Imagine how amazing it would be to launch a food business based on your amazing cakes, bakes, jams, chutney, cookies or other delicious makes!
Starting a food business can seem overwhelming and daunting, not knowing what you need to do and in what order. Use my 12 step checklist below to help you get started.
1. What’s the food product you’d like to bring to market?
All great food businesses start with an amazing product. Maybe its your Mum’s famous plum jam, a recipe you’ve created or a gap you’ve spotted in the market.
2. Identify your ideal client.
Not everyone will like or buy your product but that’s okay. You just need to find the loyal customers who do love your products and will buy again and again. Getting clear on your ideal customer will help you to find and market to them.
3. Get sampling
Get your product in front of many people as possible. The idea here is not to sell but to find out if people actually like your product - and get as much feedback as possible on your product.
4. Get testing *
Get making. Test the recipe to check it is scalable and can cope with being produced in large quantities without affecting taste or quality. Get your product shelf life tested.
5. Packaging *
How will you package the product so it looks great, protects and keeps the product in tip top condition? Well designed, well branded packaging is key for a food product to have ‘shelf appeal’ so take the time to get it right.
6. Decide who will produce your food product and where *
You can either make the products yourself or find someone else to make them for you. Deciding on which way to go will be a personal decision and very much depend on your specific circumstances. If you’re making the product yourself, where will you do this in the early days? Your home or premises?
7. Check the numbers stack up *
This is crucial to make sure that ultimately you have a viable, profitable food business that does more than just cover costs. Writing a business plan will help you work through the fundamentals of the business. Pay particular attention to the financials - if the costs don’t stack up then go back to the drawing board until you have a viable business proposition. If this seems daunting, get advice from a food business coach or accountant.
8. Establish your brand *
You’ll need a company logo and branding assets, but a brand is so much more than that. It’s the experience your customers have when buying from you and should reflect and articulate your values and aspirations. Again get help from a professional to get this right first time.
9. How people will find out about your brand and product? *
What methods will you use to repeatedly and consistently market your product to potential customers and grow sales?
10. How will people buy from you?
Will they be able to purchase your products both online and in person at events or in bricks and mortar stores? How will you ship the product to customers and take payments? You’ll need to set up a separate bank account for the business.
11. Get registered.
Before you go any further, there are few basic ‘legal’ type things that you must do when starting a food business and definitely before you start selling.
12. Get started Above all get started today so your food business dreams don’t end up left on the shelf. Check out the ways I can help you to launch your food business here:
You might not have the skills, experience or time to do all of these yourself. Depending on your budget and capability, you might look to outsource some of the steps or get professional help. I’ve indicated which steps can be outsourced, and which in my opinion, you should do yourself, at least in the beginning.
In my experience of launching my own bakery business and helping other entrepreneurs to launch food & drink brands, you should be able to get all the basics sorted within around 3 - 6 months. If you decide to outsource production or do a big packaging design project, this may take a bit longer in the beginning to nail everything down.
So there you have it! Take that great food product and bring it to market with my 12 Step checklist.
Don’t waste any time - take action today!
You can get a downloadable version of this blog post as a handy checklist that you can print off and refer back to here:
Other blog posts you might like to read:
This is a picture of me at the very first bake sale I did nearly 7 years ago. I was still working in my day job but redundancy was on the cards and for the first time in my life I was unsure of what the future held.
If you're a baker, you're probably always wondering if you could run a baking business from home and that's what I'd been doing. I'd done the basics, got a food hygiene certificate, had an inspection from my local EHO and sorted out insurance but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it work as a full time business, or if this should just stay as a small part time thing I did to earn an extra income.
To test the water, I signed up to do a bake sale at the local country fair. I wanted to see if anyone outside of my friends and family would be willing to pay a proper price for my baked goods.
It was the Easter holidays so I took a week off work and baked and baked - cupcakes, cookies, cake pops - the lot. The weather was lovely so my husband took the kids out for day trips so I could get on without too many distractions. I planned out my stall, made some signs and got some business cards printed.
On the weekend of the show I roped in all the family to help out with setting up my gazebo and manning the stall. We had glorious weather and the crowds were out in full force. I was so excited and a little bit nervous too.
The first morning passed by with a few customers stopping by the stand and all saying the right things - oooh and aaahhing over the cupcakes, cookies and cake pops. And then they’d walk on by.
The afternoon was even quieter. The hot dog stand a few stalls up was heaving, massive queues building up with customers eager to part with the best part of £6 for a sausage in a bun and a few onions. But no-one was interested in cupcakes. I couldn’t understand it.
That night I got home feeling really crushed. I’d been so diligent in carefully planning out what products I’d make, I’d spent a lot of time designing and making beautiful floral cupcakes, cookies for the kids and cake pops too.
They were all packaged with lovely tags and ribbons and the stand looked good. I’d put ingredients labels and best before dates on everything. It looked professional. So what was I doing wrong and why was no one buying?
Day two dawned and we headed off early to get everything set up again. Again we had beautiful weather and the organisers popped round with encouraging words as they were expecting big crowds.
The day started slow, but I had a few customers stop by and pick up some treats. Then a particularly grumpy looking woman came up to the stall and had a good look around and walked off muttering “£1.50 for a cupcake?? I can get 2 for 70p in Asda…”
The rest of the day went pretty much the same way. Packing up time arrived and I was bit flabbergasted. What was I going to do with all that stock I’d made? It was all wrapped so it would be fine but only for a day or two.
To my surprise the manager of the on site cafe popped over to have a chat. He too said how pretty my products looked - and then he asked how much stock I had left over and if I’d consider selling it to him at cost price to resell in the cafe. I was caught off guard but luckily my husband who’d helped me plan everything stepped in and suggested a price which the manager was happy with.
He went off and came back shortly with the cash to pay for the stock and a couple of helpers who loaded up a trolley with the cupcakes, cookies and cake pops and off they went.
Thanks to this little stroke of luck, I just about managed to cover the costs of the stall and my ingredients. Nothing more. Not the greatest start to my cake business venture.
For a few weeks after the fair I felt really down and despondent. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to start a food business because the short shelf life was always going to be an issue. The ‘two for 70p in Asda” in particular stuck in my mind.
I didn’t realise it all the time but in truth it was a pivotal moment in my start up journey. It taught me some really crucial lessons, and I would end using up what I learned from this experience to tweak and develop my business and product range.
So ultimately it was a really valuable lesson - learned the hard way - without which - my business might never really have got off the ground.
So what did this experience teach me:
Know your customer
It taught me that I didn’t really know or understand my customer. Before the bake sale I hadn’t really done any work to think about who my ideal customer might be, what they liked, why they would buy my products. I went into it very much in the mindset of "well everyone likes cake don’t they?" I was lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that my family and friends raved about my bakes. That’s not the best basis for your customer analysis and they are probably not going to be representative of your target market.
Know your product
It taught me that I hadn’t quite found my perfect product yet. After a lot of reflection and soul searching I realised that I would have to give up on my dream of owning a cupcake business because I would need to sell A LOT of cupcakes on a regular basis to make any real money and this wasn't practical. Sounds obvious now doesn’t it?
Know the size of your market
It taught me that by having a short shelf life product, that I couldn’t easily get to people I was restricting myself to a very local market. And this would make it hard to scale. And local customers weren’t really prepared to pay a fair price for my products. While this might be okay for a hobby baker just looking to cover their costs, if I wanted to build a thriving business I’d need to come up with a different product that I could ship around the country, the world even. If it had a long shelf life or the product was non perishable, even better.
Know your sales strategy
It taught me that if doing events was going to be part of my sales strategy that next time I’d need to do my homework before signing up. Where was the event taking place, what was the footfall and buying habits of visitors. What other food stalls would be there. Would there any competition - from an onsite cafe for example? Was this the sort of event that my ideal customer would attend? I hadn’t done any of this research before signing up.
So all in all, my first ever bake sale wasn't a complete disaster but if I’d continued making these same mistakes then I don’t think I would ever have got my business up and running. It’s not uncommon to make mistakes when you’re running a business. Making mistakes can be a valuable learning experience. It’s important to take calculated risks in business and keep trying new things. But when something doesn’t quite go to plan, the important thing is to pick yourself up, keep going and learn the lessons.
If you run a business I'm pretty sure you've experienced something similar. So tell me, what’s the biggest ‘mistake’ you’ve made in your business and what did it teach you?
Let me know in the comments below - I’d love to hear your story.
If you're a food or creative entrepreneur starting or scaling your business or looking to turn your hobby into a business then do come over and join my members only facebook group Kitchen Table Entrepreneur where I regularly offer support, tips/tricks and training to help you grow and become profitable.
I look forward to meeting you over there!