Thursday, December 26, 2013

Starting up a Home-Based Craft or Kitchen Business

"You should sell that!"

Have you ever had anyone say that to you? Sometimes they emphatically add, "You could make a lot of money!"

Home-based businesses are on the rise because the economy is still struggling on and people are attempting to replace income lost from full- or even part-time incomes. Most people can cook, can, or bake, and many have some sort of crafting or woodworking ability that could be profitable under the right conditions. Browse any farmer's market on a warm fall afternoon - or Etsy anytime - and you'll see capitalism in full swing - vegetables, meats, baked goods, soaps and salves, coffee and teas, jewelry, carved items. leather goods and other crafts - a cornucopia of handmade products to choose from, created from the talent and spare time of a whole range of people.

But how easy is it to start one of these businesses? How much regulation is there and how many hoops do you have to jump through? It depends on type of product being sold. Crafts and jewelry, furniture and knick-knacks can be sold easily at craft shows, farmer's markets, or online. Starting this type of business would require the same first steps of starting any business: investigating your market and demand, determining your costs, making a business plan, and researching local laws. Any business owner should also acquire business insurance because of the current litigious atmosphere, but if you're selling felted animals, it's unlikely anyone will claim they were carcinogenic or in any other way harmful.  With food it gets more complicated.

Opening a small food-center business has a number of obvious pluses. You have a built-in customer base in the human race, as everyone needs to eat. Additionally, cooking can be done and done well by people who have little formal training or education. Most states have lately passed cottage food laws that allow for the sale of non-perishable foods. These generally include baked goods, jams and jellies, pickles and vinegars, dehydrated foods, nuts and candy - things that won't kill people if not made exactly right.  Jams are fruits preserved in sugar and pickles are preserved in vinegar - while they are canned, the processing isn't what preserves them.  Other jarred foods, such as canned vegetables and salsas have to be processed in a pressure canner to kill any and all bacteria.  Anything with meat and dairy also must be produced in a commercial kitchen that is up to code and regularly inspected. Some small businesses avoid real estate overhead by renting time in a commercial kitchen, but this, of course, is an additional expense.  If you want to sell food, you need to check state requirements carefully for feasability before you invest any money.

Finally, of late there has been considerable interest in herbalism, naturopathy, and medicines that are more naturally and organically made. Partly this interest is an outgrowth of the organic movement - the next step in green living - and partly it's a reaction to a medical system that is convoluted and out of the price range of whole swaths of the population. The sale of any sort of medicinal tonic or application can even more highly regulated than food, however.  Guidelines vary by state, but generally these products must be made in a commercial, regularly inspected kitchen. Business owners may be required to have a degree in herbal medicine as well. Degree or not, because they are not doctors, herbalists are not allowed to state what their salves, tinctures, and teas are supposed to help or even that they are medicine at all. An herbalist may have a great deal of experience treating ear infections with vinegar and garlic & mullein oil and may have success restoring ear wax-blocked hearing loss with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, but because he is not a family physician or an audiologist, he is not allowed to make any claims or suggestions. An herbal business also will likely require additional liability insurance - another cost to consider.

Starting any sort of business requires a great deal of research as to the market and regulations, so be willing to put some time in.  There are a number of people making money selling all of the above products, but just because it looks easy doesn't mean it is.  Do your homework and then get excited about your home business venture.

1 comment:

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