Starting an online business can be an adventure and a challenge. The Internet is a vast world of people buying a variety of items. Selling homemade cookies online is one of many food-based businesses you can start from the comfort of your own home. Like any business, there are steps you must take before selling your homemade cookies online. Here's how.
Planning, Licensing and Getting Started
Answer the following questions by writing your answers on a piece of paper: 1. Name of your cookie business? 2. What type of cookies would you like to sell? 3. What will individual cookies cost? Dozen price? Larger quantity price? 4. How will the cookies be shipped? 5. What type of packing materials will you need? 6. How much capital will you need to purchase cooking supplies, advertising, office/computer supplies, shipping supplies, Internet website cost, employees? 7. How much time will you devote to this business? 8. Will family members help? 9. Long-term plans? 10. What are the local licensing requirements for your community on starting a home-based business?
Purchase a business license and complete any paperwork required to operate a business within your community, if necessary. Once the business license and paperwork is complete, create a business plan and a list of long-term goals for your cookie business. Use these documents to help obtain loans and other financing if needed.
Designate two areas in your house for this business: one for food preparation and one for packing/shipping the cookies. Purchase supplies. Keep an inventory so you don't run out of supplies.
Create a list of cookies you plan on selling, write descriptions for the cookies and determine prices. If you are selling by the dozen or another packaging size, list the dozen price/packaging size and the individual price in a separate column.
Sketch out what you want your cookie website to look like. Think about photos, clip art, font type/size and what contact information you would like to include. Break up the site into sections: Featured Cookies, Order Form, Contact Page and other pages you would like to include.
Bake a batch of each cookie you plan on selling. Arrange the batch on a platter or other fancy display. Take a photograph and note the name of the batch and the price. If selling individual cookies, take a photo of just one cookie. These photos will be used later when you are setting up your site.
Purchasing Website Space and Setting Up Your Store
Research various website hosting services that specialize in online stores. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions (see Resources) is one website hosting service that sells a kit for setting up your own online store. All the background work is done for you--accepting payments, adding shipping charges and other store operations. Volusion's E-commerce Software Solution is another company that sells a kit for setting up your online store. Print and compare the features of each website service.
List any special features you will need on the website--the ability to accept credit cards, options for free shipping or bulk shipping, a database interface, specialized checkout features, the ability to accept taxes and other services.
Determine how much you are willing to pay for the website service or if you need to find a service that is free. There are many free website hosting services, but many will place banner ads on your site in exchange.
Decide on and purchase your website store. Set up the site by following the instructions that come with the service. Upload the photos you have taken, load the cookie descriptions and enter the prices.
Complete the site, tell friends and family, purchase any advertising you will need to promote the site and have a grand opening once everything is done.
Shop around for the best website hosting package.
Always ship paid orders as soon as you can.
Offer several shipping options for your customers.
Offer promotions if possible--especially when you first open your online store.