'm sorry, but I only make one type each of a cake, bread and biscuit per the week I'm opened for business.

Croc 2007 March 24

i'm sure there should be 2nd hands ovens for sale somewhere
i remember looking at some that new cost around 3000-5000 and was able to find them in tradingpost for ~1000. and this was for something that is still current and still made by manufacturer so if you have room to put bigger oven somewhere you might want to look at getting 2nd one.
now those are not huge ovens but they made for small bakeries, pizza places so you don't need huge warehouse for one just remeber it has to be gas or else you looking at quite big extra cost for changing power to 3-phase (spelling?) in your place and you might find that this will cost you lot more than new oven.

Croc 2007 March 24

Thanks for the gentle reminder, Dom. Indeed, I want to bake for the pleasure (and some deserved pay). This morning, I had someone asking me to quote her on one long list of the stuff I showed on my site and that she would like to order. I told her I'm sorry, but I only make one type each of a cake, bread and biscuit per the week I'm opened for business.

well that is bit of a problem, some storage planning as jer said is needed because many people when they want something they want it just that and nothing else and most the time they want it done for yesterday.

don't want to be a prick but it will be very hard to keep pleasure on same level as with baking for kicks and not money but if you plan it well there is still lots of fun you can get out of this excersise.

Pab's picture
Pab 2007 March 24

I've only just looked at your site for the first time, TP. They are awesome and so professional. I was admiring your talent on what I have seen here and on Dan's site...until today.

Trick is to separate business from pleasure, I reckon - I mean still give some to your friends but operate a paying catalogue for everybody else. I suppose this would involve advertising.

Is there competition for your beautiful cakes? I wouldn't know where to find such things here in the UK.


nina 2007 March 24

Good luck with your business project, you certainly have the talent and skill for it!
I wish the professional bakers in my area had just half your talent and dedication... and let me tell you that they are not afraid to price their bread!

For most people a high price signals high quality. And a low price signals 'there must be something wrong, this couldn't be super quality at that price'. And if the quality really is high, a lot of people will come back for more. So don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth!
It seems with all the orders you get, other people have a very good idea about your talent!

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 5
This is a tale of biting off more than I could chew. While offering goodies, one bread and one biscuit/cake on some weeks, I was also getting orders for decorated cakes. I was not crazy enough to do both in one week, but, still, after 6 months, I was getting burnt out, what with juggling my daily duties as a mom/homemaker.

Then, in November, I made this cake for an elderly lady. The order itself was fraught with all sorts of demands and lots of correspondences; the cake consisted of 3 tiers of 3 different flavoured cakes. They didn't like it. The birthday (ol') girl (who was born in the year of the dragon) said, "What? A rock?" I was initially happy with the cake myself, but, I should have been more sensitive to pantangs (malay for superstitious beliefs) and the cake wasn't auspiciously coloured. And, having typically Msian tastes...used to sponge cake/whipped cream... they said the (butter) cake was 'hard'. First time I got unfavourable feedback, though. All the others were too good for my esteem. I don't know...I must have been too tired, but, I was rather hurt by these remarks. I guess I'm not ready to go commercial. Martin Prior did warn me to be ready for a lot of brickbats. I'm too thin-skinned. So, I've sort of 'retired', now only doing bread for friends, and the odd cake.

The cake which made me throw in the towel.

It's not exactly a sad ending....rather it was a blessing in disguise. I didn't need to bust my back running a business; it was good while it lasted. I bought a lot of cookbooks with the money. :)

celia's picture
celia 2008 April 5
...I guess there's nothing that spoils a hobby faster than having to do it as a job.  My problem with doing stuff commercially is that I'm easily bored, so I don't really want to do the same thing more than a couple of times.  But you did well - you made some money to support your hobby, and that's a really good thing.  And now you can just make what you love, for the people you love, who love what you do ! 

For what it's worth though, I think your dragon cake looks sensational.  But I completely understand the texture thing - I too come from an extended family that think chiffon cakes are the norm, and anything else is too "tough".  Personally, I'm not a fan of those light, spongey things.

Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 April 7
TP, there's a high degree
of skill in making anything like that cake you've made.

I'm be just as impressed seeing it made in cake ingredients as I would be if it was made of marble!

Well done.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 7

Being my own worst critic, I kicked myself for forgetting to make a little bridge at the spot I reserved for it, and, I'm usually too spent when I finish decorating a cake that I almost always spoil it with crappy writing. Duh.

Thanks, again, you are all very kind.

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