Before you head out and start a home bakery of your very own, I put together these 5 bits of advice for you to read before you start. Maybe they can give you some food for thought and help you in your decision-making process.
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The Impulse to Start a Home Bakery
A lot of great bakers start wondering if they should start a home bakery. Why wouldn’t you want to turn something you love into a little side hustle, right? Should you follow this impulse or is it just a silly dream? Not knowing what to do causes SO MUCH such stress!
Truly, the pressure to start your own home bakery might be even stronger if you have a story like one of these:
“One day I started baking cakes for my kids’ parties and now people want to know how much they cost.”
“I started playing with baking cookies for fun and now everyone wants to buy them.”
“There was a contest at work and I baked a pie, now my boss asked me to bake 10 more… AND he’ll pay me.”
Welcome to Being an Awesome Baker!
In fact, my own slippery slope into selling baked goods happened when I started learning how to bake my own pies from scratch in 2012. As soon as I started sharing those pies people started asking to buy them. Before I gave it much thought, I was selling them from my own home bakery!
Recklessly, with business sense to the wind and orders pouring in, Sweet Bytes OKC was born! This is a classic tale. It may even be how you got here. Looking back, I have a few things I would do differently. Hindsight IS 20/20, you know.
Before You Begin the Baking Empire…
If you love baking or cake decorating and are selling your wares (or just thinking about it), I beg you to slow down and learn a bit about business before you continue a baking business.
Why? Everyone is so excited and you are too, I know, I know….
However, even though you love it now, there is no faster way to burn out than taking what you love and turning it into a poorly run business. I mean the microwave timer fast.
On the flip side, there is no better way to keep growing and loving your business than being efficient and getting paid well to do it!
Here we go with my 2 cents of advice that I wish I had before I started my own home bakery:
5 Bits of Advice Before You Start a Home Bakery:
All that being said, these 5 basic tips mainly apply to people who are just starting out selling from a small venue or home. If you are thinking of opening a brick-and-mortar bakery, you will need all of this advice and more! I’ve included some more resources at the bottom.
Bit 1: Find out if it is even legal in your state to sell baked goods from home and the rules.
Do you need a licensed kitchen? Every state and sometimes even cities have their own legalities for cottage food operators and home food establishments. Start with the health department or the State Department of Commerce.
Please go to the source. Google “Start a home bakery in _____ (Your city and state) and you will be given a lead to follow. Seriously, do not be too shy to get on the phone and ask the city or state offices. It’s their JOB to answer you or help you find the answers, they love to do it! Really… call.
Moreover, if you rely on what someone tells you and don’t find out the law yourself, you may be led astray. Some states let you sell only certain items, some only certain amounts, some require special licenses, some have very little regulation.
Go find out your state’s requirements so that you can be informed. DON’T BE AN OUTLAW. Here is a link to the State of Oklahoma’s newly passed Home Bakery Act. Every state and county will have its own very specific rules and regulations.
Bit 2: Only sell items that you can bake consistently well every time.
Be consistent with your product. Your clients need to know what they are going to get every time. In fact, if they don’t get the same experience or better every single time they buy from you, they will not stay a client very long.
Even worse, they will have a hard time recommending you because they will never know what they are going to get.
Before you sell it, test recipes on friends and family. Paying customers should only get what you can guarantee is your best. If you are one of those people who never use a recipe, it’s time to start.
Write it all down so that as you grow, you can easily share your knowledge and scale your recipes. (Scale means to increase or decrease the amount)
Bit 3: Make sure that you can deliver your product to your customer safely.
I don’t mean “in the car” or “in one piece.” I mean make sure you can avoid making anyone sick or killing anyone with your food. WHOA! Killing? That’s extreme…. right? Sadly, it’s not. It’s the risk you take when you decide that you are going to sell your food publicly.
This is why there are laws for food safety.
Some states have strict requirements and some have very few, but it still comes down to knowing what can cause illness and how to avoid it. You will be held liable if you cause a food illness outbreak. Worse, you or your business can be sue. It sounds scary, but it’s easy to avoid with proper care and education. (You also might look into business insurance while you’re at it.)
For more on safety read: Food Safety in Your Home Bakery
Bit 3.5: GET Business Liability Insurance.
It’s not as expensive as you think and it will save you SO much trouble if something goes wrong. (I didn’t want to nag, but REALLY think it over!)
Bit 4: Know your numbers, know your product and price your items properly.
What are your numbers? Those are the expenses that you have to make and package your product. Every product will have different numbers. If you make a change to the packaging or the recipe the numbers will change.
Consider everything, the flour, sugar, butter, mix, etc. Including, the electricity, water, appliances, pans, etc. Then you have costs to get those items to the customer such as the box, wax papers, ribbon, stamps, etc. Then you have the cost of advertising, business cards, website, delivery… EVERY little thing you do that takes the product from your head into their hand is an expense… including your time.
Bit 5: Always present yourself as a professional.
If you are going to sell anything, you will want to be considered professional.
Right from the start, you are beginning to build your brand. Be professional. People will be excited to help promote your new business if they feel like they can trust you to make them look good.
Think about things like your business hours and how you want to communicate with your customers.
Do you want people to text you, call you, email you? How can they best communicate with you? What’s the process for taking orders? When do you get the client’s payments? What do you look like when you deliver your orders or when they pick them up?
You don’t have to have the whole branding package ready to provide a pleasant experience. People will understand that you are just starting out, they will even be excited to help if you are a professional with a good product.
Ready to make some official policies? Read How to Make a Professional Bakery Customer Service Policy.
Ready or not? Are you going to start a home bakery?
Just start heading in the right direction. The sooner you can start implementing business practices, the sooner you can start feeling like a legitimate business owner and being happy with the results.
One day you may even think of yourself as an official entrepreneur!