It doesn't take much to start a bakery. If you already bake, you may have most of the equipment you need to start your business. Making money as a baker requires more than cookware, passion and talent, though. You have to approach baking as a business, researching the legal requirements and finding an angle that distinguishes you from the competition.
Find Your Niche
There are stores and restaurants all over that offer customers delicious, fresh-baked treats such as bread, cakes and cookies. You have to stand out from the pack to succeed. If your recipes are superior in taste, that's a selling point. You can also look for recipes or types of baked goods that aren't on sale in your town. Another way to set yourself apart is to use higher-quality ingredients than the competition, or to offer gluten-free or allergy-free foods.
Research the Law
Food businesses are tightly regulated. Learn how to comply with the law before you sell a single loaf. You'll probably need a business license from your local government, as well a health permit. The exact permits required vary state-to-state and county-to-county, but a health inspection of your premises is guaranteed. After you're in business, a health inspector can come by periodically to check you out for cleanliness, so you have to keep up standards.
Baking at Home
The simplest, cheapest way to start your business is baking from your home. Rather than paying for your own store, you can talk to local restaurants about buying your goods. You can also offer home delivery to customers in your area. Home baking isn't always an option, though, as some zoning bans home businesses. Your kitchen may not meet health-department standards or be large enough to handle enough volume to meet demand.
Spreading the Word
Baking has one big advantage over many businesses: a free sample is a better sales tool than a brochure or direct mail flyers. Whenever you're selling to anyone, bring samples to help close the deal. Some bakeries hold tastings to show off new recipes or just draw new customers. The key to all this is "free" -- you're going to have to budget for a loss on samples now in the hopes that it will pay off in customers later.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.