How to Turn Your Cooking Hobby Into a Business
If you’ve ever brought cookies into work and been greeted with choruses of “You should start a bakery!”, you may have considered turning your baking hobby into a business. Home-based food businesses can be a great way to channel energy into your hobby while earning some extra money. Turning your kitchen into a workplace requires all the planning and legwork of starting any kind of business, with the added challenges of making sure your environment meets food and health regulations. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about starting a food business from home.
Choose Your Product
Successful home businesses have a specific product to sell and market. If you want to start a baking company, decide if your calling card will be cookies, cakes, or pies. If you love barbecue, fine-tune your sauce recipe until it’s ready to be bottled. Once you’ve determined your menu, consider what segment of the market you’ll serve. Will you focus mainly on catering and special orders? Or will you prepare a selection of goods to sell at a weekly farmers’ market? Think about how you will get your products to your target audience.
Scope Out the Competition
Before you start making your products, it’s important to understand the environment you’ll be functioning in. Restaurants and food-based businesses operate in a highly competitive market that has a high failure rate. Conduct market research by making a list of businesses that sell similar products, and outlining how what you offer will be different. Make connections with business owners in your local food industry and pick their brains about what works well. Read up on recent trends around your product line and consider how to benefit from them. The more knowledge you have about the marketplace, the more successful you will be in navigating it.
Put Together a Plan
A business plan is a key step to starting your home-based brand. According to the Small Business Administration, a basic business plan should include an executive summary, a description of the company, a market analysis, an explanation of your organization structure, a description of the product, a marketing plan, and financial projections. While compiling those sections might seem daunting, the process of writing each of them will help clarify your business goals and give you direction for how to move forward. You can find business plan templates through the Small Business Development Centers, or SCORE. Especially if you need to find funding to help get your business off the ground, a solid business plan is an essential element to starting your business.
Make it Official
Learning how to register a small business is the next step to making your dreams a reality. The first step is deciding what type of business you want to create as a company and a legal entity separate from yourself. Options include an LLC or limited liability corporation, nonprofit, corporation, or partnership. If you’re doing business under your own name and will be working on your own, you can conduct business as a sole proprietorship. Additional steps include registering your small business with your state and getting a federal tax ID. Food businesses also need to pass a number of health regulations before they can get cooking. Check your local ordinances and regulations to find out if you’re allowed to run a business out of your home. Research state food requirements to find out if your home kitchen will pass an inspection and meet regulations. You will need space and utensils that are separate from your personal kitchen. You also might need to purchase special equipment to follow all food safety guidelines.
Spread the Word
Small, home-based food businesses often run off customer relationships and recommendations. Reach out to your personal and professional networks to share information about your new business and start gaining customers. Establish a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to share photos of your creations and promote your services. Potential customers need to be able to find information about your business online. Make it easy by keeping your social channels active.