Many people have a passion for baking; some would like to turn that passion into a business. However, the traditional notion of buying or renting a bakery and all of the equipment involved is too daunting for most people to seriously consider. Interestingly enough, starting an online bakery might just be the solution to making your pastry shop dreams come true, since the cost of setting up an e-commerce site and potentially working from home is far less than that of opening a traditional shop.
Decide whether you want to use your home kitchen or a commercial space to make your pastries. This decision matters when it comes to complying with state and local codes and regulations. If you want to use your home kitchen, you must check with you state and county to ensure that they will allow “domestic kitchens” to sell commercial products commercially. Additionally, if your home is zoned “residential” you will need to approach your local zoning board or authority and explain your plans. They may require a petition to re-zone your property as a “domestic kitchen” or for “commercial use." Often, you will also be required to obtain a business license in your county and attend a food-handling course. If you rent your home, you must also check with your landlord to make sure that you are not violating any of the provisions of your lease agreement.
Register your pastry business with the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All businesses that handle, prepare and package food items for public consumption are required register with the FDA. This is a fairly straightforward process that can be completed on their website by creating an online account and providing basic information about your business. A link to the FDA registration site is located in the “Resources” section of this article.
Create a menu for your pastry shop. Practice baking the items that you intend to offer through your e-commerce site. Perform taste and spoilage tests on each item. If your pastries are only so-so, refine your recipe until they are delicious. Providing an exceptional product will help with business promotion by encouraging word-of-mouth advertising. Additionally, if your pastries spoil after only a day or two, they will not last being shipped through the mail. Avoid using ingredients such as dairy products that have a tendency to spoil quickly or breed bacteria.
Determine how you will package your pastries. Your food containers must be durable so that your pastries will not become damaged during the shipping process. Research packaging manufacturers and ask for samples of their products. Also consider the fact that state and federal regulations require that you label your packaging appropriately with the weight and ingredients of your pastries. Order appropriate packaging for each pastry item on your menu before you open your virtual doors for business.
Decide on a delivery method for your pastries. Contact your local post office for prices on priority flat rate shipping. You may also wish to shop around and look into other delivery providers such as UPS and FedEx. You can make arrangements with any of these companies to have packages picked up at your home or place of business daily.
Set up your e-commerce website. If you have decided to set up your own website dedicated to your pastry shop, you will need to purchase a domain name, also known as a “web address," sign up with a hosting service and set up a site that is capable of processing your customer’s payments. If you are not a web designer, it is strongly recommended that you hire an expert to set this up for you. Even if you hire someone to handle the technical aspects of your site, you can sketch out how you would like your site to look.
Create samples of your pastries and have them uploaded to your site. Most consumers want to see an image of the items that they will be purchasing, especially if they will be used at a party or an event. Make sure that you state your pricing information beside each item.
Krystal Wascher has been writing online content since 2008. She received her Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy from Thiel College and a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law. She was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 2009.