Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Contribution Day: "Follow your dream and the work will follow" by Claudia Santos

Once upon a time, after a bad experience with my wedding cake and believing that even I could do better I decided to take a half day introduction course to Cake Design. From that day I can say that my life has changed dramatically...

The Start

My hobbies have always been linked to art, I’ve painted plaster, enjoyed all kinds of crafts and so on. Cake Design became my favorite hobby. I started by baking cakes for the birthdays of family members, but after the suggestion of friends and by the fun of it, I chose to start selling more as also a way of improving my skills, let’s not forget that cake design materials are quite expensive in Portugal so I was not properly making a source of income with this.
Meanwhile I gave birth I was mother and then everything changed... the company where I worked was in financial distress and that served as a “push” for my dream: having a business in the area of cake design while being present mum during the early years of my daughter.
Of course it is not easy... Every cake is a new challenge and I'm always afraid of not to exceed the expectations of my customers. Each cake requires a lot of research on the internet, not only to find suggestions for the clients but for me to learn how to do some things since as I mentioned, I just did one course in this area and I am fairly self-taught. Each project may have completely different techniques.
There are no specific timetables nor work days, I can have multiple orders for a day and usually all cakes are for the weekends, which sometimes does not allow me to be with my family. Fortunately I can count with the strong support of my husband, who is an artist like me and helps with many cakes. Most people don’t realize that each cake takes many hours to be done, on average 5 hours! So, one of the biggest challenges for me is to try to appreciate my work, so I see it not only as a cake but as an experience as well. After all, that's the challenge for all artists.

The Lessons

It is clear that over time we learn lessons, for example, I learned that it was not feasible to sell the cakes per kilogram since I can have a small cakes which can take me 6 hours to make and larger ones which can take 3 hours, so I do everything on an initial budget. It is important to know our fixed and variable costs and know where we can gain some margin, making the switch from a hobby to the main source of income makes it necessary to rethink how to make some money… without questioning the quality of the final work, much more when it comes to food.
Another very important point in starting any business itself is word of mouth. Facebook, in my case, played a key role because it allows me and my friends to share and recommend my work. It is also important to take advantage of all the knowledge we have and from the people around us since that can help us with minimal costs. For example, the logo design was done by my husband, who knows Photoshop.
When the free strategy is no longer possible, it is important to create partnerships. I tried to make cake exchange for certain services (e.g. printing business cards). That allowed me to not only have the service I needed but to also expose my cakes people that did not have the initiative to order. At this time I have also been in contact with some pastries so they are able to sell my cakes while keeping some percentage for them - they can reach a much larger audience that I cannot so networking is key.

The Future

I'm still at the beginning of a long journey, which I hope will prove to be very sweet. I'm still evaluating where to move forward but my dream is to build a physical store to make my own creations but also to give training to aspiring cake designers – essentially all that my talent and ambition allow.
But there is always that question in the air, should we abandon a more stable personal, professional and economical life or should we pursue a dream?
If you ever wake up and feel that you are not happy with your work, it means that maybe it is time to make change. As someone said, “I want to find a job that I like so I will never have to work”. From the time I devoted myself to Cake Design every day is holiday.


Claudia Santos was born in Lisbon, Portugal and studied Management at ISCTE. Claudia has over 8 years of professional experience from two large multinationals (pharmaceutical and automotive industry) and from a small company in consulting and training. To find out more visit Claudia's Linkedin profile at: and her company's profile at

Blog Editor and Owner: Luis Aparicio Fernandes (or Mikey) is a Business Expert and a Traveler based in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma due to his achievements in business. You can follow Luis on Google+, and LinkedIn.