Home-based food businesses are nothing new, though they do seem to be gaining in popularity, especially since the pandemic and the rise of food influencers on TikTok. However, starting a home food venture requires more than just a well-edited cooking video on social media.
While marketing your home food venture on social media sites like Instagram and TikTok is essential to help you attract customers, there are many other important steps you will need to take first to ensure your home food business is viable.
1. Come Up With a Concept
Before diving into the more technical and legal requirements of starting a home-based food business, you will need to plan out your concept. This includes deciding what kind of food you will cook, how you will produce your food, and how you will package and distribute your food.
For example, will you have a website or an app where people can order your food? Are you making fresh meals to-go or are you making foods that can be heated or cooked later? Perhaps you want to sell baked goods, like cakes for special occasions or cookies.
You may also want to decide on a theme for your food as this will help you once you get to the branding and marketing phase. Will you cook more rustic foods or fine-dining cuisine? French? Italian? Asian? Sweet? Savory?
There are many different styles and types of foods you can make and it’s important to nail down a clear idea of what you want to do first, as this can play a role in later steps you will need to take.
2. Understand FDA and Local Regulations
Of course, there are legal requirements that come with starting any home business, especially one involving the distribution of food. First, you will need to register your home food business with the FDA and you will also need to obtain a local business license.
The FDA also requires that you label your foods properly to ensure consumers are aware of ingredients. Strict recordkeeping is also required under the Bioterrorism Act and you may be required at any point to make your records available to the FDA.
There will also be local ordinances related to running a business out of your home that you should follow. Each state and municipality will have its own laws for running a home business, so make sure you are aware of these laws and comply with them to keep your business from being shut down.
3. Make Sure You Have a Clean, Organized Space
Having a clean, organized space for your home food venture is also crucial. You may even want to build a separate space just for your food business. For example, if your kitchen is too small and not well-equipped, you may want to design a new space for cooking in another room or part of the home, like a spare room or the basement.
Some people even convert sheds or garages into kitchens and food storage spaces for their home-based food businesses. Again, if you are using something like a garage or a shed for food storage or cooking, you will need to make sure it is sanitary.
The FDA has very strict requirements about food being prepared and packaged in a safe and sanitary environment. So wherever you choose to cook and keep your food, make sure it complies with these regulations.
4. Budget Wisely
One of the main reasons so many small businesses fail is because they don’t budget adequately. There are a lot of costs that go into running a business and it can take a while to start seeing a return on your investments. As such, it is vital that you budget wisely before starting your food venture.
You’ll want to ensure you have enough money to cover any losses you might experience or the fact that you might spend more money than you earn initially until you start gaining more customers.
5. Design Your Brand
Once you have all of the technical and legal requirements out of the way, it’s important to create and design a brand identity to help you market your business. Marketing is vital to the success of any modern business and the first step in any marketing strategy should be developing a brand identity.
Your brand identity is what helps people recognize and remember your business. It plays a significant role in how people perceive your business and how they feel about it. Your brand name, your color palette, your messaging, your social media content, your website — all of these things play a crucial role in attracting your target audience and making sales.
6. Package Your Food For Safety and Brand Awareness
Packaging plays two roles in a home food business. Your packaging can help enhance your brand and it can ensure you are complying with safety and sanitary regulations.
For example, the materials you use in your packaging and what your packaging looks like will affect how customers feel about your product. If your packaging is basic and conveys nothing of your brand identity, then customers might feel that your product is a bit boring.
However, while the look and design of your packaging are important for marketing purposes, it’s also crucial that your packaging keeps your food product safe and in compliance with FDA food regulations. For example, if you are distributing food that can spoil, you need to make sure it is packaged properly to keep the food fresh and to avoid causing your customers to get sick.
7. Market Your Food Business
Beyond your brand identity and packaging, you will need to actively promote your home food business to spread awareness and boost sales. And today, one of the best ways to reach the right audience is through social media marketing.
Make sure you understand who your target audience is and then craft content that caters to their specific interests. For example, when creating an Instagram post for your food business, it is a combination of your captions, the imagery you use, and keywords or hashtags that will help you attract the right audience.
If you are simply creating basic posts without putting much thought or effort into them, it is likely that you will fail to reach your target audience and grab your customers’ attention. In other words, if your marketing content isn’t attractive and engaging, then you won’t have many customers or make as many sales.
When all is said and done, the most important thing you can do when starting a home food business is remember to have fun. The reason you decided to start this venture is likely because of your love of food and the joy it brings you to cook for others. If you lose sight of that, it can negatively impact your business. So even when things get hard or feel impossible, remember why you started this business in the first place and try to get back to a place where you enjoy cooking once again.