Working side-by-side, my wife and I have been supporting our family with food businesses run from our home for over fifteen years.
On our website (FoodBusinessPros.com) we’ve shared many ideas for home-based food businesses, but regardless of the business idea we keep hearing the same questions: Do You Have A Checklist To Follow When Starting A Food Business?
So let’s do it.
Who is this Food Business Check List For?
This check-list is designed for food business newbies who don’t have a lot of experience running any kind of business.
I’ve also made this check-list generic enough to work with any food business ideas, but it’s especially good for home-based food business startups.
I’m going to give you the basics of each item on the checklist, so you have enough information to be able to ask the next question.
Most importantly, you need to make sure you hit every item on the checklist as you consider starting up your first food business.
Skipping any of the steps can lead to terrible mistakes that will probably cost you money, time, or even doom your new business to failure.
Below we’ll dig into the checklist.
The Checklist For Starting A Food Business
1 – Check Demand For Your Food Business Idea
The first step when you are considering starting a brand new food business is to make sure there is a demand.
You’ll measure demand in two ways:
- Look A The Success of Similar Food Businesses In Your Area.
- Poll The Public
Looking For Similar Food Businesses
Unless you are really thinking outside of the box, or are in a relatively small market, it’s very likely that there is already someone offering something similar in your area. If they are, that’s a good sign that there is a demand for your idea!
As you look for similar businesses in your area, keep a list of them. You are going to need that later in this checklist.
If you can’t find similar food businesses in your area, expand your search to similar areas.
Finding a similar successful business in a similar city or town is a great sign that you’re food business idea has the potential for success too.
Poll The Public To Gauge Demand For Your Food Business Idea
When polling the public to gauge interest, you’re not going to share your idea for a new food business with everyone. Instead you’re going to be selective.
You’ll start by polling family and friends.
You’ll probably not put too much weight on the support of your family for your idea. The family loves you, and they might not always speak their truth out of fear of hurting your feelings.
Sure if you have a brutally honest aunt, you might put more weight into her opinion. Otherwise, you’ll start reaching out to friends and acquaintances on social media or over coffee.
What you are asking is simple, “If I started this food business, would you consider doing business with me?” or “Do you know a few people who you think might do business with a food company like mine?”
The ideal person to poll is a self-employed friend. People who are self-employed understand the value of honest feedback on a new business idea. They are more likely to be honest, even if it’s hard for you to hear.
2 – Make Sure You Have The Necessary Skills Or Resources
Every business requires a specific set of skills to be successful. You need to be very honest with yourself when considering if you have the necessary skills.
Now, if you’ don’t have one skills, don’t freak out!
If you don’t have the skill now, you have two choices. Take the time to learn and practice that skill before you start this new food business, or use some of your resources to find and hire someone with that specific skill.
There is no way that I can list all of the skills you’ll need for the specific food business idea that you’re considering. So instead I’m going to give you a list of general skills that apply to many food businesses.
Unless you are starting a larger food business, it’s very unlikely you’ll need all of these skills. A few of these skills might be required, but so infrequently that it makes more sense to hire a pro than take the time to become a pro with that skill.
List Of Potential Needed Food Business Skills
- Planning & Organization Skills
- Ability To Work Unsupervised
- Self-Driving Work Ethic
- Food Preparation Skills
- Spoken Communication Skills
- Website Design
- Social Media Management
- Graphic Design
- Recipe Development
- Good Driver
3 – Make A Food Business Plan
To know if you are on track, you need a road map that tells you where you are going and how you are going to get there.
Take the time to create a business plan for your new food business before you start the business.
You can find templates online.
4 – Find Out If You Need Permits or Licenses To Start Your Food Business
This is important, and you need to take the time to do it right. Nothing is sadder than when I hear from a new food entrepreneur who made a mistake at this stage of starting their business.
If you get this wrong, it can cause you no end of pain.
If you miss a required permit, no one is going to notice it until you start to get some success. Imagine how back-breaking it would be to work hard to start your new business, only to have someone show up and tell you to shut down just as you were getting traction and making money.
Nailing this step deserves an education course all of its own, but for now I’ll have to give you the basics and encourage you to take your time and get it right.
P.S. Don’t forget to look for zoning restrictions. Some cities are very restrictive about what kind of businesses you can run from your home.~Stacey
Start by trying to check local regulations. If you can find the right person locally, they can help you work your way up the chain.
Most cities (and even many smaller towns) have an office dedicated to helping new businesses get started. If you find the right person in that office and make friends with them, they can help you check every potential permit or license you might need.
Google “MY CITY, MY STATE Starting A Business”, but replace MY CITY, MY STATE with your own city and state. Look for .gov sites.
Then call them and be friendly and respectful. Go to these folks as a newbie approaching a guru and asking for their wisdom. Many people approach these folks tasked with regulation with an adversarial mindset. This is a huge mistake.
If you treat them kindly and respectfully from the beginning, you will stand out from the crowd and they will want to help you succeed.
Hopefully your new friend at the city level will be able to help you navigate the rest of this step. If not, look for a friend on the county level. Then on the state level.
Take your time and make sure you get this right.
5 – Choose A Legal Business Structure
I’m not a lawyer nor a tax professional, but after years of being self-employed I can assure you that you need to take some time to explore your options, and probably with the assistance of a legal or financial professional.
If you have a CPA who helps you with your taxes, start with them.
If you are starting a small food business, you’ll probably be advised to run it as a sole proprietor business until you get a little larger. That’s what I did.
In time, I moved my businesses into an LLC which has some protection from litigation while retaining easier tax restrictions.
Seek a local professional to help you make this decision.
6 – Choose Your Business Name
Your new food business needs a name that is clear, concise, and memorable.
Don’t get to cute with a business name.
Add a tag line that is used on all marketing material
7 – Establish Business Bank Accounts
It is best practices to keep you business and personal money separate.
This means that you need a business checking account with your business name on that account. You may also need a business credit card (though please be careful with that…debt is slavery).
8 – Practice Your Business with Family And Friends
No matter what kind of food business you are starting, it’s going to take some time to get the running of that business right. You will make some mistakes with your first few customers, so choose those customers carefully.
When we started as Personal Chefs, we asked our friends to let us cook for them. The first few, we offered to cook for free. We just wanted the experience.
Of course, they loved us, so they paid for the groceries and we provided the service for free.
Then we cooked for more friends, this time offering to provide our Personal Chef Service at a discounted rate if they would allow us to take some pictures of us cooking in their home, provide us a written testimonial (one even gave us a video testimonial for our website), and a picture of them to include with the testimonial on our website.
This is also a prime-time to make sure that you have your pricing set right. Does your price cover your cost and time? If not, you should rework your pricing.
The experience was invaluable, and we got equally invaluable marketing material.
You should follow that same strategy.
9 – Build An Online Presence For Your New Food Business
I have a list of over 40 food business ideas that range in size and complexity. Some of those food businesses are going to need websites, other’s don’t. Even those that do need a website, might not need one right way.
However, because we live in a world where nearly everyone uses the internet to find services and businesses, you need an online presence.
Coming up with your online marketing strategy could be an entire education course, but we don’t have space or time for that here. Instead, let me just give you a list of online channels that you should at least consider.
Potential Online Marketing For Your New Food Business:
- Email List
- Facebook Page
- Google Local Business Listing
- Bing Local Business Listing
- Facebook Group
In my personal opinion, no business needs a presence on every one of these online channels.
Some are really good for serving a local clientele, others for a national or international reach. Some are great for business-to-business presence, but no so good for most food businesses (unless your clients are businesses).
In time, I’ll make a course to help you walk through this. Until then, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions.
10 – Do A Press Release For Your New Food Business
Local media is hungry for local content, so feed them!
Make sure that your press release not only gives the details of your business but also tells your story.
P.S. Be prepared to talk to a reporter and answer their questions. Sometimes they want to interview you, while other media outlets will just run your press release as written. If they interview you, they will also want some pictures of you and your business if appropriate.~Stacey
Once they publish your story, you immediately become more legitimate in the eyes of your community.
Hopefully at least one media outlet will post an article about you online, and soon as they do you can share that article on your online channels repeatedly.
Conclusion About This New Food Business Checklist
Keep in mind that this is a general list for starting a generic food business. There are dozens of food business ideas that my family has experience with, and each of them is going to have different things that need to be on this checklist.
Use this checklist as a starting point, not as a final list of everything you need to do to have the best possible chance of success.
If you want more specific coaching, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to answer simple questions when I have time.
I do occasionally offer food business coaching for both startups and those trying to take their business to the next level. If you are interested, reach out and we’ll find out if my experiences would be of value to your specific situation.
Someone on my email list sent me this question, and I know others have the same question. Still, I can't tell you how nervous I am setting down to write about good food business ideas for women. You...
My wife and I started a personal chef business in 2005 with rudimentary cards printed using our home computer printer. Honestly, those were some ugly business cards, but they did what they needed to...