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Home Grown: Yummykake

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Larry speaking) Yummykake is the valley's premier cakery — cake maker and decorator. We've been doing it in the valley for seven years. We're celebrating our anniversary all this week. Prior to that we did it 10 years in Iowa.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? We moved here seven years ago from Fairfield, Iowa.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? My wife. In Iowa we converted our basement into a small commercial bakery. After a year she was doing so well, she said, "You have to come and help me." At the time I had a small publishing company, selling posters, T-shirts and greeting cards nationwide. After about a year we had grown out of the basement. It was either close or open a full-line bakery on the town square. Before long, people were driving two-and-a-half hours to our place. When the kids left home for college we decided it was time to move and we followed our son here.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Businesses always have the tendency to be undercapitalized when they start and not have enough money to succeed. There are extra expenses that you don't foresee. We actually opened in Ashland first. As much as the facility there is still ideal, the majority of the business is in Medford. If I had to do it again we would have set up the production facility in Medford. After six months of being in Ashland, we opened in Medford and that's when things busted open.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? The lack of qualified staff has me a little worried right now. Cake decorating is a lost art. You would think with all the unemployment in the valley, people would be beating at my doors. But I really can't find qualified people who know the ins and outs of how to decorate a cake. You don't have three hours to decorate, you have 10 minutes. You need a food service background and hopefully be an artist. You are on your feet, dealing with customers and have to be very creative — and know how to spell.

Who are your competitors? The supermarkets, pretty much. On another level, as far as what we do with the heavy cream, no one else does it. People have a choice. Often it's to go get a cake at the supermarket because it's convenient. With us, you have to pick up the phone, order and come and get it.

What are your goals? The dream was to set up a franchisable concept. To be the Baskin-Robbins of the cake world, with 20 or 30 different flavors. It's a matter of honing the process. Decorating has been the drawback, because you to have people to pull it off. I've always wanted to franchise, and make Yummykakes marketable anywhere, but now with the economy we're just holding steady. Until last August (2008) when the bottom fell out of the economy, we didn't know there was a recession going on. Then in March this year, we posted one of the best months since I opened. The hair place next door came open and we expanded into there. We have another 600 square feet and people can view us while we decorate the cake. We've created the incredible, edible art gallery in the same area as the wedding cake area.

What training or education did you need? I listened to my wife very carefully. Lisa went to the Wilton School of Cake Decorating in Chicago. I'm a jack-of-all-trades and have worked in kitchens and done kitchen prep. I can follow a recipe pretty well.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Believe in yourself, be willing to take risks and with that the courage to fail and succeed.

Lisa Oswald, co-owner of Yummykake with her husband, Larry, smiles through a three-tiered wedding cake. - Jamie Lusch