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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Work from Home Baking for Money: Legally

I have written a lot about Cottage Food Laws but even today most people I talk to have no idea you can make money baking from home in 49 states. If you are desperate to add extra money to your budget, you might have everything you need to easily do that.

Not convinced, let’s take a look at what you need. You can start your baking business with very little investment. If you live in a house with a kitchen, and your kitchen has things like a stove, refrigerator, mixing bowls, mixer, measuring spoons etc., you have most of the equipment to get started. Of course you need a recipe and the ingredients your recipe calls for. I should add that it helps if you enjoy baking.

Get to know the law in your state

There are laws making it legal to sell your baked goods in all states except New Jersey. Later in the post I am including a chart for a first glance at the laws in each state. Basically in most states you need to apply for a permit. There may be a small fee attached to that permit. Some states require an inspection of your kitchen. If an inspection is needed, find out what the health department requirements in your state are. Basically they will be concerned with cleanliness, adequate refrigeration, and proper storage of foods.

Most states have rules about how and where you can sell your products. You can get a list of what foods are allowed. If it requires refrigeration it is not going to be allowed. For example, in Missouri you can legally sell the following foods under the law: breads, cookies, fruit pies, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, honey, sorghum, cracked nuts, packaged spices and spice mixes, dry cookie, cake, bread, and soup mixes.

I didn’t forget, I promised you I would share a quick guide of Cottage Food Laws across the country. Here is a summary  that will help you know what you need to know to get started. Remember to check with your own state to find out the latest updates and specifics that will be enforced this year. Before you go though, think of how these laws can help you earn money right from your own home. No excuses, turn on the oven and  BAKE.  Cottage Food Law Guide

 

 

Gingerbread Might Get You Lots of Free Marketing

Marketing your baked goods may be the hardest part of your job. Getting TV stations & newspapers to give you news coverage for free is almost unbelievable. My husband first found an article about that very thing in a small local paper. When I dug a little deeper, I found out that this story had a much bigger following than that small paper.

He showed it to a relative who had studied abroad and actually went to this church. I loved the story, and when I thought about it a little, I decided I wanted to put this on my website because it is such a unique way to get noticed maybe someone who reads this will tweak this idea and start to build their own baking reputation. I could talk more about the story, but watch the video first and then I will share my thoughts.

Well, maybe this example is extreme, and you might argue that you don’t have either the time or the money to take on a project like this. I get that, but trying this on a much smaller scale might get you some marketing traction.

Many schools & not for profit organizations do fundraising each year. You could consider constructing a replica of the gym or football field in a winning season. Maybe you could donate cleverly decorated cookies that follow a theme of an event. You put on your thinking cap and look for ideas in your area that put your product in front of a group of people. When you do that make sure to include business cards. Creative ides might just be a game changer for marketing your cookies, cakes, pies and other home baked foods.

“Cookie Lady” Wins $10,000 in Baking Contest Using Her Mom’s Recipe.

It sounds like a dream come true, and be honest, you might also dream of finding baking success with one of your recipes. From what I can tell though, although I am sure her recipe is out of this world, it seems like her hard work and perseverance played a huge part in that great win.

You see, after her son was born she did not want to return to her job and searched for some way to replace her income. She had always loved baking, so she started watching YouTube videos on how to decorate cookies. She was sure that she could do that so she started baking at home. In the beginning she did swaps in mommy groups to get her name out.

When her husband retired, they decided to open a bakery and make a go of it with cookies. Now she has custom orders, and around the holidays her work days are often over 15 hours (that’s a lot of cookies). For her large custom orders, she is booked months in advance. She does cookies for weddings, baptisms, first communions and more.

In addition to the baking, she is now teaching classes on cookie decoration. She as rented a shop adjacent to her business for her classroom.

So, what are you waiting for, grab your computer and start watching you tube videos. You too might grow a huge following. I believe it is possible and the “Cookie Lady is proof to of that.

New Jersey Still Does Not Have a Cottage Food Law

If you are a New Jersey resident, putting a price tag on your baked goods is currently illegal. In that state, drivers licenses are issued to the undocumented, former inmates can vote, and the minimum wage has been increased.

The cottage food laws have been stalled by one Senator, Joe Vitale. Here is a video clip with the details. If you live in New Jersey, contacting the senate to show your support of a cottage food law would help.

Recipe for “Baking for Money “at Home

INGREDIENTS:

  • PICK PRODUCTS TO START WITH
  • UNDERSTAND PRICING
  • USE SAMPLES TO MARKET

If you love baking, it is tempting to try and start your business with too many products. Most of us are capable of making a wide variety of products. I urge you to start small and use the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle.

You also need to consider what type of product has the perceived value that commands enough of a profit margin. For instance, many people can make chocolate chip cookies. Although the ingredients for cookies can be pricy, the perceived value may not be high enough to have a profit margin that makes sense. 

On the other hand, many cakes have a higher perceived value but actually have lower ingredient costs. A nicely decorated cupcake or cake can command a rewarding return. If you learn the wedding cake trade, now you can charge top dollar.

Pricing

When we start our business, knowing what to charge is a challenge. Since we can easily whip up a dessert, under estimating the value is a common mistake. One rule of thumb is to total up all the costs, including packaging, and multiply it by three. 

It is important to remember that if you set your prices too low, you will have to work harder for less money in the end. Your competition is not the big box store, they make their money with volume sales and it is impossible to compete on volume. 

Instead, you compete on quality, producing a better tasting product. There are lots of customers out there who are willing to pay for homemade baked goods, so don’t be afraid to get paid for your time and expertise. 

Samples

Letting you potential customers sample the product is an easy way to start selling your product and get people talking about it. All of us have been to the grocery store and see the tables where vendors are offering samples of their product. Take a hint from the experts, if that was a tactic that did not work, companies would not be giving away their product. It often gets customers literally hungry for more.

A Picture is Worth Thousand Words!

We have all heard that saying yet it takes on a new meaning in the age of social media. Everywhere you go someone is scrolling on their phone and checking their social media platforms.

For home bakers wanting to promote their business, what better way than to take mouth watering photographs of their exquisites cakes, creatively decorated cookies, breads or homemade pie. That kind of picture is enough to make most of us hungry and many of us will be motivated to click on the picture to place an order.

If you hate the idea of selling your homemade baked goods at a farmers market or holiday festivals, or other legal venue, this is gives you so many more options. A lot of cottage food bakers now take custom orders from customers who find them on social media.

One key aspect of successful social media campaign is professional looking pictures. You might have to invest some money in hiring a photographer with the equipment and skills to take the pictures that make your special creations look irresistible, but they will be your salesperson and it is worth the money spent to have the best possible pictures.

That is going to mean that you have to get familiar with how to set up your Pinterest boards, Facebook Fan pages, and Instagram. It may take a little while to learn how to use those platforms and to interact with people who may be potential customers, but it is an affordable and often very profitable way to grow your business.

Let’s face it, we love the baking part of our business, but we just have to face the fact that if no one knows about our products, it is pretty hard to make many sales. So, no excuses, if you are here reading this, you have the computer skills to do this, and if I can do this, I know you can. As they say on “Great British Baking Show” on your mark, get set, BAKE (and then take great pictures and post them on social media.

Cottage Food Law Battle Continues in Wisconsin

I am always happy to share good news stories about cottage food laws, but the picture is not always pretty. Unfortunately I just was made aware of the ongoing battle that home bakers in Wisconsin are engaged in currently. Although almost all of the states have passed the cottage food laws, it seems that home bakers in Wisconsin have their rights to make a honest living from home being held hostage. Even worse, it is under questionable circumstances.

Here is the information I have to share. I want to do what I can to help home bakers fight the battles. You can read the details that I found from the Wisconsin State Journal.

 Thanks to cottage food laws in almost every state, home bakers can quickly become food entrepreneurs and sell certain “non-hazardous” food products to the public made in their home kitchens, often with few regulations or governmental entanglements.

 But in Wisconsin, politics and industry influence have quickly burned your right to earn an honest livelihood. We have been working to get Wisconsin’s cottage food laws expanded to catch up with the rest of the country and include baked goods via the “Cookie Bill.” While this bill has had broad-based support, passing in the Senate multiple times, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has failed to bring the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote. Fun fact: The Wisconsin Grocer’s Association has close ties to Speaker Vos, according to “CBS Sunday Morning.” Wisconsin also had the most restrictive cottage food law in the country. Coincidence? I think not.

A victory in favor of home bakers came when Judge Duane Jorgenson in Lafayette County ruled on May 31 that this ban is indeed unconstitutional and that the primary effect of this ban is to protect established businesses from competition. The Wisconsin Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living, and we are pleased the court agrees.

 So why then haven’t you seen new baking entrepreneurs popping up across the state since the judge ruled in our favor? Because Wisconsin has been defying the judge and fighting this ruling ever since. The state falsely claims the judge’s ruling only applies to the three plaintiffs: Dela, Kriss and me. The key ingredient in the state’s claim is nuts. Let me be clear that our trio of baking plaintiffs took on this legal challenge to benefit all bakers in Wisconsin. Unlike the well-funded special-interest groups, we cook up collaboration and think way beyond ourselves.

Do your job, Wisconsin. Get out there and let the judge’s ruling that the ban on the sale of home baked goods is unconstitutional stand. Stop spending our tax dollars to fight a ruling in favor of small business in Wisconsin. Start working for us, your citizens, and truly exemplify the message that our state is “open for business.”

From where I sit it sounds like more pressure needs to be put on the Wisconsin state politicians to let the home bakers enjoy the privileges that other states have given to entrepreneurs and small businesses in their states. If you live in Wisconsin, join Lisa, Kriss and Dela and let your representatives know that you want them to pass the cottage food laws in your state.