Meet Kara, the owner of Kara Kakes!
I recently took a trip to Franklin Lakes, New Jersey to visit my friend Kara’s bakery called Kara Kakes! While there Kara gave me a behind-the-scenes look at her bakery and we talked about all things starting and running a baking business and entrepreneurship.
It was such a great conversation and I think her story and business journey could offer a lot of inspiration and motivation for any of you who are dreaming of opening a baking business one day.
So, in this blog post you’re gonna get a look into our conversation and learn all about Kara’s journey and her experience as a bakery owner. You can check out the full bakery tour here, but if you’re ready to learn from Kara and hear how she got started, keep on reading!
WHO IS KARA?
Kara is the owner of Kara Kakes in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey and she’s not 16 anymore! In fact, she’s 28 now and she’s been in the baking industry for a minute.
She started her baking business from home when she was 16 and by the time she was 20, she opened up her dream storefront.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT KARA KAKES…
Kara: When I first envisioned how I wanted the bakery to look pink is my favorite
color it just reminds me of like happy sweetness it's glitzy it's glamorous and I'm a very glitzy glamorous person I love bling I love glitter so I wanted to basically create like my little girl fantasy growing up into this shop and that's what it is like you should see all the little girls that come in here they're like this is amazing so it's just a happy colorful bright place to be in every day.
Of course we have our gorgeous display case of all of our treats. We also have some pre-packaged goodies on the counter. Those are like quick easy grab and go, you don't have to invest in a whole box of cupcakes, you just grab it for the office and leave. We also have all of this beautiful merchandise, everything like I said that a little
girl could want.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR BAKERY…
Kara: My favorite thing is my most expensive thing of course, which is my oven!
So, this wasn't always here. This is about four years old and it's our full rack rotating oven. We used to have an oven about half the size that didn't rotate and about every 20 minutes we would have to open the oven take all the cakes out rotate them it was so much work, it took up too much time so this is definitely a necessity when you get to that point in business where you want to take more orders and you could produce more. If one thing is stopping you you gotta change it. So, this was a twenty thousand dollar
investment and I waited five years to make this purchase.
DO YOU OFFER KIDS PARTIES?
Kara: We used to have parties in the storefront; it was just way too chaotic with 20 kids, 20 parents, and customers coming in and out. It was packed and customers who were coming in to buy products would get upset because they wanted to come in to get some coffee and a cupcake and they couldn't do that because we had 20 screaming kids celebrating a birthday. So, we knew that we had to make a change we had to make a space and it's just not practical to use your kitchen space for a children's birthday party. So, a space in this shopping Center opened up. It was available for rent, it was a basement space which I didn't really want. I would love something that's more storefront
but it fits all of my needs.
Janelle: So, this is another example of how she outgrew a current situation and then said because the concept is proven because there's already a demand, now we can afford to invest in the next step. So, cramming a bunch of kids here having parties upsetting some customers, they had to learn that in order to manage parties better, to figure out how to run kind of both businesses simultaneously, so with staff and all of that stuff, so then you said let me get a bigger space.
THE KAKE STUDIO…
Kara: This is where we host all our children's classes, adult classes, and special events.
It's a great space to kind of disconnect from upstairs. We have peace and quiet
down here. We have the room unlike the front of the store and this space is just
such a huge success and it really fits all of our needs perfectly.
Janelle: You have rent upstairs, you get comfortable paying rent, you start hosting parties, there's a demand for it you're booked out and also pissing customers off so then it was a good investment to say I can take off and kind of bite the next chunk.
So, now you have rent here which means you've got to keep it booked and you've got to have focus on that. Was that difficult for you to say like, okay these are kind of two
different things and I need people to run the party studio and people to bake
Kara: In the beginning, as you know any business owner, I was kind of a control freak so I made sure that I ran every single party. I was here setting up, cleaning up the whole thing, slowly I found the right people to take over those parties because I realized
that it's impossible to create 10 cakes and host two children's birthday parties on a Saturday. I found the right people, they're absolutely fabulous. We get
nothing but raving reviews about all of our events; you mentioned now you
gotta advertise it, I don't even advertise this space because it's fully booked all the time and it kills me turning people away but you know I think it's time to open up a second place now.
CAN WE SEE YOUR OFFICE SPACE?
Kara: When I first opened Kara Kakes, I never had my own personal space to either take a phone call or have a cake consultation or have an interview so it wasn't a necessity but it was definitely on my wish list to have my own office.
Once we were able to afford it and while we were building this place out we finally built my dream office. This is my happy place, my safe place. It's nice to come down here have some peace and quiet like I said take a personal call, eat lunch, or every so often when you're having a bad day and you just need some time away from work, come down here hang out for a half hour, listen to some music and then all my worries go away. And it's important to invest in yourself and this is something that I didn't need it but it was on my wish list and I worked hard enough to get to that point.
WHERE DO YOU KEEP ALL OF YOUR STORAGE?
Kara: This is our storage space. It's the full length of the store and half the kitchen. We keep the majority of our stuff down here for obvious reasons. We have all of my extra ingredients. We have a ton of cake boards every size, every color possible, even mini baby cake drums.
Janelle: You have all these boxes, everything's nicely organized and then we come to
these which are very familiar to me but you tell the viewers what the heck these
big brown boxes are because there's tons of them here, over there, above you,
above here, what is this?
Kara: These are cake boxes inside of boxes and can you take any guess how much all of these boxes cost me or how much my last order was?
Janelle: You're buying in bulk?
Kara: Yes and this was a wholesale price. So, with shipping it
was $6,300 for all of these cake boxes.
Janelle: How long do you think $6,300 of boxes will last you?
Kara: Probably about six months with the rate that we're going. I may have to
order one more size a few times because, you know we sell a ton of six inch cakes
opposed to 14 inch cakes but it's also not so much the cost of the box but it's the shipping. Shipping was $800 for all of these, they came on three huge palettes.
Janelle: I hope you got that, over a thousand dollars in just boxes. Just to like sell all the
products that you're selling.
Kara: And you need sturdy boxes because if you're going to charge $50 for a six inch cake it needs to come in a sturdy box. It can't come in a flimsy box and it's important that you know customers can have the correct packaging to take home their products. The last thing you need is a customer calling you 10 minutes after they picked up and saying, “my whole cake is ruined, I need to come back” and fix it. That's like, I’ve been there and done that and it's a nightmare, a problem you don't want to have.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF…
Kara: I would 100% do it all again. I've had my highs, high, high, and low, low, low, low. Let me tell you if I could give myself advice it would be to not take things so personally. In the beginning, I took everything to heart and what I go by now is it's not personal,
It's business. That is something that I don't think could be taught to you. I think you need to go through those hard times to kind of figure it out on your
own. Not everyone is going to like your product. You're going to get terrible reviews, not everyone's gonna like you as a person, that's okay. And I didn't realize that at the time. I would be so upset when someone said this is the worst red velvet cake I've ever had and I thought maybe I was doing something wrong. I wasn't doing something wrong because a hundred other people love it, one person didn't like it, totally okay. You're not
gonna please everyone, no problem, that's business.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ONE KEY TO SUCCESS IN THE BAKING INDUSTRY…
Kara: One of the keys to success is to be patient! I was patient with making
all of my upgrades and like my investments into the bakery and as much as I wanted to have the most perfect beautiful case and menu and office when I opened the doors I was patient, I learned along the way, I made some money back that I was able to put back into the business to make it more successful. So patience is key and that's coming
from a very impatient person. And to compare yourself to bakeries that have been in business for 10 plus years. Because they've done what I've done, they've made those upgrades along the way and you know they put their heart and soul into making their dream Bakery. It's not always possible when you first open up and that's okay but as long as it's functional and you could run your business that’s all you need.
To see the FULL tour of Kara’s bakery, you can click here and make sure to visit Kara Kakes if you’re ever in the Franklin Lakes, New Jersey area!
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