(This article appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
By Deanna Martinez-Bey
Cottage food laws vary from state to state. Therefore, before moving forward with any suggestions in this article, I recommend you check to see what your state allows as far as where you can sell your baked goods. A helpful resource can be found at www.pickyourown.org/CottageFoodLawsByState.htm
Following is a list of five of the best sales channels for a cottage food operator:
Directly to the Customer
All fifty of the United States allow cottage food operators to sell their baked goods directly to a customer. What does this mean? Selling directly to the customer means you can bake your goods from your home kitchen and have your customer pick up their orders from your home. If you are uncomfortable having customers come to your home, you can select a public place to meet them.
Tips: If you choose to meet at a public location, meet at the same place every time and consider investing in a car magnet with your business logo so your customers can easily find you.
Farmers’ markets are in full swing during the spring and summer months for states that have four seasons. However, for states that are warm all year round, the markets may stay open throughout the year. Other states offer indoor markets that are open all year long. Farmers’ markets open doors to fantastic selling opportunities for cottage food operators. A home bakery owner can advertise the sale of pre-orders and have the customer come to a farmers’ market to pick up their order. Markets also offer opportunities to grow your customer base by meeting new people each time you set up to sell.
Preparing for a farmers’ market has its own set of challenges. You will never know how much to bake; the weather can change at the drop of a dime, and setting up and taking down your area can be daunting. Don’t be discouraged; here are a few helpful tips:
- Talk to other vendors at a market you are interested in selling and ask them about the foot traffic on any given weekend.
- Download a weather app to stay on top of the weather. Invest in weights for your tent legs (if you will be using one) and tables.
- Enlist the help of family and friends to help you set up and take down your area.
- Everyone loves to receive something for free. Consider including a free item when a certain amount of baked goods are purchased.
These are so much fun! But, before moving forward, make sure that where you live allows these events. They are similar to a yard sale, so if you are allowed to sponsor a yard sale, your porch pop-up should be acceptable. The key is to prepare a menu that can be baked over the course of four days. When packaged and stored properly, certain items can last. Porch pop-ups take a good deal of marketing preparations. Social media will become your best friend if you organize a porch pop-up. Sharing your event to your business channels, local community pages, and neighborhood community site is imperative. Send an email or create a newsletter to send to everyone on your email list and send texts to those who prefer that option.
Be sure to post something about your porch pop-up every day leading up to your event, starting three to four weeks in advance. You can create memes with photos of the baked goods you will be offering, and be sure to include the day, time, and location of your pop-up in every post.
Tips: Try to schedule your porch pop-up around the holidays (Saturdays tend to work best), and consider including a kids’ cookie decorating table! A porch pop-up does not need to be set up on your porch. You can set up in the driveway, garage, or on the front lawn.
The key is to reach out to local businesses (such as gift shops, hair salons, breweries, and florists) and ask if they would be willing to allow you to set up your bakery for a day. You bring a table, chair, and all of your baked goods and set up inside the business.
If you choose this option, keep in mind that the business will get a cut of your profits. There are no set fees that are in place for this. You and the business owner will discuss and agree upon it. They may ask you to pay them a set price or ask for a percentage of your profits. Pop-up bakeries are an excellent way to make money and reach new customers.
Tip: You and the business should advertise the pop-up bakery on social media channels. You can also ask if they have a sign to place outside. You can add a balloon for attention.
Local Coffee Shops
Most local coffee shops offer a variety of baked goods for customers to enjoy alongside their coffee. Here is where you, the cottage baker, come into play. Put together a proposal for your local coffee shop. Include which products you have for sale, the wholesale price (what you would charge the shop to purchase them from you), and the projected retail price. The coffee shop owner will want to see that there is a profit in the deal for them. Some shops prefer a consignment agreement. A consignment is when the business agrees to sell your baked goods, and they receive a percentage of your profits. You have to determine which avenue is best for you.
Tip: The goal of this option is to obtain weekly orders. Create a menu that includes a few of your top-selling items. Providing dozens of options will make it more difficult for you. You can always add more options later.
As business owners, it is up to us to get creative! These are just five sales channel options. So put your creative thinking cap on, brainstorm with other business owners, and see what other ideas you can come up with.
About Deanna Martinez-Bey
Deanna Martinez-Bey is a cottage baker, baking class instructor, content creator, and multi-genre author. With twelve published books under her belt and a certified cottage bakery, everything she does revolves around food and writing in one way, shape or form. www.thefierywhisk.com