Some people dream of owning their own bakery or restaurant but lack the funds to buy a building to start the business. As an alternative, a person has the option of starting her own food-based business from home. While a few states restrict who may operate a home-based food business or the type of products that may be sold, other states allow home production if commercial kitchen code requirements and product guidelines are followed.
By getting in touch with your state or county department of health and following the necessary guidelines you can get your home kitchen certified for food production.
Know Your State's Cottage Food Laws
Contact your state or local department of health by accessing their website to learn about cottage food industry law. Thirty-one states have cottage food industry laws that clearly define what products you can make, where you may sell them and provide guidelines for labeling and food testing if required. Rhode Island, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Illinois are among the most restrictive states, either limiting who may operate a home food business (typically only farmers) or limiting the amount of allowable sales per month or year.
Operate in a Code-Compliant Kitchen
Although you may be allowed to operate in a regular kitchen space, you may need to revamp and make a commercial kitchen in your home in order to comply with your state's cottage food laws.
For example, some states that allow home-based food businesses require the kitchen be completely sealed off from the rest of the house so as to avoid contamination or may require multiple sinks for dish washing. If you have pets, you may not be allowed to make food at home at all. Instead, find a commercial kitchen for rent where you can produce your items.
Aim for a Commercial Grade Kitchen
Buy and install all the necessary equipment for the business, being sure to follow commercial kitchen design guidelines. For example, to legally operate a food-based business you may be required to have a certain number of sinks or regulation cooking equipment. A state or county health inspector most likely won’t certify your kitchen if you plan to bake with an oven that is 40 years old. New equipment will improve your chances of getting your kitchen certified and it will be beneficial to your business overall.
Undergo Inspection and Testing
Contact your county department of health to set up an inspection. The department will send a health inspector to evaluate your home kitchen and decide if it adequately meets the state’s health codes. The inspector should notify you of his findings soon after completing the inspection and provide you with a commercial kitchen certification license. You may also be required to have your products tested based on whether or not their classification could be considered potentially hazardous or susceptible to spoilage.
Acquire a Business License
Apply for a business license. Contact your city hall or city’s chamber of commerce to inquire about obtaining the proper application for a business license. A business license is required for nearly any business to legally operate within a certain state or community.
Gain Food Management Training
Enroll in a food service management course if one is required. Ask your county department of health if a food service management certificate is required by the state and, if so, how to go about enrolling in such a course. Follow the rules and obligations required by the course to pass and receive your certification. Some states require such certification and may not allow you to open the business until you have obtained it.
Dan Richter began freelance writing in 2006. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the "Wausau Daily Herald," "Stevens Point Journal," "Central Wisconsin Business Magazine" and the "Iowa City Press-Citizen." Richter graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and media studies.