Today more than 30 of the United States allow people to run a small food business from home. The Eat Real Festival in Oakland, California seemed like the perfect spot to gauge interest of such a law among the throngs of food crafters and DIY devotees. Yes, asking people who are making jams, pickles, etc at home is not an unbiased survey. Still, it was exciting to see the live reactions and thoughts. Interestingly, the majority did not know they aren’t allowed to sell food made at home, unless you’re a farm. The people you’ll see in this video represent a small sub-set of the types of folk who could benefit from a law allowing people to run a small food business making “non-potentially hazardous foods” at home. These people are engaged in the sustainable, “good food” crafting movement.
Imagine the stories from others in pockets of the state who don’t have the luxury to attend wonderful festivals and may be on unemployment, welfare, and otherwise struggling to make ends meet. (Update: Check out the petition and read about the law that went into effect.) Many are very likely are making and selling food law or no law. This isn’t guesswork: Pretty much everyone I know who sells food does or has at some time made a little something at home. I’ll be writing more about this in the future, having worked with many food producers across the country who benefit from their states’ cottage food laws in proving their businesses before expanding. Experiencing “the math” of getting started while working on my Nutless Professor foods, before being able to prove a product’s potential, I’m more convinced than ever why these laws work and how California could safely and sanely implement such a law. Please subscribe to my blog for updates! Join the Facebook group to discuss or comment here. Since it may be hard to hear I’ve transcribed the video interviews, with some paraphrasing:
Two Companies in Business: Dandelion Chocolates and Baia Pasta
From their garage lab–which is for testing–Todd Masonis describes the process Dandelion Chocolate went through to get started: “With the cottage food laws in other states, bean to bar chocolate makers are able to start up in their kitchen or garage, with just time and effort and labor. In our case [in California] to get the ability to sell a single bar we had to get our machines NSF certified. There is no such thing as NSF certified chocolate making equipment. We had to hire machinists and consultants that took months to even call us back to check out the machines. We paid thousands of dollars to have our machines inspected. To legally sell your bean to bar chocolate in California is literally months of effort and at least $10,000. Whereas in other states to sell it’s after the moment you make a good bar. In our case we would have loved to have a very low limit like $100,000. If you’re below that limit you can sell out of your home or garage. Then when you start getting something to customers you have to build out a kitchen and get certified. That would make more sense to me rather than requiring everyone to be professional on the first day.” Dario from Baia Pasta speaks from his booth at Eat Real about how a cottage food law would have helped them get started: “We were a garage pasta operation for six months. We wouldn’t have been able to get where we are if it weren’t for the Underground Market. We’re now able to open our storefront and it’s absolutely required for me in this new economy to allow people to produce and sell under certain circumstances, when the customers are knowledgeable about what they’re buying and they’re OK with it–as we’ve done for six months. Now people love our pasta. We filter our water and use organic flours. The flours are stored very carefully. We don’t use any eggs. That would probably be the biggest source of problems with pasta. We dry under controlled situations of temperature and humidity.”
Aspiring Home Business Food Entrepreneurs
1: Jam maker – “If California were to allow food preservation at home, a friend and I would take the surplus seconds from her farm and make jams, pickles, and all sorts of things and sell them at her CS and farmers’ markets.” 2: Jam and pickle maker – “I can probably sell james that I make and pickles. Right now I give this away. But I think everyone should be allowed to run some kind of home-based ubsiness that could help them out economically.” 3: Vegan baker – “I enjoy baking vegan goods, which is something that there isn’t a big market for. Not having funds, this law would help me bring in extra income without it being a big production.” 4: Cake decorator – “I decorate cakes. Being able to start a food business at home would seriously make all my dreams come true. I could quite my corporate job, I could have my own business, and do all the things I love to do without having to worry so much.” (Note from Susie: Ah to be in that state of dreaming before getting into the nitty gritty realities of business…) 🙂 5: Mochi (Japanese baked sweets) maker – “I make mochi caneles at home for friends, and a lot of people have asked me to sell them. If I were able to do that, it would be a great side business to supplement some of the other things I do, while also making something I love.” How would the ability to run a small food* business at home help you? *foods that do not require refrigeration, such as baked goods, jams, granola, roasted coffee, and dry nut, herb and tea blends.