Start a Food Business from Home

by: Sara on 09/26/2016

It is day six of our ten day fall book sale where all New Society books ordered online are 35% off! Just use the code Fall2016 at the check out.

Fall has arrived and I spent the better part of the weekend baking, trying desperately to use up some 200 lbs of apples from


our tree. A friend gifted me a second hand mix master and while it did make things easier, I did not bake 100 apple pies.What I couldn't freeze, dehydrate, turn into sauce or bake with I put on the curb with a free sign and they were gone by afternoon. But is did get me to thinking about how one might go about making a bit of money baking pies at home. Hence today's blog post.

 The following is from New Society authors, Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko, and is partially adapted from their authoritative new book, Homemade for Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business from Your Home Kitchen

Harness the freedom to earn from your home kitchen.  In nearly every state in the US, home cooks can now sell to their neighbors and community certain "non-hazardous" food products made in their home kitchen, often with very few regulations.

Chalk it up to the Great Recession, but states from coast to coast have loosened up their laws over the last several years and passed what are known as cottage food laws that allow homeowners to sell to the public either low moisture food products, like breads and cookies, and/or high acid food products, like jams, jellies and pickles. If you’re already lining the shelves of your root cellar with jams, preserves, pickles and salsa, the cottage food laws make it relatively easy to generate another revenue stream from your produce.  If friends and family rave about your breads or cookies, then it couldn’t be easier to turn your passion and talent into some profits.  If you operate a farm in Canada, many provinces also allow certain non-hazardous food products made in a farmhouse kitchen to be sold at farmers' markets. 

We delve into the details of starting a new food product business from your home kitchen in our new book, Homemade For Sale. The book's website has lots of resources and helpful links to get you started and even includes a press release template – and later this fall, a resource for affordable labels for your products.  

While you should review the latest definitive legal requirements for your state, in our book we devote many pages to the marketing of your product and getting set up as a business, including how to manage your finances and the risk associated with selling food products.   Not all states' cottage food laws are the same and by definition, cottage food laws are a state-by-state issue.  A great source for information on your state's laws and cottage food operators throughout the country is

Four Questions addressed by Cottage Food Laws
Every cottage food law will address, in some way, four basic questions: 
(1)  What products can you sell?Your state cottage food law will define which "non-hazardous food products" you can sell. In many cases, there is no home kitchen inspection required or fee to be paid to the state. In some cases, it's a matter of following specific approved recipes and making sure you label your product with certain key information and language — again, defined by your state's law. 
(2)  Where can you sell your products? From farmers' markets to holiday bazaars, there are many venues to sell your


cottage food products. Depending on your state's cottage food law, you may be restricted to certain venues and possibly prohibited from selling from your home or making deliveries to your customers. Just understand your options and create a business around those. 

(3)  How much of your products can you sell? Because the cottage food laws are designed to help jumpstart new food businesses, most laws have a gross sales cap. Once you exceed that sales cap, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, you'll need to produce your product in a licensed food production facility. The last section of HOMEMADE FOR SALE addresses opportunities to expand your enterprise using a co-packer, incubator or community kitchen or constructing a commercial facility appropriate to your food product on your homestead. 

(4)  In what ways are you allowed to sell your products? Your products sold under cottage food laws must be sold directly to your customers. In other words, most cottage food laws do not allow for wholesaling to other retailers or mail order. Also, cottage food products cannot be sold outside your state. Some states allow for special orders while others do not; when it comes to baked goods (if your state allows them), this can make producing batches of muffins on demand much more profitable and efficient since you don't have to worry about having any extras. 
Once you’ve answered these questions and understand how the cottage food law operates in your state, you’ll then need to figure out whether what you love to make is worth selling. If people are clamoring for your products, that’s an excellent sign. 

You Can't Fail with your Business
Perhaps the best part of all in launching a food business from your home kitchen: you can't fail, at least not in the traditional sense. All you'll be doing is using the equipment you already have to produce great-tasting products for sale in your immediate community. The worst than can happen is you come home from a farmers' market with a few extra loaves of artisanal bread and extra strawberry jam. 

In our case at Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, we turn our cabbage into sauerkraut, cucumbers into pickles, and tomatoes, onions and garlic into salsa.  Our products, per the cottage food laws in our state, must be sold at either farmers’ markets or community events.  Since we just produce a few more jars of what we’re already putting up for the winter, our small operation is already turning a profit.  In fact, we sold out of all our product within the first year.
So transform your passion for cooking, talent for creating tasty food products and interest in helping rebuild a more sustainable and thriving local economy where neighbors are, once again, selling delicious food products to neighbors.

John D. Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sal, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and  along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun.  They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.  Lisa Kivirist is also the author of the new book, Soil Sisters. 




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