Make Money Baking at Home Thanks to Cottage Food Laws

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Cottage food laws have opened the door for you to start your baking business. Today is a dream come true for many bakers around the country who have yearned for the opportunity to make money at home baking. Unfortunately, simply baking well is not the only ingredient to building a successful business. If you have spent any time at all here, you know I have talked about taking the steps to set up your business.

That link is just one of many articles I have written about running a business. After you set up your business, then you have to start getting the word out. Social Media makes it affordable for all of us to spread the word that we are open for business. If you are working from home, it is a challenge to make others aware that your specialty items are now readily available to the world. Are your pies always requested for the church pot lucks? Does everyone at the office hint that your cookies are the perfect addition to any office party? Selling your products is critical to any business.

You see, those links are articles here on my site that give you really critical information if you are thinking of starting a business. I invite you to spend some time just looking at things already here to help you start your business. I am also going to encourage you to follow the information on how to build your website. It might seem funny that a website that talks about how to make money baking would cover using WordPress. I have to tell you that the purpose of my site is about how to make money from home [Read more…]

Does Your State Need Cookie Police?

That is a question that some states are debating. Although states have passed cottage food laws, many still have income caps in place. Mississippi has a $20,000 cap, the third lowest of states with caps. That limit is crippling to cottage food entrepreneurs.

The common arguments include that public health needs protection. No one
disagrees with that premise, however there is no evidence since the inception of cottage food laws that anyone has been made ill by foods sold legally under those laws.

Socia media

In the age of technology, the reality is businesses that do a bad job usually don’t survive. If a home baker has a great product partnered with equally good service, the word will spread and so will their income. Conversely , producing a bad product or service the word will spread and the demise of that business is inevitable.

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Are Farmers Markets Great Venues for Cottage Food Bakers?

It depends, how’s that for a helpful answer? The real answer is like everything in business, you have to do your due diligence. Before we go any farther, I have to say this: cottage food businesses are real businesses, and need to run like one. Sorry for my “soapbox” comment, but if you are going to generate the income you want, you need a plan. In order to generate a plan, you need to know details.

Okay, so if you have read anything about cottage food laws, you probably have seen that many states allow sales at Farmers Markets. The first piece of information you need to know is, does your state allow you to sell your products at local Farmers Markets? 

Bakery Display

If the answer is yes, then it is time to start some boots on the ground research. Like many things in life, not all farmers markets are created equal. You are going to find out how much traffic they have, can you sell your cottage food products at their market. In addition, if they allow cottage bakers, how many other cottage bakers are selling there and what are they selling. Can you get a shaded spot? Do they have electricity?

Can You Compete?

You will have competition, and that is not necessarily a bad thing if the size of the market and their traffic justifies it. That is another piece of the information you need to know when you are researching [Read more…]

Is It Legal to Sell Cakes with Copyrighted Popular Characters?

We all know that kids love movies and books. Many birthdays lists contain things like Lego’s, Mickey or Minnie, Baby Yoda etc. It makes sense then for a baker to want to capitalize on cakes or cookies with images of those characters and many more. I want to warn you that you have to resist the temptation to use those images and more.


Although decorated baked goods with popular well known images like Mickey Mouse are exceedingly popular, it is important to know that many images have the protection of a copyright. Using them without permission from the owner of the copyright is against the law and can get you in trouble.

It can also infringe on a trademark if the image represents a brand that has a trademark. To help explain it, here is what I found from an attorney.
“Trademark protection arises when someone uses a word or design as a brand name. When an ordinary consumer sees the image of Mickey Mouse, for example, he or she probably thinks of Walt Disney. A Mickey Mouse cake probably would lead an ordinary consumer to wonder if the cake was authorized by Walt Disney.”

I know that many of you have seen decorated cakes and cookies with popular images on them. Many bakers may be unaware that they are breaking any law. They might think that they are even helping advertise for the rights owner. In most cases, the rights owner does not see it that way. To them, it is other people profiting from their work without permission to do so.

The good news is it may be possible use copyrighted images. The reality of that is, it will probably come at a cost. You have to contact the rights owner or licensing agent to get details about use of their image. You do need to know that may be quite expensive.

If you absolutely want to use those images, but don’t have the budget to buy the license, you can consider purchasing an edible image, toy or topper. In that case, you might be protected by the first sale law. Here is what one attorney had to say about that: “Probably. In general, a rights owner’s rights end after the first sale is made. So, if you purchased a licensed topper or toy, the licensor generally would have no say in how you used that topper or toy including if you incorporated it in a cake. It would have already been compensated as part of your purchase of the licensed item.”

Since none of us want a lawsuit, it is really important to know the law. Don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or patent. If you have questions, consult your attorney.

Homemade Food Law Food Producers Battle Bureaucrats

In some states, cottage food laws have evolved. In North Dakota, residents have greatly benefited from their food freedom laws. That all changed at the beginning of 2020. What is very interesting there is, the laws have not changed. What did change was regulations put into place by the North Dakota Health Department.

In 2017, the state legislature passed some of the most lenient cottage food laws allowing many homemade meals to be sold by home bakers. The passage of those laws have created many new jobs across the state. What is important to note is that there have been no food related illness complaints against the cottage food law producers.

Unelected Health Department Officials Oppose the Laws

LawsShortly after the cottage food laws were passed with a large majority, the health department began to greatly limit what cottage laws could permit. They tried for two consecutive years to get changes to the laws passed with no success.

Faced with those failures, the unelected and unrepresentative health department simply acted on its own to pass new regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2020. These regulations severely limit the freedom of the home food producers and failure to comply can result in fines and even jail time.

Determined North Dakotans Take Up a Fight

According to Forbes “The cottage food creators have teamed up with the Institute for Justice to sue the Department in court. Bureaucrats do not get to unilaterally rewrite the law. The role of those in the executive branch is to enforce the laws passed by the Legislature. When legislators refused to change the law to their liking, the Department may not simply go around them. Not only are the regulations illegal, but they are so poorly written that they violate the North Dakota state constitution; the regulators can’t, for example, treat similar foods differently. The cheesecake makers and the cheese pizza makers must be treated the same.”

This battle is one to watch. Cottage food bakers will want to pay attention to the what the courts decide about whether passing those regulations is legal.


Challenging Times Call for Creative Solutions

Alternative marketing can help you combat a slowdown for your business. I read about a cottage baker in Wisconsin who has done just that. His story may inspire you to “bake outside the box” so to speak.

Meet Stephan, he is a cottage baker whose specialty is bread. He had signed up for a winter session of his local farmers market. He had baked his bread in anticipation of opening day . Unfortunately, the market had to close. He had a lot of hard work and ingredients ($$dough$$ in all those loaves.

Getting the word outSocial Media

Stephan had a lot of bread so he decided that he needed to change his plan. In order to get the word out about how people could get his product, he turned to social media.

Since many potential customers had no knowledge of him or the wonderful bread he baked, he decided to first talk about his bread and tell his story so his customers could get to know him.

He let them know he sourced local wheat and milled it himself. He had a great variety of breads to choose from. He even decided to offer his wheat bread for exactly what his ingredient cost was to try and help out those who might be struggling financially. In addition to the above, he offered delivery or pickup.

It worked like a charm, he sold everything by the end of the weekend. Even better, he had expanded his list of customers and many of those have become repeat customers. He is tweaking his marketing materials and and expanding the selections.

By telling his story, as well as offering his homemade wheat bread at cost, he had people spreading the word about his great products. He built a reputation not only for a great product, but for supporting local farmers, and making his product available at an affordable price to those in need. We all know that word of mouth advertising is “gold”, and he can take that to the bank.

I would like to challenge you to look at your business, and figure out how to market your products in a new and different way. Who knows, maybe your local paper will feature a story about you.

Microenterprise Home Kitchens Differ From Cottage Law Home Kitchens

I think it might sound strange for me to say that cottage law kitchens are common knowledge. As a matter of fact, it is still unknown to many people. It is however, an idea that has caught on in a big way. The public is getting more comfortable with purchasing food from someone who has prepared non hazardous food in their own home.

In many states, one of the requirements of the cottage food law is that it has to be an in person transaction. You will actually meet the baker. If you are purchasing it from their home, you might actually be invited into their home. It made me think, in most restaurants you never see the people who are preparing your food.

Laws are changing

Homemade dinner delivered to your door

Home bakers have rallied and fought to get cottage food laws passed in their states. Today there is a new movement in some states. In California, microenterprise home kitchens are coming on board. They are different from the cottage food laws. They allow a much wider range of foods that they can prepare and sell.

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Cottage Food Laws Are Here to Stay.

The Stats are in – the proof is in the pudding.

In 2008 the USDA valued the home based food businesses at 5 Billion dollars. In 2016 those businesses were valued at 20 Billion dollars. I have not been able to find the latest numbers, but more and more states are raising or eliminating the cap home bakers can earn. Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but it does seem reasonable to predict a measurable increase when the next stats are released.

Great news for home bakers

Back when I first started following the cottage food laws, many states did not allow bakers to sell what they made in their home kitchens. If a state did have a cottage law, the amount of money a home baker could generate was pretty low, around $5000 and most of the states required that foods made at home be sold at farmers markets.

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What’s in a Name?

Choosing the Right Name Takes Time

In business, the name you choose can mean a lot. In the last post I talked about choosing a fictitious name. If you decide to just do business using your own name you don’t have to get a DBA (fictitious name). I want to look at some of the reasons you might want to seriously consider not using your own name. 

While I am sure everyone reading this has a wonderful name, will it really be remembered and attract attention to the product you are selling? It is critical that the name be memorable and catchy. For example “Karen’s Cakes” does describe what products the business has,  (sorry if any of you have that as your name), but an improvement might be one of the following:  “Let Them Eat Cake”, For Heaven’s Cakes!, or the “The Cake Fairy”. Those names are more likely tho be remembered.

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Cottage Food Law Checklist

Baking is what we enjoy, but as entrepreneurs, there are things we have to do to properly get the business set up. I know, this is the part that some days makes me want to scream, it is laying the foundation of your organization.

I am not a natural planner, but have learned over the years that it sure makes things easier when you take the time to develop the roadmap from the very beginning. I will assume that unless you live in New Jersey, you are living in a state that has Cottage Food Laws.

When you go to your state, if a permit is required, that is a starting point on your plan. Once you have the permit, there are other things that that you need to get started. I am not talking about your kitchen, equipment or supplies. Today I am just covering the paperwork.

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Cottage Food Laws May Not Be Enough

Unfortunately although cottage food laws make it so much easier to start a home baking business, there might be other legal issues to contend with depending on where you live. Going to your state and finding out where you can legally sell your product is the first step. You may only be able to sell at farmers markets, or you might be able to even sell to stores and boutiques, depending on the laws.

It can get more complicated though. There may be zoning laws that prevent you from operating a home based business in your neighborhood. There may be neighborhood associations that prohibit it. If you rent your home you may need permission from the landlord. 

Possible Solutions

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