How can a mother of three small children with a busy job in the health care field create balance in her life? Open a home-based business, of course.
Katie Sikkes has been operating Barty’s Parties out of her home for the past year.
Her small company has available for rent approximately 60 cake pans, which range from a variety of character flat pans to high end pans that produce elaborate three-dimensional scenes and shapes.
She also sells compostable party supplies and environmentally-friendly gifts, party favours and accessories.
Cakes and parties may seem an unlikely place to carve out a niche market, but Sikkes’ primary focus was to open a business that was both environmental and relevant to the community of people around her — namely, other parents.
“The idea is that we don’t necessarily need to own everything that we use, especially cake pans, which are often used only once in a while,” she explains.
“I wanted to give some options to people who might be worried about the amount of waste that parties generate. I rent reusable cloth banners, and the compostable supplies are available in small quantities.”
The current interest in cakes and cupcakes does seem boundless, and Sikkes saw a market that could be filled in Whitehorse. She knew party rental services existed in bigger cities and thought a modest version could work in Whitehorse.
“Cakes are something that people get really excited about, and it’s not just kids. Just look at shows like Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there’s something about cakes that are shaped like inanimate objects that people get really excited about.”
As well, Whitehorse has a certain DIY culture that makes it a good place for this business. People like to get together, but don’t necessarily need the over-the-top parties that parents in bigger cities might have.
“A lot of people here are interested in no waste, no gift, down-to-earth parties with a homemade cake that they can be proud of.”
As well, Sikkes helps meet the needs of people who want to do a special cake but don’t necessarily want to invest in a pan or have a lot of skills.
“A lot of cake pans are really easy to decorate. Some of the cake pans are so fancy you don’t even have to decorate them. You can use a cake mix and store bought icing and still have a great cake. They’re great for kids, but I’ve found a lot of people rent them for adults, too.”
Indeed, among the pans available on her website are a pirate ship, a castle, a tray of dinosaur cupcakes, and a variety of other themed shapes.
Like other small businesses, cake-pan rental is not something that will pay the bills for Sikkes. However, it’s paid dividends in other ways for her and her husband.
“We’ve never had our own business before, and we’ve learned a lot. It’s a small financial commitment for what we’ve learned.”
It’s been fun for them too, and a way to connect as a family.
“It’s nice for us to have something to talk about and be interested in that’s not related to the kids. It’s a new thing in our lives.”
For Sikkes, the business has been a way to push herself into unfamiliar ground. “I needed a different way to learn something new, and I wanted to find out what it’s like to have a business,” she says.
There are definitely challenges. Sikkes has learned that marketing was harder than she anticipated, partly because life simply gets in the way.
“I can go to one of my kids’ events and there might be 20 parents there who don’t know about my business, but when I talk to other parents, I’m trying to connect with them as people, not as potential customers. It’s not like it comes up in everyday conversation, ‘So, what home based-business do you run out of your basement?'”
Sikkes is challenged by fitting the business into her day. As she explains, her tasks are slower to accomplish because they have to be integrated into her schedule. Each delivery, for example, is combined with some other family activity or errand.
Sikkes is pleased with where her business has gone in the past year and has some ideas for the future. She continues to work to get the word out.
Her advice for cake lovers in Whitehorse: “You don’t need to make a thousand dollar cake like on Cake Boss. You can make cakes that look so great, you don’t even have to ice them. Cakes are all about fun, after all.”
Contact Barty’s Parties at 335-7023, firstname.lastname@example.org, and www.barty.ca.