Will I Get In Trouble For Having A Website? Please Help!

Business By ibakebyjks Updated 22 Jun 2009 , 6:51pm by Dizzymaiden

ibakebyjks Posted 24 May 2009 , 11:04am
post #1 of 48

I have been making cakes for friends and family for free until recently, I started to taking orders from friends. One of the friends keeps bugging me to have a website so her friends can visit the website should any of them decide to order a cake. My concern is, who is monitoring the website? would the Health Department come knock on my door and ask to see my kitchen or any paper work? BTW, I live in Texas.

47 replies
grama_j Posted 24 May 2009 , 11:49am
post #2 of 48

You won't get into trouble unless some NASTY person turns you in...... and then PROBABLY the worst that could happen is that they would tell you to quit your "business".......

Lita829 Posted 24 May 2009 , 11:55am
post #3 of 48

That is a really good question. I was wondering the same thing, being that I am in the same boat that you are in except I live in Pennsylvania. Thanks for starting the tread, Ibakebyjks thumbs_up.gif

That's another reason why I love this website...talking with like-minded people who have many of the same concerns and questions that I have. Any input for fellow CCers wound be greatly appreciated.

-K8memphis Posted 24 May 2009 , 1:09pm
post #4 of 48

We had a big mess here in Memphis that I've mentioned here before--four cake buddies got turned in by some other mean cakers. They turned in their own family in one case--can you possibly imagine that? Anyhow--I have had a website for a long time. I do not sell cakes to the public. No worries.

ibakebyjks Posted 24 May 2009 , 1:12pm
post #5 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by grama_j

You won't get into trouble unless some NASTY person turns you in...... and then PROBABLY the worst that could happen is that they would tell you to quit your "business".......




Thanks grama_j. you got my greatest worry. I've been thinking about starting the business slowly so I would have something to do after I retired from nursing, I'm thinking it twice now. Thanks again for your support.

Kitagrl Posted 24 May 2009 , 1:13pm
post #6 of 48

I had a website several years before becoming licensed....it was nice because the website had already worked its way up in Google and other search engines so when I did get licensed, I was already more established on the 'net than if I made a new site.

indydebi Posted 24 May 2009 , 1:52pm
post #7 of 48

It's a gamble. I have a caterer friend who was working out of her home. Her website had been up for 30 days. Health Dept came knocking on her door and shut her down. HD said their boss had told them to scour the internet and shut down the home caterers/bakers.

My friend was very lucky and found a church kitchen to work out of, so she said it was a blessing in disguise for her.

Flickr is a site designed for photographers to display their work. It's free up to a certain capacity (I had over 200 pics before I had to pay the $25/year).

ibakebyjks Posted 24 May 2009 , 1:52pm
post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

I had a website several years before becoming licensed....it was nice because the website had already worked its way up in Google and other search engines so when I did get licensed, I was already more established on the 'net than if I made a new site.


Lita829 was right, this is a place where we as cake decorators can really speak up freely. I feel much better now to post cake photo on the web. I'll keep in mind not to sell cakes to the publics. Speaking of license, is it for business or cake decorator? icon_redface.gif

ddaigle Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:04pm
post #9 of 48

Two people I would not want knocking at my door is the Health Department and the IRS. I agree with IndyDebi.....Flickr is a great free option to showcase your cakes rather than a "website". Still, just making cakes for friends and family does not guarantee your cousin's "friend" calling the authorities. It's a risk you need to decide you are willing to take.

whisperingmadcow Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:08pm
post #10 of 48

I think it might depend on what is on your web site. I personally am going to sign up for flickr because I think there is nothing wrong with showing pictures of cakes. I think once you start trying to sale from the web site is when you open yourself up for trouble.

As a side note, has anyone ever heard of someone being fined for running out of their homes? I am not saying its right or wrong, but from everyone I have talked to, they just shut you down. I know the threat is there but...has anyone personally ever been fined?

yamber82 Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:11pm
post #11 of 48

i live in texas too and hav been wondering about that. i have read some other posts and what i have got so far is that it's usually the competition that would turn you in, no one else really seems to care. so like if you have lots of bakeries inyour area that would lose business over you than it might be an issue. as far as advertising etc, i make cakes as a "hobby" and receive "donations" lol. you can word it howver you want. you can't legally sell something you make in your house, but you can charge for delivering it so you could say the cake id free butit's 200 for delivery, haha. seriously that's what i've had suggested to me several times

350BakerStreet Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:20pm
post #12 of 48

Just don't post your address on your website icon_wink.gif

indydebi Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:25pm
post #13 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by 350BakerStreet

Just don't post your address on your website icon_wink.gif


No address is a red flag that it's a home baker. A "legit" business WANTS people to know where they are.

I saw one website with no address, so being curious, I looked up her phone number on www.switchboard.com. She had used her home phone number, so I found her address, map-searched it, using the aerial shots, and found her "business" located in a nice suburban cul-de-sac.

If I can do it, so can the health dept.

350BakerStreet Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:28pm
post #14 of 48

Hummm...never thought of that. I guess I'm gonna be in trouble. I don't have a house phone though, just cell phones and a separate line just for my biz. Thanks for the insight!

learnincakes Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:32pm
post #15 of 48

I have a licensed kitchen to use at a club. It is my HD department address, but my home will be my business address. I will not advertise the kitchen address. I will be doing my tastings at our community clubhouse. I will not put any address on my website or cards. I have talked with the HD at length and they say it is fine. Pretty nice people, you might want to give them a call and ask for information. They will tell you everything you need to know. At least in my county they did.

TBallad Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:32pm
post #16 of 48

You could always get a P.O. box at the UPS store or something similar. I did that for my cloth diaper business and was able to put down the address, and "Suite 306." That way it appears to be a physical address, not a P.O. box. I don't remember what it cost, but it wasn't terribly expensive.

Mac Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:43pm
post #17 of 48

whisperingmadcow--
YES, I was fined for working out of my house. And it was the first time--no warning, no notice, FINED!!!. No one turned me in. Someone from the HD saw my cookies at an event and the whole thing steam-rolled from there.

The HD scours the websites looking for home bakers. Do not think they have better things to do. They make money when they do this.

Handing out business cards also opens you up to the HD. Just let one of them end in their hands and there ya go.

There is a whole other thread on this as people think they would just be asked to stop. Some are but others aren't. Just depends on your HD rep. I had a friend that was doing out of her home (she lives outside city limits). She came home one day and there was a card from the State inspector. Don't chance it...been there!

learnincakes Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:47pm
post #18 of 48

How much was your fine?

Mac Posted 24 May 2009 , 2:57pm
post #19 of 48

In my area--1st offense was $350.00
2nd offense--about $700
3rd offense--$1500 and possible jail time.

So the amount that I made on cookies for that event--yep! Went to the fine!

And once, you are caught...they watch you even closer.

Another friend who was fined said that occasionally she would see someone sitting in a vehicle that was not familiar to her or the neighborhood. A neighbor went up to ask what they wanted (they have a neighborhood crime watch group), and the man had a clipboard which he quickly put down. Told the lady he was just looking up some info and then left. Once you are fined, then you are constantly looking over your shoulder.

learnincakes Posted 24 May 2009 , 3:03pm
post #20 of 48

Once you are fined, why would you continue? Duh. It does not cost that much to get your license. I found it pretty easy to find a kitchen. A couple of phone calls, thats all. The actual license is only $200. where I live. The kitchen space is minimal cost and no commitment. I use it when I need, they only use it 2 times a week.

indydebi Posted 24 May 2009 , 3:08pm
post #21 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by learnincakes

Once you are fined, why would you continue? Duh. It does not cost that much to get your license. I found it pretty easy to find a kitchen. A couple of phone calls, thats all. The actual license is only $200. where I live. The kitchen space is minimal cost and no commitment. I use it when I need, they only use it 2 times a week.




For the new folks on this site, please don't make it sound like you can just look up "kitchens for rent" in the yellow pages and start a business tomorrow. While some are very fortunate to be able to find a facility to work out of, most don't have $25,000 to $50,000 to buy the required equipment and space needed to run a legal kitchen.

Some are fortunate to be able to do what you did .... most struggle with the cost and financing.

learnincakes Posted 24 May 2009 , 3:23pm
post #22 of 48

Well, I just talked to a few people and made a couple of phone calls. That was my experience. And I thought we were sharing experiences here. That was my experience. I did qualify my statement with "where I live". And I think it is clear that I don't have a store front. Which I imagine would cost quite a bit. I personally do not want to own a store front. To old to work that hard, what I do, I do because I enjoy making cakes and if I can make a few dollars doing it even better. Maybe just maybe someone else can call a club like the Knights of Columbus or something and use their kitchen or even their church. There are lots of ways to do this. Just tossing some ideas out there for people just getting started. We all start somewhere. Fortunately, I was able to find what I needed relatively easy.

kelleym Posted 24 May 2009 , 3:38pm
post #23 of 48

There is nothing illegal about having a web site. I am not currently selling cakes, but I still keep my web site up. There is no mention of prices or ordering. It's just a showcase for pictures.

In Texas right now you need to be especially careful if you are selling but not licensed. There are some people out there actively turning in home bakers to the HD or sending inquiries pretending to be customers.

-K8memphis Posted 24 May 2009 , 4:17pm
post #24 of 48

Being safe means being smart--don't sell if you're not legal. But you can have a website.

yamber82 Posted 24 May 2009 , 5:52pm
post #25 of 48

is it possible to make you home kitchen legal to use for that type of thing? does it have to be in a specific buiulding or can i just buy commercial equipment and install it in my own kitchen?

indydebi Posted 24 May 2009 , 6:05pm
post #26 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by yamber82

is it possible to make you home kitchen legal to use for that type of thing? does it have to be in a specific buiulding or can i just buy commercial equipment and install it in my own kitchen?




Depends on your state laws. Contact your health dept to find out how it works in your area.

cylstrial Posted 24 May 2009 , 6:08pm
post #27 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by yamber82

is it possible to make you home kitchen legal to use for that type of thing? does it have to be in a specific buiulding or can i just buy commercial equipment and install it in my own kitchen?




Yamber - the laws for home kitchen's differ state to state. Some states do not allow home kitchens unless they are separate from the house. Some will let you bake out of your own kitchen, but you can't make anything that would need to refrigerated.

This link should help you figure out what you can do in your state. Just go and download the info in the first post.
http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-586218.html

Hope this helps!

goldenegg Posted 24 May 2009 , 6:20pm
post #28 of 48

As for the website if you wanna play it safe and still have a site then just showcase what you do on the site and don't mention anything about selling em, no contact info etc, or if that's your means of marketing yourself then go for it but realize and accept the risk. Honestly the first offense doesn't seem all that bad (to me no jail time and under $500 fine = worth the risk overall if you get a lot of orders), except being red flagged, then just lay low. You don't really have to advertise in the traditional sense, i.e. biz cards, website, etc. that you "sell" cakes, when peeps see your portfolio they'll already assume you do.

As far as entrapment performed by the HD, is that even legal? I've never heard of it being done like that I always assumed they were tipped off. Do they not need to have proof of an actual transaction for a cake? If they're hiring peeps to scour the net all day I'll put my resume in. icon_lol.gif You know if you think about it, since our tax dollars pay their salary, home bakers are paying the HD to bust themselves. ouch.

yamber82, I like the idea of free cake with extreme delivery charge, there's always a loop hole in any law and that sounds like a loop hole to me icon_biggrin.gif I feel for all the home bakers that are just trying to get going and can't because of their financial situation or what have you, esp Texas home bakers because our bill to make this legal died before it's second reading due to a few time wasting representatives in this session.

<rant>Take this for what it is, it's not directed at anyone in particular and no offense intended but store owners that make it a point to "rat out" their home baker competition really annoy the crap outa me. There's plenty of people out there who want cake and enough orders to keep everyone in business where I live (obviously may not be the case for others). There's really no need for anyone to play dirty and rat home bakers out for fear of losing business unless they're not confident in their own talent and/or prices . If it's about how much home bakers charge vs store owners, well aren't the prices jacked up a little higher because of the overhead that the store owner decided they wanted to take on when they signed their name on the dotted line? From what I've seen even if you are the highest priced caker in town it's not exactly the most lucrative career path, but the pride of having your own thing and doing what you love for a living should make up for that, right? It's like they're hating on home bakers because of the choices they made themselves. My point is everyone makes their own choices and everyone has to deal with the consequences of those choices whether you own a store or not, whether you're legal or not, but I really wish store owners would stop hating on folks that don't take the same path as them. Times have changed and so has the typical American Dream of running your own business, working from home is the norm now, w00t! They should realize as with anything when you shut someone down five more will pop up in its place, you gonna spend the rest of your life bounty hunting cakers? or you gonna focus on your own business and watch it flourish? It's like a horse during a race, keep your blinders on and stay focused on yourself and your path or you may just lose the race. </rant>

Eventually home baking will become legal in every state, there's not much reason why that wouldn't happen, then what? We're all just squirrels tryin to get a nut icon_lol.gificon_biggrin.gif that must've hit a nerve w/ me, sorry its so long! (and maybe a little off the original subject) icon_lol.gif

panchanewjersey Posted 24 May 2009 , 6:26pm
post #29 of 48

Why don't you have a cake blog instead. You can put your cake pics there and that way people can see your stuff. I did mine for that reason too. And it works because people see your work and you can mention on your blog that this is a hobby and you do it for friends and family. I do...because I do, do it for people I know only! Everyones right, all it takes is for a mean baker to tattle on you.

Lita829 Posted 24 May 2009 , 6:27pm
post #30 of 48

Thanks EVERYONE for all the info. Its worth its weight in gold. I need to become licensed since I want to make baking and decorating a source of income. Thanks for the link cylstrial..I needed that info. icon_smile.gif

I agree...yambers "extreme" delivery charge for a "free cake" is a way of getting around things and still do business (for those of us who are still very small or just starting to market and sell our cakes. thumbs_up.gif

Flickr also seems like a great option for those who aren't licensed but don't want to risk the creating a website.

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