Baking and selling croissants, danishes, tarts and cobblers can be a soul-satisfying business for the passionate baker. To start such a business from home, you need to get clearance from your state to operate from your home and keep your home kitchen compliant with local regulations.
Home Kitchen Certification, Licensing and Inspection
Check the cottage food laws of your state to see whether a home-based pastry operation is viable. Not all states allow food products such as pastries to be made in home kitchens for public consumption or exempt such businesses from licensing, so contact your local city hall to determine legality and licensing requirements. Where applicable, get your home kitchen certified by arranging an inspection and making recommended adjustments to the space.
Depending on your state, you may be required to obtain:
- food handler's certificates
- business licenses, permits
- liability insurance
- food safety classes
For example, for an Ohio home bakery, you must:
- get a kitchen inspection through the Food Safety Division - there must be no carpet, and your pets must be kept outside
- pending your inspection, apply for a home bakery license, to be renewed annually
- test your private well
With a home bakery license, Ohio allows a home bakery to make and sell perishable baked goods, such as cream-filled cakes and custards.
Check your state for its policy on permitted perishable and nonperishable baked goods.
If home operations are disallowed, rent out space with a commercial kitchen at a restaurant, community center or church that is already certified. A commercial kitchen can save you money by saving you on industrial-capacity ovens, large-batch mixers and walk-in cooler systems. If you share commercial kitchen space, ascertain whether you can share the equipment and shelf-space. Factor in hourly rental fees and storage or service fees required to use the kitchen.
While a formal pastry degree may not be necessary, studying the curriculum and educational requirements of a pastry chef can ground you in the classical pastry arts.
Determine what kinds of pastries you plan to offer, whether breakfast, specialty, wedding or special events-oriented, and what additional coursework or credentialing you need to boost your marketable technical skills in that niche. Take an evening class or get an online certificate in cake decorating to hone specific skills.
Figure on where your pastries are to be sold, whether through a retail venue or wholesale distributor, online bakery or physical bakery, and/or via catering service. Approach potential venues with samples to discuss the possibility of selling pastries on consignment or directly. Speak with store managers, supermarkets, flea markets, farmers markets and restaurants about partnering to distribute your pastries.
Equipment and Expenses
Tally your startup costs, including ingredients, staffing, equipment, utilities and transportation using a spreadsheet. Calculate how much you need to charge per pastry to break even and make a profit. According to the Small Business Development Center Network, total startup costs can be as low as $2,000 or as high as $50,000, as of publiction.
As the Baking Business trade publication notes, the right choice of equipment is critical for reducing waste and ensuring consistency in your product. For a pastry operation that requires technical intricacies, such as icing and decorating, investing in or renting automated baking systems can increase productivity and reduce costly waste in the long run.
Check with your local governing authority before making any modifications to your kitchen space or equipment. As financial publisher Bankrate notes, outfitting your residential kitchen with commercial-grade appliances can be problematic for various reasons. Not only may your state prohibit or restrict the specifications of equipment in your kitchen, but commercial ranges and ovens may require updating your electrical system and ultimately affect the resale value of your home.
Product Testing and Sustainability
Your pastries are the foundation of your business, and should withstand the test of repeat patronage. Once you've honed your recipes, stay consistent with all future batches so that customers do not experience jarring variations. If you've created a certain platform or niche for yourself or a product, such as being the only pastry business in the neighborhood specializing in Viennese tortes, ensure that continued production is sustainable. Your product may require expensive high-end ingredients, so you must charge enough to recoup the extra costs so that you can continue to make your tortes and stay profitable.
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.