Secret 6: The Skills

This is the final post of a six part series about some truths behind the first 6 years of my cake journey. We hope you enjoyed reading it, be sure to comment and let us know. If you want to start at the beginning please head to the introduction, Let Me Tell You a Secret.

Like the majority of you out there, I started playing around with cake and sugar paste and I loved it. But it doesn’t mean I was good at it. Sure, learning new things might have come easily but I was not part of the 5% of cake decorators who was already a natural artist.

Some of my very first cupcakes.
Some of my very first cupcakes.

It’s easy to look at someone’s work and think that it’s so amazing and that there’s no way you will get that good. I can tell you now that if you don’t even try to practice and improve that there really IS no way you will get that good. The thing to remember here is that everyone has to start somewhere.

A blast from the past...
A blast from the past…
Another one from the early days…

My early cakes don’t look any different to those who are just starting out. In fact, I’m pretty sure they look worse than most beginner cakes these days. There was no YouTube or Craftsy when I started out, so a lot of my work was based on trial and error.

But with every cake I did, I tried to be better. Create a better finish, make better figurines and take better photos.

My goal was always to push myself and to be the best that I could be – not to be like someone else. I took classes and constantly looked for ways to improve. Even now, six years on, I still make an effort to attend at least one class a year. It does not have to be a cake class but it has to be something that will push me out of my comfort zone. I’ve attended floral arrangement classes, painting, sculpting, pottery, rock climbing, and more. I really believe that putting yourself in learning situations really humbles you and brings out the best in you.

I never assume I know everything and I really believe that there is always something to learn… even if I have learnt that skill before, I might still pick up a handy tip from that teacher.

It saddens me when I meet people who tell me they don’t need to go to classes because they already know everything or that they can just figure things out themselves. I have no doubt that they probably know a lot and can figure things out themselves. It’s their attitude that kills me a little inside… In this world where they are lucky to be surrounded by knowledge and opportunities how can anyone just shut themselves off and think that they have nothing else to learn?

I have veered slightly off topic here, but what I actually wanted to say about skills is this: you can have all the skills in the world and make the best cake anyone has ever seen, but if you don’t have the business skills to market and price correctly, or a plan for the future of your cakes, you are going to go nowhere fast. Too often I meet many people who are insanely talented (I mean they sneeze and a masterpiece just appears!), who win awards, whose cakes go viral… but they are still struggling to get orders, to find someone who will host them to teach, or to get noticed by the general public.

So I am here to tell you what I have learnt in the last 6 years. Your creations have to be good but your business skills must be better. There is a certain level at which your cakes hit the ‘amazing’ mark for most people. After that it’s all about your marketing skills to make your customers see it as a far better cake than anyone else’s.

You have to have skill, don’t get me wrong. But there is a certain point where it becomes far more important to work on your business skills than to master a new trendy technique.

By the way, if you want to learn about business skills in person, I will be visiting the US and NZ with Michelle Green for the Business of Baking On Tour later this year 🙂 Click the links below to find our more.

September 20th (Tuesday) – Business of Baking Workshop – LA, USA
September 22th (Thursday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Las Vegas, USA
September 24th (Saturday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Houston, USA **Almost Full**
September 26th (Monday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Atlanta, USA
September 29th (Thursday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Chicago, USA **Almost Full**
October 1st (Saturday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Fairfax, USA **Full**
October 15th-16th (Saturday/Sunday) – Business of Baking Workshop – Auckland, NZ

13 thoughts on “Secret 6: The Skills

  1. Sharon you are AMAZING! Just reading your post I learned so much about myself and that I have to go out there and find my spot under the sun. I love what I do but lately I have been not as excited as before, but you help me to realize that it’s worthed. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing with us. With the little time i “discovered” you, you already help me with so many things you can possibly imagined. You are a good person and a good teacher. And hoping you will continue being so. Gob bless you Sharon!

  3. Thank you Sharon for your inspirational story. It gave me a courage to keep trying the best I can do in the cake bussiness. I do love to decorating and make a delicious cake but in this day people just think about the price and have a less attention at the hard work we use to prepare those amazing cake. I really hope in the future I can attend your class when i’m ready. God bless you Sharon!

  4. Thanks for this useful series, Sharon. As always, I’m struck by your savvy and skill in combination with your honesty and modesty — not a common combination :-).

    The line which resonated most with me was this: “There is a certain level at which your cakes hit the ‘amazing’ mark for most people.” This really is true and good reason — as you state — to ‘cap off’ the skills at some point to ensure that the business skills are at an equally high level.

    It also offers a feeling of relief to those of us who are perfectionists! Even when we see how and where our skills could still improve, it helps to recognize that many people just don’t see the flaws.

    Thanks again 🙂

    1. Thank you Anna! I think we sometimes get caught up in all our flaws and how ‘bad’ the cake looks that we forget to see it with fresh eyes. I guarantee if you don’t point out half of the flaws on the cakes, most people would not even notice it. 🙂

  5. Your six posts should be required reading for anyone setting up a small business creating things. I make tutus, not cakes, but everything you have written applies equally to what I do. Your posts have just been shared with all my tutu making friends. Thanks!!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your journey in cake business Sharon! Very inspiring and it boosts my courage and it motivates me.

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