Trying To Open My Business - Failure After Failure :(

Business By JoyRide Updated 6 Feb 2010 , 8:02pm by JoyRide

JoyRide Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 12:57am
post #1 of 12

So I am attempting to open a cupcake truck business, much like Buttercream Philadelphia, Cupcake Stop, etc, except on a smaller scale. I'm in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Back in October when I was in early planning stages, I went and looked at a licensed, commercial kitchen in a local community center. Super nice place, guy was going to let me rent for a decent price. Fast forward to January when I go to apply for my business license and start the whole process - city planning board said no, because that center is zoned industrial and not commercial. Ok.

So I find a little lunch place that is going to let me rent evenings, go back to city hall and the planning board approves it. After calling the health department for a week, a rep finally returned my call today and said that I would not be allowed to rent from there either, and that sharing of kitchens were not allowed and then gave me a list of reasons. I was floored, because back in September I was told this was allowed by a state food safety representative. The health department guy today said that I could rent from a church kitchen as long as it wasn't being used by a daycare and met the minimum requirements, but before when I asked the planning board rep about renting from a church, he said that it'd also have to be zoned commercial and not in a residential area.

I am looking to rent kitchen space 10 hours a week max, it shouldn't be this diffcult. All of this is really disappointing. Thank God I haven't invested in a truck yet. I wanted to start out small and not even look at opening a storefront or anything like that yet, that is not an option right now. I've used a lot of vacation time at my job running around all these places looking for kitchens and sitting in waiting rooms at city hall. So frustrating!

I am going to look into the church thing. Does anyone have any suggesions? Or sympathy? I'll take what I can get, lol.

11 replies
Rose_N_Crantz Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:10am
post #2 of 12

I can offer sympathy. Sorry, that sounds so frustrating! I'm in Minnesota where they won't let me sell product from my home, it has to be from a commercial kitchen as well. My family keeps telling me to go for it anyways and try to start a business. I'm of the mind that if I'm going to do this, I should do it the right way (plus I'm doing a bible study at church right now about the book of Romans and we just covered chapter 13 about submitting to our government authorities!). And when I start researching and looking up costs and what not I start to get so overwhelmed!

I wish you the best and I hope everything works out for you!

MACakes Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:20am
post #3 of 12

Such a shame that you are getting the run around. Do you have a small business center in your area that can help you with the regulations and give you tips and advise on the best way to start this venture? I attended a small business course in our city and found out alot of information on how to get started. They also offered ongoing support.

If not perhaps the health board and city hall can give you some guidelines in writing so you can show them how they contradict each other and maybe get some straight answers.

If you really want this, keep your chin up and go for it. Good Luck! icon_smile.gif

dsilbern Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:43am
post #4 of 12

Do you know anyone who works for the town administration? Friend, relative, etc. Sometimes having an in can cut thru the red tape or at least get some detailed advice on how to proceed. I joined a local political club for a few months when I first bought my townhouse. Although I don't have time for the club since my daughter was born, one of the members has become our mayor. Nice to be on a first name basis if I need anything. icon_cool.gif

pattycakesnj Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:50am
post #5 of 12

Don't give up, get everything in writing, keep track of who says what and keep at it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

CakeForte Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:54am
post #6 of 12

Yeah..look for it in writing where it says you can't share commercial kitchen space. It will be in your local codes/ ordinances, etc. Keep trying!

sweetcakes Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 1:19pm
post #7 of 12

I agree with cakeforte. Find the states regulations regarding food establishments, arm yourself with all the regulations so when the HD guy tells you no you can then refer to page such and such paragraph 3, 4.1 and say but it says here. Read it and highlight everything that will affect you. dont give up, but get armed with the regs.

btrsktch Posted 4 Feb 2010 , 9:23pm
post #8 of 12

Well, if you can't get straight through, then go around...

One thing I can assure you that it will take you more than 10 hours a week to bake and assemble large quantities of cupcakes. Especially if you plan to offer different flavors and icing combinations and you are limited to the size of a non-production mixer.

Why don't you look into getting just a Traders License and have another place bake the cupcakes for you to sell from your truck?

I own a cupcake shop and I'd bake for someone who wants to sell from a truck. Even their own recipies ~ its no big deal for me to use a different recipe. I'd charge you a flat rate per cupcake and you tell me the quantity you want to make each day and come by and pick them up before your run each morning. Kind of like a wholesaler arrangement. Of course, you'd have to eat the cost of what you don't sell each day.

Good Luck

JoyRide Posted 6 Feb 2010 , 1:38pm
post #9 of 12

I went to the health department and picked up the guidelines. It doesn't state anywhere that the kitchens can't be shared... but the guy basically told me he wouldn't approve it. I'm still searching, not giving up!

It seems Alabama has pretty strict guidelines in comparison to the ones I've read people talk about here. I can't share a kitchen with a caterer, but I could walk right into Wal Mart and buy a shotgun no questions asked, LOL! Way to go, Alabama!

Motta Posted 6 Feb 2010 , 3:18pm
post #10 of 12

I can tell you that I've been there and done that! When I wanted to put a kitchen in my basement (just for commercial use) I decided to meet with city hall permit person rather than mail it in. Good thing I did b/c they wouldn't approve it although there was no written restriction in the bylaws. I was in shock.

Then I got the health inspector to call them on my behalf b/c I had been in touch with him for months and we kinda knew each other now. He had told me about a few home kitchens in basements in our county and he knew what I was planning and found no problem with it. His phone call really helped and they reversed their position. However, they put a condition on it stating I had to pay $1000 as a deposit. Those crooks!!!

It truly seems that one hand doesn't know what the other is doing at city hall. I agree with the others, get names, write down what they say, date/time, all details. Then read the ordinances and bylaws for yourself and fight for what is allowed for you. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, for sure.


Good luck!

Sassy74 Posted 6 Feb 2010 , 4:26pm
post #11 of 12

Hey, Joy Ride! I'm sorry I have nothing to contribute to solving your dilemma...I just wanted to say "HELLO" to a fellow Tuscaloosan! I grew up in Tuscaloosa, but moved away 6 years ago to the New Orleans area. I've said FOR YEARS how badly I wished there was a really good cake/cupcake source in T'town. Since Mary's closed several years ago, there's been nothing! It sounds like a lot of hassle, but I do hope the best for you. Keep plugging away! And, by the way, eat a big sack of Taco Casa tacos for me!!!

JoyRide Posted 6 Feb 2010 , 8:02pm
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sassy74

Hey, Joy Ride! I'm sorry I have nothing to contribute to solving your dilemma...I just wanted to say "HELLO" to a fellow Tuscaloosan! I grew up in Tuscaloosa, but moved away 6 years ago to the New Orleans area. I've said FOR YEARS how badly I wished there was a really good cake/cupcake source in T'town. Since Mary's closed several years ago, there's been nothing! It sounds like a lot of hassle, but I do hope the best for you. Keep plugging away! And, by the way, eat a big sack of Taco Casa tacos for me!!!




Heyyyy!!! Ahh! I definitely didn't think I'd run into anyone from Tuscaloosa here! Tuscaloosa needs a good cupcake place, you're right! I think there is so much potential for a place like that in this city! Hoping I can work things out really soon!

I can defintely hit Taco Casa in your honor, ha! I was there yesterday. The best!

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