Starting Out In Virginia .. A Little Scared, A Little Excited.

Business By bandofbirdies

bandofbirdies Posted 16 Jun 2014 , 7:39pm
post #1 of 1

I began cake decorating and candy making in fall 2012. I've taken the Wilton classes twice now (just for fun), and regularly make cakes just for practice or for someone's parties that I've given away.  More times than I can count on my hands, I’ve been told by recipients of my baked goods that I should do this as a part time thing and sell my cakes, and that they are extremely well made. I've never truly, deeply considered it, mostly out of fear, until this month. Now ... I think I may want to do this for real.


However, I’m just completely afraid of jumping into the unknown. I’ve been doing my due diligence but am concerned about things I may not be thinking about, or that this is a bigger endeavor than I am ready for.

I live in northern Virginia. I’ve talked to the Department of Agriculture, requesting their basic packet to ensure I’m in compliance with their rules. I know I cannot pass the inspection – my home is built with an “open” kitchen, I do not have a dual basin sink, and I do not have a sanitizing dishwasher. However, I already keep all of my baking equipment and ingredients in separate cabinets in my home, plan to buy extra equipment to help me sanitize to a more commercialized standard, and have even discussed with my boyfriend buying some curtains which we can put up/remove from the kitchen ceiling when I’m baking to help keep dust etc from circulating during the baking process.


I plan to sell my baked goods under the Cottage Food rules with labeling. I’ve read every PDF, online thread, and website I can get my hands on whether it pertains to Virginia or not. Even though CFL in Virginia labels only require the “not for resale/no state inspection” disclaimer along with the name of the product, my name, address and phone number, I intend to include an allergens disclaimer, and may still include ingredients (probably a small summary of ingredients rather than all sub ingredients though. Undecided on this).


At this point, I’ve checked my lease and talked to my landlords (okayed it) the zoning department (who said I should qualify) and have printed off the paperwork needed for the business license. I also have a list of other things I need to do (such as LLC, federal ID, business bank accounts, etc.)  I found reasonable liability insurance pricing through FLIP but plan to also call The Hartford to see if they have a better program. I’ve compiled a list of startup things I need (like a printer for labels, finding affordable boxes, and where I may be able to buy ingredients in bulk.)


I’ve begun researching ingredients to make sure that I’d only be preparing non-PHF icing and cakes, and since I’m worried and don’t want to make anyone sick, I will probably buy restaurant grade PH strips and test any icing I feel even a little uncomfortable about. I’ve been working on a list of what I’d sell, what type of flavors or icing designs might set me apart from competitors in my area, compiling how much ingredients would cost so I can create a comprehensive pricing guide, and am meeting with my accountant this week to talk about tax ramifications. I’m meeting with my Wilton teacher next week to discuss anything else I haven’t thought of.  I’ve spoken with family of my intent and we’ve preliminary outlined ideas for a tasting party for the launch (if it happens).


 I want to operate on the business model of 1) recouping ingredients 2) a base hourly rate for the work 3) any profit on top, but looking at local pricing and just calculating stuff up, it seems anything less than $3 per cupcake would have me working below minimum wage and just sort of scraping by. I figured (as an extremely loose pricing model), I’d sell a basic set of cupcakes for $3 with two icing design choices, $3.25 or $3.50 for seasonal or more “gourmet” styled cupcakes, and between $3.50-$4.25 for cupcakes with color gradients and intricate icing designs. I think anything fondant (aside from a very tiny flower or something) would be $4.50 and up. I haven’t tackled cake pricing yet. Wedding cakes and any baked goods for catered parties are out unless they’re held at a private home or location where I don’t need a caterer license/state inspection. I do not plan on doing any copyrighted designs.


At the end of the day though, no matter how much due diligence I’ve done, I feel terrified. I am worried I will fail, and I've never done anything so adventurous in my life. I don’t want people to dislike my product, or prep and dive all in and then find that maybe I can't even break even on basic necessities such as my insurance and yearly licensing fees.  Is this fear normal? Is there something else I’m forgetting about, or something I should consider? Even with all the risks, have you found it worth it and enjoyable?


Thanks for listening to me! I've been living and breathing this for days!

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