Whangārei’s cake queen shares tips on starting a baking business from home
Kim Donker has turned a baking hobby into a thriving home business. She shares tips for getting started without breaking the bank.
Who: Kim Donker
What: Caketin Love
The rules: registration under the Food Act with her local council, run a food control plan (templates available from MPI), registered audit by her local council once a year.
Kim Donker’s cakes are so beautiful, her customers don’t want to cut them. That’s a huge honour for a woman who has turned her hobby of baking into a successful small business.
Her experience began making slices and birthday cakes for her children, but it was “nothing fancy” says Kim until her sister-in-law persuaded her to do a course on cupcake decoration and she started playing with her food.
“It was never going to be a business, it was always a hobby, but then people started asking me for more and more.
“It’s just grown year by year, I’ve gone from making maybe 14 cakes a month to more like five cakes a week, and now I’m at the stage where I’m wondering if I employ someone to help me because I can only do so many a week.”
Like a lot of people who contemplate selling food, Kim thought she’d have to spend tens of thousands of dollars building a commercial kitchen, or big amounts of money renting a shop, but it turned out her own kitchen is a perfectly legal place to make her cakes because it’s considered a low-risk process.
“If I’d had to have a shop in town I wouldn’t have survived. I don’t have to pay for rent here.
“I was scared because I thought it was a massive process, I was scared to ring (council) because I thought I couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t justify $20,000 (for a kitchen). But I gave the lady at council a call and it was so easy. She gave me a food safety plan folder, showed me you have to take the temperature of the fridge, have a weekly cleaning regime, it was easy stuff.”
The wooden floors she worried might exclude her kitchen were no problem to the council, and neither was having her children around her, although she typically makes her cakes when they are at school because she can’t stop what she’s doing when it involves keeping food safe in terms of temperature and cleaning.
“I write down every day what I do, take the temperature of the fridge – I’ve got a whole separate fridge for my baking – I have to keep my baking ingredients separate to the household ingredients. I just have a diary out and every time I do my work I write down what I bake, write down the temperature, then I’ll sit down with my food control plan folder and write everything in there.”
It’s all practical common sense says Kim, and there’s nothing difficult.
“If I say get ants – which has happened – as long as you’ve sorted it, put bait out, treated your benches, it’s ok. You can’t tell me it never happens in a commercial kitchen. I always make sure I have a mouse trap set – we’re rural so we get mice.”
Her water (sourced from tanks) is tested each year, but Kim has never worried about that as she has two filter systems, one on the tank and one at the tap.
Despite stringently following the official processes so she can legally bake at home, Kim says she’s never had a client ask her about it.
“I’m proud of my food safety, proud of my certificate, but actually clients don’t even ask you. They’ve never asked me if my kitchen is registered with council.”
While it’s hard work and makes her enough profit to pay for a nice yearly family holiday, Kim says she loves what she does.
“It’s all so flexible – if I want a week off, I just don’t book any cakes. I love that my creative side is coming out, I can’t believe I got to this age before it happened, why couldn’t it have happened 20 years ago?
“I love making people happy, I love the decorating side of it, dropping off the cake and seeing people so happy.”
Kim also runs kids cupcake courses in the school holidays, and has donated several of her cakes to Whangārei Children’s Hospital, including the cow.
There’s only one real downside and that is the Donker family can’t eat cake any more. When Kim makes a cake and carves it into shape, the leftovers are donated to a local shelter.
“My kids don’t want to eat it, we’re all sick of cake in this house. Give me a crème brulee any day!”
HAVE A LOOK AROUND KIM’S KITCHEN
Kim is the star of one of the food safety videos for MPI, showing how the new food act affects her business. More MPI videos visit www.youtube.com/user/MinPrimaryIndustries/videos