I’ll admit it. A few years back, my wife and I had the idea of quitting our day jobs, going all in and starting a local food business. We wanted to start selling our jams, preserves, pickles and pesto to others. For a short time, we started looking into what it would take to start said food business. We immediately became daunted by the hoops and hurdles of laws and regulations and, most of all, the cost of starting our dream food business. After being overwhelmed by the process, and not finding any easily accessible info on the topic, we put the idea out of our mind, thinking it was out of reach.
Now that I have read Homemade for Sale by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko, I can only think one thing–I wish this book had been published a few years ago. Homemade for Sale is the perfect guidebook for folks interested in exploring or starting their own food business, whether that be in a home kitchen or commercial kitchen.
The book is thoughtfully organized into sections that are helpful to any food aspiring entrepreneur. The first section called “What’s Cooking?” talks about the best way to navigate cottage food laws, which are state laws that allow certain types of small-scale food businesses to operate from home kitchens. Making products under cottage food laws can be a low cost way to get your feet wet with starting a food enterprise. Depending on your state, you can get approved to make products in your home kitchen with your only expense being getting a license or two and getting a safety check. When developing a business under cottage food laws, the authors stress the importance of understanding them in your locale and using your state agency as your primary resource for up to date and accurate information. This section also covers important topics like how to pick a successful product and a guide to self-assessment to see if you are ready to dive in and start your own food business.
The second, and longest, section in the book is called “Selling your Story: Marketing.” As a member of the VFC Marketing Department, I really feel like this section does a fantastic job explaining what I feel is one of the most important recipes to a successful startup food business–a well thought out marketing plan. Topics include naming your product, designing the logo/packaging, pricing, where to sell your product, promotions and making a simple business plan. As the authors point out, the more you think about how your product is going to meet customer demand, be promoted and be sold, the more successful your business will be right out of the gate.
The third section, titled “Organizing, Planning and Managing the Business” covers all the things you need to know about running your food enterprise from a business standpoint. They cover organizing, planning, putting together a successful home kitchen production system, making your business legally compliant and outline small business financial management.
The last section, titled “Scaling Up” is for food entrepreneurs who want to take it to the next level and begin producing their products in a commercial kitchen as a way to open up new markets.
Additionally, the book is sprinkled with profiles of a variety of food artisans from different states that used cottage food laws to start their own food businesses. Each story has its own unique perspective that might help new entrepreneurs navigate hurdles in their state to begin a successful food business.
If you have a hint of interest in starting your own food-based business, I urge you to pick up a copy of Homemade for Sale and dig in. Who knows, a few years down the road, you might start producing a value added product in an area commercial kitchen and be able to sell it to the Viroqua Food Co-op!