Before you start your home cooking business, you should create a plan that establishes your business concept and build from there. Decide the types of food you will offer, how and where you will prepare it and your delivery method. Will you sell complete meals, a la carte items, desserts or specialty foods? Will you deliver orders or make them available for pickup? Once you lay the groundwork, you'll begin to see your business plan take shape. Thorough and organized business plans will provide you with realistic goals and expectations for your home cooking business.

Step 1.

Identify your target market. Who are your customers, where are they and how much do they spend on food? Your primary market could be college students, busy families or people hosting special events.

Step 2.

Identify your competition and how you will make your business valuable and stand out. Your competition includes companies and individuals in the same business: feeding people. They are local restaurants and fast-food places, caterers and grocery stores (especially the ones with service delis). How will your business differ from those of your competitors? And, how will those differences help you attract clients?

Step 3.

Write your mission statement. It should be a short statement (one sentence is best) that describes your service, and your commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, and why your service is valuable to the community. Write it with your potential customers in mind. It should not be a statement about your personal reasons for going into business.

Step 4.

Make a list of the equipment, supplies and materials you will need to prepare the foods you will be putting on your menu and the cost associated with each item.

Step 5.

Research health department requirements and local and state licenses and permits that you will need to be in compliance with the law. List each requirement and how you plan to meet it. Also include application and filing fees.

Step 6.

Decide on the methods and media you will use to market, promote and advertise your home cooking business and the cost associated with each.

Step 7.

Create a budget for your business startup and for the first six months of operations based on the information from steps 5 through 7.

Step 8.

Set some reasonable goals for your new venture based on the resources you have or can obtain and the time you have to invest. Do you need to make $500 each week? How many customers or sales will you need to reach that goal? How long do you estimate it will take to get to that point? This information will also come in handy if you decide to seek outside financing.

Step 9.

Determine how you will finance your business. Where will the money come from? What can you afford with the resources you have, and how much will you need to borrow? While you may be tempted to take out a small-business loan, starting with what you can afford today will help you reach the profit point faster, without the stress of going into debt.