If you are a great cook and love cooking, why not build on your skills and knowledge and start your own business doing something you already know you enjoy? The first thing to do is decide what sort of food business you would want to undertake.
Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
Can you envision yourself running a full catering business? If so, you could choose to offer a general catering service or one specializing in buffet-style events or formal receptions. You might want to create a niche business offering multi-course gourmet meals, vegetarian extravaganzas or even ethnic feasts.
Are you more of a baker? If you can whip up delicious brownies, cookies and pastries, a bakery business might be more to your liking. You can make a very profitable career out of baking and decorating cakes, cupcakes, muffins and pies. You could even have a speciality such as vegan cheesecakes or artisan wedding cakes.
Here’s a unique idea… homemade jams and jellies. Homemade fruit preserves produced with fresh, natural ingredients are far more superior to the preservative packed, factory made varieties. They are much healthier and are enjoyed by everyone who appreciates eating natural, healthy food.
You may also want to consider starting a lunch delivery service. If you live reasonably close to offices or businesses, you could start a sandwich/snack delivery run. Fresh, homemade sandwiches are a better option versus vending machines and fast food establishments. Workers usually only get an hour or less for lunch so they will appreciate the chance to save time and effort by having lunch delivered. In addition to sandwiches, you could also offer a variety of wraps, homemade soups and salads.
If you already cook for your family and friends, you probably have most, if not all, of the basic equipment needed to start a home-based, catering business. If you intend to specializing in baking and decorating cakes or selling homemade sandwiches, your initial outlay will be comparatively small. You will obviously need to budget for ingredients and suitable packaging materials.
If your ambition is to offer a full catering service, you might find that you need an additional freezer, refridgerator or commercial oven. A small business loan might be the best way to cover any large expenses such as these.
After brainstorming the possibilities, draw up a formal business plan. This will be necessary if you intend to apply for a business development loan or seek a grant for start-up capital. Putting your plans down on paper will also help you to clarify all the details and turn a bunch of ideas into a real project.
Before you cook anything in a professional capacity, it is essential to find out what is required in your state/country in terms of insurances and certification to enable you to prepare food on a commercial basis. You will also need to inquire with your local health department to find out what the local regulations are for commercial food prep and what inspections are required. You don’t want your business to get closed down on a technicality. So make sure you do your homework on rules and regulations in advance.
Build Your Brand
To establish credibility and a professional image, you need to brand yourself by having packaging, stationary, business cards, invoices and receipts printed with your company logo and contact information. By creating your brand, customers will be reminded of your name (or your company name) and can recommend you to friends or contact you to place repeat orders.
Whatever size or type of catering business you are planning, you will need to set aside a budget for advertising. As in most lines of business, the best way to grow a catering business is through personal recommendation, word of mouth. Advertising can consist of many different things… hanging fliers on community boards, leaving a few copies of your menu at local businesses, submitting press releases and placing classified ads in your local newspapers. You can also have your family and friends help spread the word.
Don’t forget to share your new business on social media!
Be sure to contact people in related businesses to see if you can make a mutual recommendation agreement. For example… if your speciality is baking wedding cakes, it would be useful to form an alliance with the local florist, local dressmaker and (obviously) any local wedding planner.
It is also advisable to take a short business course online or at your local college. Even if you intend to employ an accountant or have a qualified advisor, you should know at least the basics of business management and your tax liabilities.
Finally, make sure you give yourself a continuing education on all food-related subjects. Subscribe to professional magazines and take classes to learn new techniques and recipes. Trends in food change and you need to keep up to date with those trends, as well as learning about new discoveries relating to health and nutrition.