Many people have treasured, fabulous-tasting recipes and think about sharing them with others by opening a home-based food business. The idea seems ideal on the surface: the start-up costs would be low, there would be no need to hire staff initially, and you could work whatever hours you choose. However, most states don't allow home food businesses, and those that do have strict regulations.
Pick a niche for your home food business. For example, you can specialize in making and selling ethnic cuisine, vegan pastries, salsa or gourmet preserves.
Contact your local Department of Public Health to determine whether home-food businesses are allowed in your city. Even in some states that allow for home food preparation and sale, cities within those states have the option to ban such businesses.
Obtain the permits needed in your city to start a home food business. This may include an employer identification number (EIN), assumed name certificate (DBA), food enterprise license, food manager certification or food handler permits.
Develop creative recipes to differentiate your business from competitors. For instance, if you start a business creating and selling homemade preserves, add in unique flavors such as mango pineapple and peach zinfandel to go along with standards such as blueberry and cherry.
Prepare your kitchen according to your state's standards. In most areas, this means your kitchen must be separated from all living areas by a solid door, and that it cannot be used to prepare food for those in your household.
Make alternate plans for how to prepare food for your family. In all likelihood, you will not be allowed to use the same kitchen for your business that you use to make family meals. You can either build another kitchen in a different area of your home; use the kitchen of a neighbor, relative or friend; or resolve to eat out.
Secure venues to sell the food you prepare at home. Though you may be allowed to use your home kitchen as a commercial food preparation area, it is unlikely that you will be able to use your home as a storefront. Contact your local Zoning Board to see what the restrictions are. Your alternate options include farmers markets; flea markets; Internet sites such as Foodzie, Etsy and 1000 Markets; city festivals and events; and selling wholesale to local cafes, restaurants and independent grocers.
Promote your home food business. Join an association, such as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, to network, gain potential customers and connect with vendors. You can also start a promotional website or sponsor a local cooking contest.
Getting liability insurance is a good idea, even though it may not be required. Should a customer get sick from eating your food, your business and personal assets will be protected.
- pastry image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com