Please excuse the ignorance of this question, but I am almost done with researching the steps to get legal to bake and sell cookies. I will be a very, very small operation. I just have people who fall outside the family and friends circle asking me if they can buy them and I want to do the right thing.
The biggest question I have left is regarding insurance. What is the insurance for? Is it to protect me from being sued if someone claims my cookies caused them bodily harm? Does being a Sole Proprietor LLC take care of protecting our family assets should someone come after the business?
Do I need insurance regarding my home as I will be doing this out of my own kitchen? If so, what type of insurance is that?
Any help would be so very much appreciated. I dont have a lawyer to contact and I am hoping all of you who are much more knowledgeable about this might be able to help steer me in the right direction so I can see if this dream is really feasible financially. Thank you so very much for any help you can provide! It is very sincerely appreciated!
I get my insurance through the same agent that does my homeowner's insurance. If you're working out of your home you definitely need extra business insurance (not that you don't if you're working somewhere else.) Tell them that you'd need a policy like caterers have, since they tend to get confused and don't know where to categorize home bakers. It doersn't cost that much, and it's another layer of protection for you, so you definitely need it.
Where are you in Virginia? I'm in Richmond...Your cookies are really cute.
Okay, you are just the greatest! This is the second time this morning you are helping me! You have no idea how much I appreciate this!
May I ask if you did you do an LLC? Does the policy you did with your insurance cover you for both the being sued and the house being covered issues?
Thanks so much for your nice words about my cookies! I do love doing them, but will admit that the time that goes into them is ridiculous. However, that is my fault due to the detailing/designs I do, but it is hard to step back and simplify when you have a vision. I really want to get legal, but after taxes and all fees, I think it will be about $1 - 2/hour, if that. Part of me thinks I am really foolish to want to do this, but the dream of having my own niche is very important to me, so your help is very much appreciated.
I am in Fairfax County, near the Manassas Battlefield. At least for now. We find out in Sept. if we are moving next summer. I am rolling the dice with thoughts of starting a business hopes on the slim chance that we wont move. Thanks again for your help! Again, it is so much appreciated!
I'd go ahead and do an LLC, because if you want to switch to one later you have to go through the same thing again with registering the business, etc. I was a sole proprietor for ten years and just recently switched to an LLC, and it was just unnecessary paperwork. If you do an LLC at the start you don't have to deal with doing it twice.
I did mine through legalzoom.com, and it was easy. If you want an attorney to help you with stuff then I'd do it through a business attorney, but since I'm already an established business I didn't need business advice, etc.
You should charge A LOT for your cookies, it's obvious that they take a long time.
The insurance I have covers property damage and also personal damage, so if someone sues me because they slipped on my sidewalk it covers that. The Dept of Agr. doesn't like you having people pick stuff up at your house, though, so the likelihood of that happening is low. Especially for you, I don't see why you'd have to have people over at your house at all, if all you're doing is cookies. If you do cakes and people want tastings that's something else, but for cookies only I wouldn't do tastings The best thing to do is ask your homeowners insurance agent, because they want to make sure you buy all the coverage you'll need. Also remember that if you use your car to deliver anything you'll have to have it insured as a business vehicle, so ask your car insurance agent about that.
Thanks for the idea about just doing an LLC up front. I have been told to do a Sole Proprietor LLC. Does that sound right?
Insuring my car? Oh, boy. We are only talking 3 - 4 orders a month, if that. Two of those will be shipped. I am going to be small potatoes. I hope I don't have to insure the car for more than I do already, but I really appreciate you giving me a heads-up on that.
I did talk to the Dept. of Agriculture and zoning. Nobody will pick up here.
So does Sole Proprietor LLC sound right? I don't want to do a partnership with my husband as it just makes it more complicated. Thanks though for telling me what kind of attorney I would need to talk to, if I have to.
Thanks again for your help! I was getting worried nobody was out there when I posted the first question, so I was so happy to hear from you.
i ould call and get commercail liability insurance, i have it because I work out of a commercail kitchen, but even working at home, i think it would be a good idea. Having a llc doesn't prevent people from suing you, it prevents them from coming after your personal assets ie your house. To be more confusing you can be a Sole Proprietor and a LLC. The insurance is there if something would happen, I have a million dollar policy it was about $ 800. for the year and I pay monthly. As far as car insurance most insurance agents will tell you that you don't do enough business to need commercail auto insurance.
Hi Tracy, I just wanted to say WOW your cookies are awesome. You have real talent. love the cookies!!!
Thanks, Mcook. I sincerely appreciate all of you who are taking your time to help me. Question though - why is it more confusing if I am a Sole Proprietor and an LLC? I am the one who is getting confused.
I think I need to back up. I think I need to take it one at a time:
#1) I have been told that as I am doing this by myself, with no employees and no plans to expand to that, I should be a Sole Proprietor. Is that the case?
#2) If I do an LLC, I am protecting our personal assets only if I am sued. I think I got that.
#3) The other insurance will cover property damage and personal damage should I be sued. By having the LLC, our personal assets cannot be attacked, only the business assets (which will be very minimal). My husband says we have an umbrella policy with our homeowner's insurance so we would be covered. I am getting the feeling though that if it is specifcially related to the cookie business, that might not be the case. I think the recommended call to the insurance company will answer if that is true.
4) Just to clarify - If someone doesn't read my tag that my cookies are processed on equipment that has nuts, gives it to their child who has an unfortunate attack, and sues me for their trip to the ER, the non LLC insurance will cover that to protect my business assets. Is that the basic idea? The thing is though that I really am not going to have very many assets.
5) It doesn't sound like with the small, small amount I will be doing that I will need to insure my car for the possible two deliveries I would have in a month. Thanks for that good news Mcook!
Dmhart - Thanks for your very kind words! My heart has been sinking seeing the insurance costs, knowing the permit costs and finding out I will pay about 50% or more in taxes, leading me to find my dream may be flying out the window. Your words at least made me smile for a minute. Thankyou for taking the time to write that.
Again, thankyou to everyone who is taking time to help me.
Tracy, yes the sole proprietor LLC is correct. States vary a bit, but when I registered my business they asked if I'm the only member of the LLC. Since I am, it's a sole proprietor LLC. You will then be able to claim all your business income and expenses on your personal 1040, and not have to file separately. You need an Employer Identification Number that you get from the IRS at no cost, and you probably have to register your business in your state so they can start collecting sales tax from you on your sales.
You'll want the business insurance that covers if someone says they get sick or injured from your food, or hurt themselves on your property, and the type that protects the house and equipment from fire or other damage, etc.
Keep in mind that you'll be able to deduct some of your expenses on your taxes, which you want to do to offset some of your income. You'll be paying Social Security/Medicare as employer and employee, which is about 15% so you want to be able to deduct as many expenses as you can. You'll probably want an accountant to do your taxes. I'm more worried about the IRS than I am poisoning someone with my cake!!
Good luck and have faith in yourself and your talent. And regardless of what you're charging, it's probably not enough so be sure to analyze your time and supply costs and price accordingly!!!
Hi Tracy, I didn't have time earlier to put in my opinion. The advise ruth0209 gave you is right on the money. I know it sounds like a lot but remember most of this stuff is just up front stuff. The LLC can be a big expense but it is done once and it is over. You will have a yearly register fee but that is it. And remember all these expense off set your income and that is a good thing. Don't let this scare you off, you have the talent to support a business. If you have the time to put in to it, go for it!! If I had known all the thing I had to do up front I may have not started my cake business, it can be overwhelming but take it on step at a time, I know you can do it.
Ruth and Dhart - Thankyou SO very much!!! I have learned so much in just this one day!
Sole Proprietor LLC is the way to go and now I understand the other insurance. My fault - I was just confused.
Ruth - I understand about the IRS! I am trying so hard to make sure I do everything right. We will do the 1040 with a separate Schedule C. I have the info on getting the EIN and getting a Sales and Use Tax Number here in VA and know to file by the 20th of each month, whether or not I sold anything in state. My DH clued me in on the Self-Employment and Medicare issue at 15% (that makes up part of the nasty over 50% tax) and I will write all of these off. I will call about the business insurance and keep my fingers crossed that will not be the nail in the coffin. My DH has a degree in Financial Management and said he will do my numbers. You are right about charging enough for my time. I know I don't, but I really can't charge the correct amount for the time that goes into them, so I will need to simplify designs a bit or actually charge more. Now I see why Elenis' favor cookies are so high. I just can't ask close to those prices. I think my customers actually get a really good deal. Not just for the cookie work, but for the top quality ingredients I put into them. No tasteless cookies here!
One last question quick question, Ruth and Dmhart - I realized when I do all of my paperwork/taxes/permits, etc that it needs to say "Tracy's Cookies LLC" specifically. Do you know if I am required to then have the 'LLC' part on my logo/tags/website/business cards? I would rather not as admittedly I think it detracts from the design, but do you know if it is required? Costumeczar had an excellent point that it gives more credibility, but does anyone know if it is required? I am not even sure it would show up on a business card very well.
Thanks again to all of you for the help and for all of the encouragement! This has been a yo-yo of emotions in deciding what to do as I gather information and your support has kept me going. If I do end up doing this once I check the insurance costs, it will really be due to the four of you and all of your help. Thank you so much for your time and expertise!
Now to just figure out the 'it is required to write the letters?' issue for the LLC and I think I will be done pestering you! Thanks again!
Don't confuse the terms .... a Sole Proprietorship and an LLC are two different things. My attorney refers to me as a "Sole Owner LLC" meaning my signature is the only signature needed on any legal documents (hubby or anyone else is not a part owner and no one but me has any say in the biz).
As far as insurance, my constant advice is "ask your insurance agent". This is the person who is schooled and licensed in all things insurance in your state. Every state has different insurance laws and requirement and your agent knows them.
I've seen many threads in which a CC'er shared that they were told by their agent "as long as you aren't doing "much" business, you're ok." Bad advice. Bad. Bad. Bad. Insurance is contract law. When you're sued by someone, the insurance company is going to go by the contract you signed when you bought your insurance ..... the "good 'ole boy" conversation of "oh, you're ok!" just won't hold water.
If your agent says you're ok as long as you do just "a little" business, ask him to put it in writing and make him specify how much "a little" is. When someone sues you for $100,000 ... that's NOT the time to find out that the insurance company thinks more than $300 a year is more than "a little".
I've seen threads where an agent has told a CC'er they don't need a commercial auto policy "If they aren't delivering very much". Tell that to the person who is involved in the car wreck with you, while you're delivering a cake, and decideS to sue you for megabucks. When your insurance company finds out you were using the car for a commercial use, you may find you have ZERO coverage!
I have shared these stories with an insurance agent friend and he is appalled that agents tell their clients this stuff. So if your agent blows you off with a waive of his hand and a casual "oh, you're ok!", I'd STRONGLY suggest you touch base with 2 other agents to see what they say.
With close to 20 years experience in the insurance industry, I'm tellin' ya, I've seen a lot and this is ONE area you do not want to screw around with!
CALL. YOUR. AGENT.
Great advice Debi. I'm sure you're right. Now that I think about it, Sole Owner LLC sounds like what mine says, too. I'm the only member of my LLC, but it is totally different from a sole proprietorship type business.
I went round and round with the insurance agent's assistant over the phone about the kind of insurance I needed. I finally went in and sat myself down at the AGENT'S desk and had a face-to-face conversation with the person who knew what I needed. The assistant was just confused by it all.
Tracy, when I set up the LLC, I had to list it with the LLC, but then it asked for the "doing business as" or DBA name. If you list Tracy's Cookies as the DBA name, then you can use it on your stuff without the LLC. You'll want to list the legal name with LLC on government forms and legal documents. I agree with costumeczar that the LLC adds credibility to the business, and you want it somewhere on your web site, invoices and contracts, but you don't have to put it on everything.
Indydebi - Oh, thankyou for your time! I will call tomorrow. My DH thinks we are covered under the umbrella policy of our insurance, but I can see the writing on the wall. I just have my fingers crossed the fee won't end this whole idea as I am not talking about even bringing much money in at all. I just want to be covered, but if I would end up not even making enough to cover the fees/insurance, this might not be very wise. Detailed cookies don't make a whole lot of money and I won't be able to take that many orders. So I will call tomorrow, guesstimate how much I would make over the next year and determine the path I will take.
I will say that I am now completely confused about the whole
"Sole Proprietor LLC" issue. So confused. When I talked to the IRS, the gentleman in the LLC dept. said I would be a 'Sole Member LLC". Someone else at the IRS said I would be a "Single Member LLC".
So... I am guessing that the "Sole Owner/Proprietor/Member" are all the same thing. Got it. Me and me alone. Please correct me if I am wrong.
LLC is just to protect our family assets. I pay the fee and it helps protect those assets if I am sued. Someone can be Sole Owner with or without the LLC. Please tell me if I am wrong on this one as well.
Ruth when you say this...
I'm the only member of my LLC, but it is totally different from a sole proprietorship type business.
...do you mean that the LLC is just the protection aspect, but the propietorship is the business itself?
Also, Ruth, thanks for the ditto on putting the LLC on invoices, website, etc. I sounds like I don't need to squeeze it in on an already full business card. (The name I will be using is long).
Sole proprietorship means you and you alone own the business. It's the most simple form of business organization.
An LLC is a Limited LIability Company. It can be owned by one person or owned by multiple people or entities. I am the only owner of my company, therefore it's called a "Sole Owner LLC" (or Single Owner LLC or Single Member LLC). If I had put my husband and my daughter on the paperwork as owners, I dont' know what they would call it, but it wouldn't be a Sole-Owner-LLC anymore.
Contact your local SBA office. They have lots of info, free classes and seminars on this kind of stuff, and they can walk you thru all the lingo and make it less confusing. They are a GREAT help!
Indydebi - Thankyou... again! I now understand the owner/LLC issue. That is what I thought it was, but was getting confused. It looks like I am on the right track with that.
I will look up our local SBA office and be calling them as well tomorrow! Thanks again for your sage advise!
Here's what I know. This is from my state's secretary of state's office. I think states vary slightly, but it sounds similar to what you've written so far.
A sole proprietorship is a business of one without corporation or limited liability status. The individual represents the company legally and fully. Common proprietorship structures include part-time businesses, direct sellers, new start-ups, contractors, and consultants. Your small business in the form of a sole proprietorship is personally liable for all debts and actions of the company. Unlike a corporation or LLC, your business doesn't exist as a separate legal entity. All your personal wealth and assets are linked to the business. If you operate in a higher risk business such as manufacturing or consumables, the cost to benefit ratio is favorable toward a corporate structure.
The general partnership is the oldest and simplest form of business organization. Indeed, individuals who engage in a common effort to make and share profits are legally partners whether they know it or not.
All partners share unlimited personal liability for the obligations of the partnership. With respect to taxes, the owners of a partnership are generally taxed only once.
Limited partnerships must have one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. The organizational documents filed with the Secretary of State's Office are not required to identify the limited partners.
Limited partners are not normally personally liable for the debts of the limited partnership. It is certainly possible for limited partners to lose the amounts they have invested. Beyond that, limited partners will normally be subjected to personal liability for the debts of the limited partnership only if they are actively engaged in the management of the entity.
LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIPS
The key word for LLP's is 'partnership';. They are more like general partnerships than LP's because all of the partners in an LLP benefit from some liability protection. The intent of the legislation creating this entity is to provide protection from personal liability for a partner in a general partnership for the acts of the partnership and other partners in the absence of the partner's own negligence, misconduct, or wrongful act. LLP's are taxed like partnerships.
LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES
The LLC has some of the characteristics of a sole proprietorship, some of a partnership, and some of a corporation. An LLC may, for tax purposes, be disregarded, be taxed like a partnership or taxed like a corporation.
The LLC has members rather than shareholders. Managers or members may exercise day to day management. The LLC is a business organization that operates under a contract (called an operating agreement) between the owners, much like a general partnership.
In order to have a legal existence, the LLC must file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. The members are protected from personal liability for the acts of the LLC in much the same manner as corporate shareholders. Unlike limited partnerships, personal liability is not imposed on members for participating in management of the LLC.
Your Secretary of State should have this information for Virginia. Or go to the Small Business Administration web site. They have tons of really good, free information. Every state has a SCORE office, which is retired business people who will give you free advice on starting your business. They were very helpful to me.
Thanks, Ruth! This is VERY helpful! My husband suggested I pick up "Small Business for Dummies". I gave him a quizzical "Exactly what do you mean my that?" look, but realized he was just trying to help!
I did not know about SCORE. That sounds like a wonderful resource as well! Thanks again!
OK, TracyLH, I am a licensed multi-line insurance adjuster (by day) which I have been doing for over 25 years so let me add my 2 cents in here. You will definitely want liability insurance to cover your product and any problems which could result. It only takes one person filing suit against you and without liability coverage you are responsible for your own defense in such a case, not to mention a judgment, should you lose a lawsuit. You will also want to look at your home owner's policy as your current coverage will probably exclude a home business and any probems which (heaven forbid) may result such as burning down your house while baking a cake, someone falling when they are coming to pick up a cake, etc. Home businesses are almost always excluded under the home owner's policy (depending on how it is written) which means if you have an accidental fire your home owner's policy could deny coverage for all damages resulting from that fire unless you have the proper coverage and have disclosed your home business. You will want to be a LLC to limit your liability exposure in the worst case scenario. Should you be sued and/or have to file bankruptcy, your family's assets will not be exposed.
Thanks, Bettinashoe - This is excellent advise! I appreciate you taking the time to do this! This really solidifies even more so the writing on the wall.
No problem, Tracy. A liability policy shouldn't cost much at all. Again, best of luck. I wish Oklahoma would legalize home bakeries! I'm going to have to rent a space even though I have this huge (over 3,500 square foot) house on a commercial corner.
Thanks, Bettinashoe. I was afraid it was $500 - $800 or so as those are quotes I have seen on CC and was watching my little dream fly out the window. That would be a lot to be able to sell cookies to neighbors, especially with the limited amount I would be able to do.
But I do see that I need to be insured. There is a shop that is interested in my cookies, and that would open me up to a whole different ballgame and I would most definitely need to be covered.
I am so sorry you can't be legalized as a home bakery in OK! I will say I feel very guilty as I have at least three good CC cookie friends who can't get legal as a home bakery due to their states' laws and they are better than I am. Another friend can get legal, but her fees would be absolutely insane in her state. If the numbers fall in place, it is hard to be excited when you know your friends can't do the same simply due to the state they live in. Hopefully laws will change though. The kicker is that we may well only be here for about one more year and then, who knows. I have a lot to weigh.
I hope that you find a great deal for renting kitchen space until (fingers crossed) your laws can be changed. Thank you again for your expertise and time!
Think of the sole-owner thing this way...A corporation has a board of directors. An LLC is a type of corporation, but it's possible to have only one person on the board of directors, that would be you. So you're the sole member.
It's not the same thing as a sole proprietor classification, but the IRS lets you do your taxes on a Schedule C with a single-member LLC the same way you'd do it as a sole prop. When you put LLC behind your business name, it isn't "single member LLC", it's just LLC. Just don't even think of it as a "sole member LLC" and you'll be better off!
Thanks for your help, Costumeczar!
Another thing to looking into is if your homestead license will allow for you to wholesale your cookies to other vendors for re-sale. Sometimes that can be a no-no.
So much crap to juggle huh? When all you want to do is make cookies. My liability insurance (a 1 million dollar policy) is right around $300/year. Small change when you think of the comfort it affords you. I am also a Single Member LLC.
FromScratch - Thanks for your help! What do you mean by the 'homestead' license? Do you mean the inspection/liscensing from the state?
I just found out that the liability insurance will be $227 for a $500,000 policy or $267 for 1 million with a $250 dedectible and nobody can set foot on our property in any form, even to look at design options. I think you are right about the piece of mind. I just have to decide how much piece of mind.
Now I just have to figure out if I can even break even now that I have all of the numbers and, if I do break even, will I even earn more than $1/hour. I don't know real storefront bakeries do it - at least not a cookie shop. The cookies certainly couldn't be too highly detailed. Hmmm... maybe if I can clone myself? I guess they would have a lot of employees, but it is just little 'ol me.
Thanks for your help and I will look forward to hearing what license you are referring to. I thought I had found them all.
By the way... I LOVE your work! Your cake with the bow on top is one of my favorites and I love your cookies and other amazing works! SO beautiful!
The homestead license must be terminology from another state. I've never heard it put that way in Virginia. That's a good point about the wholesaling, though. You probably have to do some things differently if you're not the direct point of sale, so check with the Agr. Dept. if you plan on doing that.
Yes... NH calls the residential license a homestead license since it uses the home kitchen.
For an extra $40 I'd spring for million dollar policy. It's less than $2/month and it buys you a lot more coverage.
Thanks so much to the both of you! I called the Dept. of Agriculture and she said that I am fine to sell for wholesaling.
The state tax office had given the 'thumbs up' for a shop to sell my cookies, but I wouldn't have known that was something I needed to check about with the Dept. of Agriculture, so I sincerely appreciate you bringing that up.
FromScratch - you are right. I will do that. It really will increase peace of mind.
I really couldn't have figured this all out without the help of all of you! Thanks again! Now to just play with the numbers and look at feasibillity of this whole idea.
Great thread! Very informative!