Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I have Bakery Stress. It is the stress that comes from things working out? But bringing new complications? Mostly financial ones?
We have an offer for a rental kitchen. I have liability insurance all lined up and ready to go as soon as I pay for it. This means we could move on to the never-thought-we'd-quite-get-that-far step of contacting the health department, submitting a "plan" for "review", and getting the kitchen inspected for our own use. And then we'd be - dun dun dun - LEGAL.
This is not the church kitchen. I'm not entirely sure what to do with our church kitchen situation. I am a card carrying 'Fraidy Cat, so just hanging out at the church kitchen doing our little baking project sounds a lot better to me than renting space at an Actual Factual Bakery Kitchen where we'd be paying some serious rent and hoping against hope we find a regular source of orders. I'm smart enough to know the church kitchen option, even though it is Practically Free, is not the brightest one if we want to be a big girl business. But... I'm pretty nervous.
Here are some things I've learned in this process so far:
- No one is going to tell you what you need or how to do it.
- Applying for a business license and establishing your type of business (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.) is the easy part.
- You are expected to file taxes, but you will have no idea what those taxes are for, or what you owe.
- Should you be so stupid as to start a food business, you will figure out what the health department requires by trial and error, fortuitous googling, website forums, Facebook comment sections, Twitter, returned phone calls from unpleasant government employees, and panicked perusing of small print.
- If you somehow manage to figure out what the health department requires, do not expect it to be logical.
- It appears that many of these rules and regulations are in place not for protection of the public, but to collect fees. That sounds cynical, but that's the only reason I can find for needing to have an established and permitted bakery's kitchen inspected an additional time for our use.
- You need money. Even if you are not opening a storefront and going to bank for a loan, you will need money. You need money for: state business license fee, LLC formation fee, city business license fee, Cottage Food application fee, new food business in your county application fee, insurance, and bank fees.
- After that you need money for and/or will be using money you've earned for: inspection fees, supplies, equipment, PayPal fees, rent, marketing materials, promotional product.
- If you are a person with a skill or trade, but no extra income or savings, you cannot start a business. You can't. That sounds cynical too, doesn't it. But I estimate that just licensing and application fees alone have cost us $500, and we aren't even finished with those. You need a bank loan or generous family members or a money tree to ESTABLISH yourself, long before you start doing the thing you're hoping earns you some money.
- There ARE people who want to help you, but you need to be proactive and look for them.
I COULD KEEP GOING. I have a friend coming to get me in 20 minutes for therapeutic shopping and conversation. (She's shopping, I am enabling. I gave up spending money for Lent. TERRIBLE.) So I have to go. But while things are moving forward and we have a huge opportunity in front of us, right now I'm feeling a little bowled over by what it costs to get started, and what we're risking. I knew this going in, but now I really know it. You know?
Thanks for reading. Your encouragement on this subject has been huge for me.