Melanie Mosset is at the same crossroads many home-based entrepreneurs face at one time or another — should she turn her hobby into a business?
It’s not as if Mosset has a lot of extra time on her hands. A mother of two young children, she also cares for two other youngsters on a regular basis in her Starbuck home. But a few years ago, she discovered a love of cake decorating. Since then, she has made and decorated more than 80 cakes, mainly for family and friends.
Even with her already busy schedule, she is able to mix and bake cakes, thanks in part to the island in her kitchen that faces the living room and is close to the children’s play area.
"The kids have a blast," she said, adding she often lets them measure and mix ingredients for cakes or cake pops they will later eat. She makes a cake for each child’s birthday using a theme he or she requests.
Mosset saves the fussier job of cake decorating for evenings and weekends.
She made her first decorated cake soon after her daughter was born five years ago. It was fashioned in the shape of a pink baby sweater and she brought it to her niece’s baby shower.
She received her first real commission when one of the mothers in a local playgroup asked if Mosset could make a Thomas the Tank Engine cake for her son’s birthday.
Mosset takes a photo of every cake she makes. She still fondly recalls the first Thomas cake she was asked to make.
"The face turned out a little scary-looking," she said.
Scanning through more photos, Mosset explains how she adapted the train design to make larger cakes by adding extra rail cars filled with candies. Thomas’ face became happier looking as well.
She gets many of her ideas from cakes she sees online and is able to duplicate most cakes from photos.
"If someone has a picture that they bring me, then I can incorporate it," she said.
Her cakes include an antique car, a bear wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey, a hat to celebrate a 60th birthday and an iPod Touch. All can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/funcakesbymelanie.
Mosset makes buttercream icing which she pipes onto a cake. Her more elaborate cakes are covered with fondant, an icing-like substance, which she creates by blending marshmallow and icing sugar. She can dye the fondant, roll it out and cut it into shapes to place on a top layer of fondant.
Through trial and error, she has discovered that certain colours of food dye change the consistency of the fondant.
"It’s like playdough," she said, adding that she can refrigerate any extra for future use.
She places the fondant over a layer of buttercream icing to give the cake a smooth surface. The two layers also help keep the cake moist.
She uses a packaged white cake mix, adding a few extra ingredients to increase the cake’s density, but makes chocolate cake from scratch. She also offers marble cake and has decorated a carrot cake.
Over the years, she has gradually added to her collection of shaped cake pans and fondant tools. Watching a program like Cake Boss, she marvels at the enormous and complicated custom cakes that are created.
"I’m slowly gaining confidence to create more formal cakes," she said.
Mosset and others in south-central and southeastern Manitoba who are weighing the pros and cons of opening a business can use the free services of Community Futures Triple R.
"Part of what we do is business consulting," said CEO Debbi Fortier. A business development manager is available to help clients develop a business plan and conduct market research. The non-profit organization also offers loans and loan guarantees.