Appliances for a "home-based bakery"

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Joined Jun 28, 2017
@foodpump - Those are the exact questions that led us to the decision to move the business to the extra building, which we made after researching VA law and before purchasing the property. As I think I may have mentioned elsewhere on this site in the past, my business started as a cottage food business when I lived in Maryland, I moved it to the commercial space in DC because my fiancé and I moved in together and because I was too close to hitting MDs cottage food sales cap. What I realized when I took on wholesale clients while in the commercial space is that in the greater DC metro market, for me, wholesaling really was not a path towards growth and greater profitability. There are just way too many bakeries here already… great little bakeries run by award-winning chefs, factory-esque big bakeries with fleets of delivery vehicles that can spread out across the city every day at the crack of dawn, and lots of people who bake cupcakes at home and suddenly get the idea to try their hand at wholesaling and are willing to offer anyone and everyone pricing that just can’t be beat. The market is completely saturated.

But, the little niche I was able to carve out when I was working with individual clients when I first started really works for me. There are a lot of wealthy, busy professionals in this area who value convenience and personalization and who are used to dining at really nice restaurants and eating great food. I have found that these types of people really don’t have much of a cap on what they’re willing to pay me when I provide them with a ‘concierge’ level of service and great tasting, beautiful desserts. It also becomes very difficult for another business to come in and displace me because these clients aren’t out searching for a lower price, they’ve developed a loyalty to my business based on the value they place on what I’m providing.

A big part of moving the business to our new property is about leaning in to that high-end custom market. When I was working in the shared commercial space, a good chunk of time got taken by the commute, then even more time would get sucked up because of how much cleaning I had to do just to start my work day because every time I walked in to the shared space someone was doing something dirty/disgusting/dangerous. Storage was very limited, so forget about keeping specialty tools/molds accessible and organized, let alone all the nice craft supplies I keep on hand at home to make custom cake toppers or use when wrapping custom gift boxes.

Now, not only are we living in a house we love, we also have a huge area where we can grow our own heirloom fruits and vegetables (both for ourselves and for my business), build a greenhouse for year round specialty herbs and edible flowers, and see way more of each other because he’ll have a home office and not have to go in to work as much and I’ll be either working on home/family stuff in the house or literally right next door at my business. I’ll get to have a work space that is just for me, with plenty of space, that I can keep as compulsively clean and organized as I want, and it’s legal, even if there are some i’s to dot and t’s to cross first. For me, this is living the dream now and hopefully that’s what I’ll still be doing in 10 years. :)

In making the decision to move the business to the extra building, we also had to consider the fact that we’re planning on having kids and I’m 34. If I have a commercial lease downtown, or even somewhere considerably less pricey, what happens to the business and how does the cost of the lease get covered when I’m pregnant, recovering from pregnancy, nursing, and co-caring for an infant at least once, but probably twice, over the course of the next few years? For us, having the business at home gives us a lot more flexibility and security. Also, I started working in food service/restaurants when I was 19 and didn’t really step back until I was 30. I’ve had my fill of 16+ hour workdays. My fiancé was in the business for a similar amount of time, starting as a busser and working his way up as a bartender and sommelier to higher level management positions. He had his fill of long days as well and ‘retired’ from the industry to work for a beverage importer/distributor. I don’t think that wanting to have more balance between our work lives and our personal lives makes either of us less professional*, even if that means my business ends up operating under the much maligned cottage food laws. *What actually makes me less professional is that I worked on the savory side for my entire career and didn't start baking or doing pastry until I injured my back after already having left restaurants, but, unfortunately, what's done is done.

@sgsvirgil - I am not hearing gloom and doom, just solid, helpful advice and things to consider from all involved. I will certainly continue to check in and will likely have plenty of questions in the future.
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
It's not often that we get questions from people looking to start a business from home who actually did their research and knew what they are talking about. It's usually all rainbows and unicorns, so I was skeptical at first.

But this actually sounds like it may work and will offer many legitimate advantages that are important to you. I think if it were me I would get the ball rolling and see if you can get the needed permits for a commercial kitchen, not something under the cottage law. If you are successful, proceed from there with construction.

BUT I would not waste my time with those consumer appliances! Do it right. You can thank me later.
 

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