I need serious help on trying to start a legit cake business.
I starting baking and designing custom cakes for family members for fun. And to my surprise, I'm really great at it and have been getting a lot of requests for cakes. It started at first from family, then friends, now I have request from friends of friends. I'm getting several requests a month now. My newest request is a large cake for a major event (I'm so excited).
But I'm concerned with getting in trouble since I'm not a legit business. I live in Westchester County, N.Y. and am trying to get some information about what exactly I need to become a legit cake business. I know the whole thing about incorporating, but don't know anything about permits or what is required from the board of health. I have tried calling and all I seem to get are voicemails and automated systems. In reality I have no idea where to even begin or what to do.
PLEASE HELP!!! I have no idea where to begin!!!!
I don't think NY has a cottage law, so you are not supposed to be working out of your house (I think you already knew that). First you need a business license (either thru your city, county or state. You should be able to Google this). You need liability insurance, start with who insures your car. And you need to tour and get signed up at a commercial kitchen ASAP. Try googling for them, if that does not work call your local health department. They can give you a list or point you in the right direction.
I'm in Onondaga County ( NY ) and I know the rules vary by county but I had a LONG talk with the inspector from the Dept. of Agriculture in my area yesterday.
You can apply for Home Processor certification , but as a home processor they make it nearly impossible to sell cakes.
If you have a retail establishment that is willing to enter into a contract with you to purchase your cakes for resale , you can market them through that business. That retail business doesn't have to be " food" but, if they agree to be the " sellers" of your cakes they will be subject to inspection and certification by the health dept. and dept of ag..
You can sell direct to customers at a farm market, BUT, the transaction must take place at the market, no deliveries.
Once you have a contract either from the farm market or an establishment willing to sell yoru cakes the you can contact the Dept. of Agriculture and set up your inspection.
They make it VERY difficult here in NY unless you plan on setting up a commercial kitchen and making it a full time gig.
I JUST got off the phone with the Dept of Agriculture in Monroe County and was informed that the Home Processor registration is not for cake businesses at all. Apparently cakes should not even be listed on the description for this registration. It is only for cookies and breads and sweets sold at a farmers market. He told me to contact the Department of Health, though I believe this will end with them telling me I need to build a commercial kitchen off of my home if I want to make cakes in my home and be licensed to sell them at reception halls or any other venue outside of private homes or public parks. I will update once I contact them.
I JUST got off the phone with the Dept of Agriculture in Monroe County and was informed that the Home Processor registration is not for cake businesses at all. Apparently cakes should not even be listed on the description for this registration.
That doesn't make much sense to me, fact is that the Home Processor regulation is at the state level and does specifically mention cakes. The county official is free to give you his opinion, but that doesn't change what state law says.
You would still only be able to sell wholesale, but it may be easier to find a retail partner like a coffee shop than build a commercial kitchen on your proprety. The other option is to find a commercial kitchen for rent in your area.
Sorry. I meant the New York State Dept of Agriculture.
Sorry. I meant the New York State Dept of Agriculture.
Still doesn't override the letter of the law, until NYS removes "cakes" from the home processor regulation you can still legally sell cakes as a home processor as long as you meet the other requirements.
Unless this is an error in the description on the web site, for some reason I can't locate the actual text of the home processor regulation itself in NY AGM code.
Jason is correct, as the law states, you can do cakes in NYS under home processor. You just have to market them in the ways they have specified.
You can sell through a farm market or to a retail establishment (that is inspected and certified by the health dept.) , for resale.
The only thing you cannot do as a home processor is sell directly to the consumer ( outside of the farm market ) .
If you can find an allowable outlet, you can do cakes from home. They just make it VERY difficult.
..and it is difficult to get the correct info in this state for some reason. I had spoke with someone in Albany who told me no cakes from home kitchens, no way, no how.
I spoke with someone on the local level with the health dept. and was told I could, but I had to have a separate kitchen with commercial equipment, and I could apply for a bakers license. A baker's license would allow me to bake and sell direct to the end consumer from home, BUT I would not be allowed to post any 'bakery' signage .
Then she referred me to the dept. of Ag. who deals with the home processors and got the final story.
Very confusing...but it can be done.
The NY Home Processor permit allows for the production of nonhazardous cakes ( no cakes with fruit or custard fillings; or dairy, since those need refrigeration). And sales are restricted as per other posters. So the biggest drawback is for cakers who do custom cakes.
Jason is absolutely right, the available info is limited and often written in mangled grammar.
Thank you everyone for your input. Every level of government seems to be giving me conflicting information. I do have to say, I have become discouraged by all of this.
I began looking into renting a commercial kitchen, but the cheapest I have been able to find is $180 for 4 hours. Is that a lot? I imagine it is because how would I work that into the price of the cake. I can't charge $300+ for every cake I do (I wish I could ) but not every cake is worth it.
I began looking into renting a commercial kitchen, but the cheapest I have been able to find is $180 for 4 hours. Is that a lot? I imagine it is because how would I work that into the price of the cake.
That is pretty high, rents are usually in the $15-30/range. If there are vacancies at the kitchen you may be able to negotiate a lower price, especially if you prepay. Based on your business plan you should have a good idea of how much you can pay per hour and still make a decent wage and profit.
Forty-five dollars per hour is far too much, even for the greater NYC area. You may want to call back and see if there's been a mistake. You can also try businesses (restaurants, delis, bars, etc) that would love to rent their kitchen when it's not in use. Good luck.