Yesterday we participated in our very first community day, Autumn Alive!, run by Quakertown Alive, a non-profit organization in our town. It was such a fun experience, and though I didn’t take man pictures, I thought it would be great to put my thoughts about it down into a blog post.
I got the idea of participating in Autumn Alive this time last year, but there were a couple problems with that idea. First, it was the weekend of my sister’s wedding. Second, we didn’t have anything prepared and would have not known anything about how to be a part of such an event. So I put it on the back burner for a while.
The next thing I had to do was make some investments. Using cake profits and money, I slowly started to take advantage of sales through VistaPrint for a sign, t-shirts, logo stickers, and business cards.
I also got to work early on my dummy cake to ensure that it would be done in plenty of time for the event. Here’s how it turned out:
Next, we had to figure out how to package our items. We thought the most sanitary way to distribute would be to put in individual containers. I would set up and basically be ready to go. There are a lot of containers out there on Amazon and other food service websites. After a lot of research, we finally settled on ones that were a pretty good deal.
After that, of course, was a matter of also planning how I would present our booth. I also had made a photo book of my cakes from 2014 and 2015 to have right there on the table.
We had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t know how many cupcakes I should make… I decided on 50 of three of my best flavors: butter cake, chocolate cake, and pumpkin spice cake. I did the math of converting them to double recipes and even typed them up for my convenience. In the sake of being very professional, we also printed ingredient labels to put on every single cupcake.
I always like to make a time line of when to bake and prepare my goods. I decided on baking on Thursday and decoration on Friday. The first thing I did, however, to make it easy on myself, was to make my dry mixes. It’s sort of like making my own cake mix, except from scratch! Then all I need to do is finish with the wet ingredients:
I also decided to make a big batch of my favorite brownies, King Arthur Fudge Brownies. They are just so good! I know it’s always good to have more than one type of product on your table, and I figured maybe some people might be more interested in brownies. We had to print some ingredient labels very last-minute, and they looked so great when we were done.
When Thursday came, I woke up at 6 AM and got to work as soon as I woke up.
From there, it was a bit of a baking marathon. I only have two mixer bowls, so at one point I had to clean my bowl to make way for another batch in my mixer. Below are my 48 yellow cupcakes, ready to go into the oven. I only baked one batch in the oven at a time.
That night, after the bowls had been washed and cleaned, I made three HUGE batches of buttercream: vanilla, cinnamon, and chocolate. The next day, I decorated them right in their containers. This process went by surprisingly fast!
Then Friday came. We got up very early, ready to find our spot (number 51!). My daughter came along to help and so we could take her to her dance lesson, which is on the same street as the festival. She felt so important being one of our helpers. We also brought along my mom and a friend.
She loved setting up the cupcakes and making the table look nice. All she wanted to do was be of help, so I let her do her thing and it made her so happy.
Before the day started, I got to finally meet Amy from Amy’s Creative Cakes. We have been speaking via Facebook and she is just the sweetest! She is a serious business woman who knows the business inside and out. And though I am doing something similar (but different — all cake businesses are unique), she isn’t rude or dismissive of me. She liked my dummy cake and we had the most positive conversation. It was really a great start to the day. If you’re reading this, thank you so much, Amy!
REFLECTIONS ON THE DAY
So the big question is .. how did the day go? Well, at first we weren’t moving much product. There was a booth of cupcake decorating, which I am pretty sure was free. We had the idea of giving out some free samples, but we didn’t bring plates or utensils.
Buuut, my mom went for a walk and came back with both a new plate and a knife. She started cutting up napkins so that we could put little pieces of cake and brownies on the plate. And then we converted one of our price lists into a FREE SAMPLES sign. After that, things started moving along nicely!
I got to talk to a lot of people and tell them a little bit about what we do. Many people expressed that they do have the need for someone to make cakes or their favorite person or bakery had stopped making cakes.
I got a lot of positive feedback on my work. Even people who didn’t actually stop at the booth would stop and admire our dummy cake. Of course, they didn’t realize it was a dummy, but I have actually MADE a cake like this, so I don’t feel at all guilty about that. For those who actually did stop and ask about the cake, I was able to show them in my book the actual jack-o-lantern cake that I made for a customer last year.
I had a very nice conversation with a lady who just wants a quality, simple pound cake and I hope that she gets in touch with me! We spoke briefly about everybody’s favorite pound cake — STOCK’S of Philadelphia. While I can’t make a Stock’s, I can make a damn good pound cake! She liked my yellow cake, so we’ll see what happens.
I also did a consultation right on spot for a customer who expressed an interest in getting a cake. I encouraged her to come to the event and we could meet, talk, and she could try some cake. Her daughter loved looking through our picture album of pictures. We just have so many ideas that it is hard to choose!
The most popular flavor of the day was the pumpkin spice cupcakes. I sold a lot of those! People also really loved my cinnamon buttercream. And it was so simple to make, so I almost felt guilty receiving so much praise for it.
I can’t get through this post without mentioning a couple of flukes that we went through. First, I made WAY TOO MUCH CAKE. Way too much. And as the day wore on, I dropped my price a little bit, though that didn’t help all that much in moving products. And at one point, just to get people interested, I was just giving cake away. One lady was especially grateful for her free cake that I definitely had no regrets. She tried a piece of cake and was looking through my book, so I bagged her up a pumpkin cake with a card, and the smile on her face was worth a million bucks. I gave two boxes of extra cake to the Code Blue project, which is a non-profit for the homeless in our town. I’m so glad that the extras will hopefully not go to waste and go to someone who is hungry.
Second, we were in direct sun for most of the day. Since my cakes were packaged in little plastic containers, it made them practically like a little greenhouse. The chocolate was susceptible to melting. We ended up only keeping out a few of the cupcakes and putting the rest under the table. When people would buy a cupcake, we would pull from beneath the table, where the cupcakes were perfectly fine.
Third, I really should have collected email addresses so that I could email very interested people with my website, Facebook page, and Instagram page. They wouldn’t have to remember to like my page or worry about losing my business card. I had this idea, but didn’t get around to it.
But back to the more positive things. I’m so glad that my mom and friend came along, because they were of invaluable help to me. My mom has much more experience with selling, so it was great of her to give me tips and tricks on how to move product. And it took me a while, but I really got the whole spiel down: try a sample, here’s my card, here’s a book of my work.
And my daughter … Not to backtrack, but on the Friday before, they were discussing their weekends at school and she told her teacher that she was “going to dance class and selling cupcakes with mommy.” That makes me feel so happy. I feel like maybe she is proud of me in her own little way.
I’m really proud of how well I did talking to so many straight-up strangers. If you’ve known me since I was young, you would know that I was chronically shy, like I never wanted to be the person ordering pizza or Chinese-food shy. I’m not the best at it, but after so many years of pushing myself, I am able to do it.
We would love to return for Arts Alive in April, but with a different strategy, of course. We have different ideas of how much to make and how to collect information.
I have no idea of where this little business is going to go, but I know that we are having fun making cakes and extra spending cash while we are at it. We have dreams about what to do next and how to do it, and all we can do is try.
Below are some more photos from the day:
Thanks for reading!
ANOTHER THANK YOU…
To my husband: Thank you to my husband, who tells me he is proud of me for trying and for putting this all together. And for setting up and breaking down and making our pretty price lists.
To my mom: Thank you again to my mom and neighbor/friend for helping me on Saturday. Mom, you instilled such a good work ethic in me, not to mention a love of baking. And it would have been very hard to break down at 4 if you weren’t there to watch the little ones back at home.
Annika: Nika, thank you for walking Rachel around since I couldn’t leave our booth. And for helping me break down and work the booth all day long. I’ll never forget how you planned your big trip around this event! I’m speechless.
My father-in-law: Thank you so much for coming out! We wouldn’t have predicted that J would get stuck on a call for hours, so it was a big help that you could watch the little ones. In fact, thank you to you and mother-in-law for all the help this past month. It wasn’t an easy month, that’s for sure, but it was made easier with love.
Rachel: Thank you to my beautiful daughter. All she wanted to do was help. She hung out from 7:30 am until 4:30 pm like a champ and not once did she get bored. She was the happiest kid ever when I let her wear an extra logo t-shirt that morning.
My neighbors: Thank you to my neighbors who came out to the event and checked out the booth, hung out a little, and bought some cupcakes–thank you! It means a lot that you took time out of your weekend to support our little venture.
And, of course, thank you for everybody who encouraged me to try and I was planning to do this.