How to Start a Cookie Business From Home in Florida

While there are a number of successful home-based businesses, starting a cookie business from home presents unique challenges. In order to protect consumers from food-borne illnesses, the state of Florida has laws in place governing home-based baking businesses. Additionally, your local county government may impose zoning or permit restrictions based on where your home is located. Thus, it is essential to properly research the laws in your specific location before beginning. Contact your local authorities or the Small Business Administration if you have questions.

Develop your product. Gather or create cookie recipes and test them. Once you've chosen the recipes you will sell, compile them and the ingredients in a list both for your records and to provide to the appropriate licensing or inspection agencies.

Create a business plan. Determine how you will conduct your business -- whether it's online or selling to local stores -- what advertising and accounting methods you will use, and your funding sources.

Prepare your kitchen. This may require extensive remodeling of your existing kitchen area, because although Florida allows individuals to conduct food service businesses from home, there must be complete separation of your living quarters from the area where the food will be prepared. Additionally, the kitchen must meet all of the health and safety requirements laid out by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or FDACS.

Alternatively, you may wish to lease the use of an existing commercial kitchen to bake and package your cookies, and conduct the rest of your business from your home. As long as the kitchen continues to meet the FDACS regulations for a food establishment kitchen, you can utilize the commercial kitchen at a local church, community center or restaurant.

Register your business name with your local county government and apply for a business license. Note that baking businesses are not required to obtain a state business license, but must receive an operating permit from the FDACS before their county business license will be issued.

Apply for a sales tax permit and a Federal Employer Identification Number from the Florida Department of Revenue and the IRS, respectively, if the business is anything besides a sole proprietorship. If it is a sole proprietorship, you can use your individual Social Security number.

Obtain an operating permit from the FDACS. You will be required to submit information associated with licensing your cookie business, proof that you have registered your business with the Florida Department of Revenue, and any other documents the agency requests once you've submitted your application. An opening inspection will be scheduled, and based upon the inspection of your kitchen, you will be provided with permission to operate your cookie business or given a list of deficiencies that must be corrected to achieve compliance with health regulations.

After you've received the appropriate licensure, begin advertising and operating your business. Create a website to advertise your business and take orders from customers, take out ads in local publications and consider offering free samples to local businesses or restaurants.