Are you businessy? More mumblings from a know-nothing startup baker who never took a college level math class
I'm going to start with the bakery since that's what I started thinking about at 5am this morning and couldn't not go back to sleep. What I'm mulling is: should we pay for space in a commercial kitchen?
A month or two ago I'd decided no. The lowest rate I could find was at least $400 a month (with only one person working and not much storage space) and I didn't know if we'd get $400 in ORDERS. Too risky, not necessary, the Cottage Food Permit was just going to be a necessary evil.
But I am rethinking BECAUSE:
1. I'm still mad about the CF restrictions, including no wholesaling, no making things that require refrigeration, no shipping, and no making more than $15,000 in a year. We are not getting into this gig to only make $15,000 a year. (Not that we have any prayer of making anywhere NEAR $15,000 as it sounds right now, but you know, we have DREAMS!) Also the part where you're not supposed to make any recipe that hasn't been first cleared with the Cottage Food people. ANNOYING.
2. Katie had a hard time with the brunch order we delivered Sunday morning after my Christmas party. She and I both made a heap of cookies, but Katie also made croissants and galettes for the party AND the brunch order, in addition to scones and muffins. Oven space turned out to be a bigger problem than she expected, especially regarding the croissants (which are finicky little suckers. Remind me to never try making THOSE.) She wasn't super satisfied with the product AND...
3. You know what? It's HARD doing this from your own house. A cake here and there works fine, even the cookie boxes we've been doing the most, but larger pastry orders? Or the amount of cookie orders we filled this last week (WHICH WAS NOT EVEN A LOT?)
Last night I was googling around, as I do, seeing if anyone was renting kitchen space on Craig's List (not really), and then reading up on local "kitchen squatters", starter entrepreneurs renting space from established restaurants, or partnering with them in some way to make things more affordable.
Then I found a website called cookithere.com and found a whole bunch of places I hadn't been able to locate before. Including one in a suburb about 15 minutes north of where I live, for a much lower rate with more options. And I started thinking. Again.
If we were using a commercial kitchen we could:
- go around to local coffee shops and see if any of them would be interested in selling our treats
- ship orders out of our reasonable delivery area, including out of state
- start an Etsy store
We would require a business license (got it) and insurance (need it, no idea how much it costs.) The lowest rate I found at a new place charges $225 for 15 hours a month or $60 for 6 hours in one day if we don't want to commit to a monthly rate.
It will cost $230 to apply for the Cottage Food permit (our application is pretty much done, but since there was no way we could get legal by the holidays we put off finishing it), but that's a yearly fee.
The scariest thing about renting space is that we have NO IDEA what our anticipated need would be. We were pretty busy this last week, but January will probably be dead. I bet we'll get a few orders around Valentine's Day, but then what? Maybe a few cakes? I don't know. It's not like having a shop where you have inventory on hand. We've thought about Farmer's Markets, which would give us a steady schedule, but you have to apply and they're very choosy if you're not a farm or dairy. I don't have any idea how to even estimate how much time we would need kitchen space, or even IF we need it.
Maybe we do the CF permit and see how things go. Although half the opportunities are cut off to us if we cook from home and that would, I think, greatly affect our ability to estimate what we can do and how we can grow.
I've also thought about seeking out a church or restaurant or caterer with kitchen space. What scares me about this is that I have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS EXPERIENCE. None. Zero. Zip. My sister has worked for several local bakeries, but that doesn't make her an ace negotiator either. I have ideas and thoughts, but no confidence to take a step.
Sometimes I wonder if there's a local church around that wants to start a coffee shop in its basement and maybe we could get our start there. That's kind of a thing around here. But I don't know how to do that either. And I assume all these folks would like some rent money too.
AAAUUGGGHHHH. I'm ready to risk for this business and Phillip is too, but only if it's SMART. I don't feel very smart. Severe irritation with Washington State regulations does not seem, to me, to be a good impetus for forking out $225 a month that I don't HAVE to fork out.