I'm throwing around the idea of a cake business in California. It has been suggested to me by several people. I'm completely clueless about how to start. I do know from here that I can't have a home bakery, so...
Thanks for any advice!
Some counties may allow you to have a separate commercial kitchen, but other than than, you have to look for somewhere to rent the use of the licensed kitchen. Places that are not open the full day, are good places to start.
I live in California too (san francisco) and I've heard that it has some of the strictest regulations. Sorry I don't know much but am very interested in the answer.
I am doing this right now and have worked with inspectors in two counties. According to them, things have changed recently and all California counties are pretty much basically the same these days. If you are going to rent space, you need to know it is a licensed kitchen and get your own health permit to work out of that kitchen. You will have to show that you have adequate storage space 6 inches off the floor and a separate place in the refrigerator and freezer. If you are going to buy/lease/build your own space, the health department wants to be in on the planning, so be sure you contact them before you sign any contracts.
You will have to figure out if you will be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC or a corporation. Some (all?) of those need to be filed with the state. If you are a sole proprietorship, you can use your own social security number for the business. LLCs and corporations need a tax ID.
If you use your own name or your corporation's name you don't need to file a fictiousness name statement. Otherwise, if you are Joe Smith but are selling cakes as "Cakes unlimited," for example, you have to file with your county clerk and you usually have to publish it in the newspaper (or on the internet?--not sure about that)
The city you are in will want you to have a business license. The bank will want to see this to set up an account. ( Or, if you are an LLC or corporation your bank may be satisfied with those papers?)
Mostly, in order to rent space, you need to show that you have insurance.
Hopefully, you have a great business plan whether or not you plan to borrow money, this will help you set your goals and will get you thinking about what you need to do.
The NOLO Press has a lot of book about this called the Small Business Start-Up Kit for California by Peri Pakroo and Catherine Caputo. Many libraries have this book and so does Amazon.
I'm not a legal expert by any means. Your mileage may vary. Also, every city and county is slightly different and I'm tired and may have left more than one thing out. Hopefully this is enough to get started, anyway.