Wednesday, July 26, 2006

La Otra Dimensión

I have unashamedly hinted in much early posts of mine that I have hired an able graphic designer, Valeria, to produce good quality, fully coloured promotional leaflets for my cooking classes and stylish stickers to go on cake boxes for my bakery business. While that's all progressing well, I am still not beyond taking a critical look at these ventures of mine, especially since I am trapped at home because of one amazingly fierce hale storm sweeping across the city right now.

I started offering cookery courses after numerous friends expressed their serious wish to learn what I serve up at afternoon teas, casual lunches and dinner parties – cakes, modern Asian food and puddings.

I had no idea how much to charge for these courses; I didn't want them to be too expensive because my clients are friends, yet the classes still ended up not exactly cheap because the ingredients: Asian sauces, free-range chickens and eggs, beef, fish, pork belly (a cut I've only found in Barrio Chino), and dark chocolate with over 70% cocoa solids do not come cheap.

Since those early clueless days, I've discovered that the fee I charge is really quite low; for example, it would cost quite a bit more to attend other ethnic cookery classes, currently on offer in this city. That said, my "bargain basement" prices are not attracting more than friends; also, all of them expats.
Many of our Argentine friends are interested but they would not even ask the price; I think maybe any price is too high and that, regrettably, is a real shame. So I'm an occasional cookery teacher; a hobbyist.

While it is not my profession and certainly not how I make a living, teaching gives me a lot of satisfaction. My first student Madeline, a lovely English girl, took a combined baking and Asian cooking course. By the end of the eight weeks, she was wowing her Argentine partner and his family with the volcan de chocolate, profiteroles filled with lavender ice cream, Vietnamese rice paper rolls and Chicken satay soup noodles. I felt like a proud parent seeing her recently graduated daughter thriving at work...

My bakery business started along similar veins. I often take a cake or a pudding to friends' dinner parties. Our Argentine friends are especially intrigued by my creations: chocolate cloud cake with Chai Latte cream, Moorish flourless orange and almond cake, il diplomatico (chocolate mousse sandwiched between liqueur soaked Savoardi biscuits) and the most popular of them all, the volcan, otherwise known as chocolate lava cakes.

Many of these friends don't cook or they don't have time to attend my baking course so they ask me to make something for them on special occasions, usually their parents' birthdays or when they are invited to their friends' and need to bring something nice.

Again, I didn't know how much to charge. Had I applied the industry standard of 30:70 mas o menos (roughly), my cakes would have been very expensive indeed. Besides, my husband reminds me I am not Dos Escudos or Nucha with their fancy shops and cake boxes.
In the end, my dark and fudgy chocolate cake which contains three bars of quality dark chocolate is less expensive than a dry and coarse cake made with cocoa or algarroba (carob) powder, doused with sugar syrup and dulce de leche which one could easily get at any neighbourhood panadería.
I don't really mind; the trouble is, I haven't started seeing it as a business. Furthermore, I always ring or get Guillermo to ring these friends for feedback; not exactly the practice of a money spinning business.

At this point, you may wonder "Why are you doing this?" or "Why are you sinking money into advertising tools such as the leaflets and stickers?"

To the first, I think it is quite obvious that I love what I do; the intimate experience of transference in case of the classes and the joy of knowing someone relished my creation on a special occasion are simply priceless rewards to me.

To the latter, my answer is also very simple: I am just a shallow woman who buys into aesthetically pleasing presentations; to be associated with nicely designed and printed products doubly enhances my enjoyment of what I'm doing and hopefully the same would be apply to my clients.

So this is the case study I present to all you MBAs, empresarios (business owners) and business consultants out there...how do I make this "thang" that I love doing into a viable business?


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