Minnesota Lisenses

Business By Mabma80 Updated 28 Jul 2009 , 7:31pm by flourpowerMN

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Mabma80 Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 6:40pm
post #1 of 16

I wanted to know if anybody here lives in Minnesota and has gotten a lisense for a home-based cake business. I'm trying to find out info on it, but all I've found is for catering businesses. If anybody has any info, I would appreciate it! I have found so far, that Scott Co. and the city of Savage, doesn't require a lisense for it.

Thanks again!!! icon_biggrin.gif

15 replies
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mbelgard Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 6:56pm
post #2 of 16

Minnesota is not friendly to home bakers. This is a state where you can't bring homemade cupcakes to school for your child's birthday, everything has to be sealed from the store.

They do not liscense home kitchens, they might do seperate kitchens at the home but I'm not sure on that.

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Mabma80 Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 7:11pm
post #3 of 16

Thanks for the help. This state is so weird. I'm starting to hate it more and more.

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Mabma80 Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 7:28pm
post #4 of 16

You know, that's fine. i'll just keep it low key then.

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CoutureCake Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 8:11pm
post #5 of 16

Didn't you see the sign at the boarder: "Welcome to Minnesota: The State Where Absolutely NOTHING is Allowed!" (GL got it right!!!)

Here we are considered the same as Caterers when it comes to license as we're providing food to events of all sizes and locations here in the state. That said, we're required to have a separate kitchen from our house, that doesn't mean you can't have a kitchen that shoots off of your garage, or a separate building on your property, you just can't access it from inside and it has to have its own separate entrance from the outside and all the fun complications of everything needs to be NSF. The hard part is you've got to check with your city/township/county zoning for whether or not you can even do that. The town we moved out of won't even allow you to put a 3-compartment sink IN a house, let alone, let you have a licensed kitchen anywhere other than in a strip mall. We had a garage sale at the old place and the city sent their inspectors out to make sure people weren't selling food at their garage sales for cripes sake (and he GRILLED me because I had two stainless tables out in the garage I had picked up and was using for garage sale stuff - and they haven't been used for food since before I purchased them)

Inspections are done through the Dept. of Ag. and it's a straight forward set of rules you need to follow if you want to advertise. I.e. if you're only doing business by word of mouth (no website/business cards/shows/etc.) then you're governed under a little different food law, but you've got to watch yourself every step of the way to be sure you're following it. You can link up with another business (school, church, food business) that has an operational licensed kitchen to utilize their kitchen space but you still need your own license/inspection. The reason you're covered by the state primarily is that you aren't just baking cakes for delivery in your home town, you're likely going to be delivering them all over. You also need to be certified as a food manager (aka take the ServeSafe Exam and send your $$$ and paperwork into the state) which isn't too difficult. You need to wear hat & gloves, etc. etc. etc.

Overall it's not too difficult to go through the process OTOH, you've got to have your ducks in order. I'm in the process of rebuilding my kitchen space after my IL's business manager decided he didn't want me in the space anymore so I had basically 2 days to evacuate all of my equipment, out of business, and figure out what to do next. We ended up shutting down operations to the public (still will do cakes for family obviously) and have been buying equipment for the new space piece by piece so when the time comes for the final building loan, I've got a lot higher equity in my equipment than what I paid for it because I purchased smart (i.e. $145 for a 2yo Hobart Convection oven at auction which is valued for several thousand), and I've got exactly what I want in the space..

Most of all, the thing to remember is that the state here isn't "out to get you" if you call and want to ask a compliance officer a question, they're there to ensure that food produced in this state is produced in a sanitary environment and that you aren't doing anything to jeopardize public health. I also found my inspector to be incredibly helpful if I ever had any questions and was the first time I ever heard an inspector say "You're being a bit OVER cautious" by how my business practices were for keeping things clean. If you're looking for some good bathroom reading, check out Chapter 4626 of Minnesota Law, that's our food laws, it's only 1500 pages of reading (unless it's increased since this last legislative session), but most of it really is "common sense" when it comes to handling food from purchase through consumption (storage temps, put the eggs/meats below the veggies, etc.). Yes, some of it will scare the heck out of you, but when you delve into it, it all makes sense.

Good luck! If you have any other questions, feel free to email!

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Mabma80 Posted 16 Jun 2009 , 8:24pm
post #6 of 16

THanks CoutureCake! I did read up a little bit. And yes! I must have missed that enormus sign at entrance to this state! HAHAHA!!

Well, being as I'm in a small townhome and wont be able to convert our garage or expand the house. I'll just have to wait to move into a bigger house and see what I can do. In the meantime, I'm still gonna crank out cakes (not that i make that many).

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flourpowerMN Posted 17 Jun 2009 , 4:34am
post #7 of 16

Mamba & Couture...thanks for the info! I'm also in MN and was dismayed to find out that home kitchens weren't legal.

Mamba...sounds like you've decided to give it a go anyway and worry about the licensing when you get bigger. I'm struggling with this decision myself...do I feign ignorance or mind my p's and q's?

I'm thinking of exploring the idea of working with a locally owned restaurant to create their desserts/cakes first. It would give me the licensed kitchen I need and the oppty to make sure I know what I'm getting myself into.

Couture...how long have you been in bus?

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Mabma80 Posted 17 Jun 2009 , 4:39pm
post #8 of 16

Believe me flourpower(cute name by-the-way!) I still want to be lisensed! I just wish I had the means for it.

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mbelgard Posted 17 Jun 2009 , 6:06pm
post #9 of 16
Originally Posted by flourpowerMN

I'm struggling with this decision myself...do I feign ignorance or mind my p's and q's?

Please be aware that claiming you didn't know will not prevent you from getting fines or in other legal trouble if you are caught doing anything illegal.

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lexi55033 Posted 18 Jun 2009 , 2:51pm
post #10 of 16

I just got licensed in MN in March 2009, so fairly recently. When I was in the beginning stages of planning my business, I called the Dept. of Ag and talked to several people there. The impression that I got from one of the inspectors (at least my experience) was that they highly discourage people adding any sort of kitchen onto their homes, whether converting a garage, seperate building, basement, etc. That person basically told me that they are A LOT stricter on inspections, requirements, etc. if that is the case. He said that you are way further ahead to find a commercial kitchen to rent and be licensed out of than building a seperate one so that's what I did. It took my several months (about 6 I think) of constant phone calls and being turned down before stumbling into one that would work. How I did find my kitchen is kind of ironic. I called the state and asked them if they had a list of licensed commercial kitchens in my area. They didn't, but I got transferred to the inspector that covers my area and she was VERY nice and very helpful. She suggested a hotel in my town that has a licensed commercial kitchen that never is used. She gave me the name and phone number of the owner even. I called him and everything fell into place. Just my experience.

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Mabma80 Posted 18 Jun 2009 , 7:26pm
post #11 of 16

lexi55033- where did you end up finding a kitchen?? I live in Savage and there aren't any hotels or anything that would have a kitchen for me to rent....that I know of. I have a friend that works in catering in St.Paul and they have an extra kitchen that is 99% storage. I emailed her and am still waiting to hear something from her. She probably has to ask the owners of the building, extra. That would be AWESOME if I got good news from her! But I guess only time will tell.

Good luck!

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lexi55033 Posted 18 Jun 2009 , 7:40pm
post #12 of 16

You'd be surprised. I didn't even think this motel had a kitchen either, since there's no restaurant or anything hooked to it. I guess you'd just have to call around and ask. I think the motel that I rent from is privately owned- like a franchise maybe. I had to have my own inspection, independent of theirs and carry my own insurance, etc.

Good luck! I know how frustrating it can feel.

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CoutureCake Posted 19 Jun 2009 , 8:17pm
post #13 of 16

I think you probably were just given a "spoof" to scare you off on the remodeling stuff because we've got a bakery near here that is exactly that, if you look at the house from the street you'd never know she's a home-based bakery. She also rents out the space to other bakers when she's not in production. She never ran into any issues with the state for the project, only with the city wanting to be sure that it didn't look like a business instead of a home and with some of the zoning requirements.

The point being that state inspectors are still following the same set of requirements whether you're a big guy or a little guy, you still have the same set of rules to follow, and most of them REALLY are Common Sense for a food manager. They really don't care if you're in a posh location or a remodeled minimal separate kitchen space that's adequate to get the job done, they want to know you're following the same procedures for the safety of the end consumer. Sure, you've got to go through a water test every other year if you're on a private well, SO WHAT! It's not a big deal, you'd have to do that if you were a catering business out in the sticks. There isn't a separate set of rules, or forcing you to adhere to them more or less depending on where you're at. That factored in, some inspectors are tougher with than others. Yes, they're required to find SOME THING to put down on their paperwork for you to change, and if you accept that going in, it makes the process a lot quicker. As a kid growing up, we always joked that "what will it be this year?" because one year we had to put a spring on the bathroom door, the next we had to paint the ceiling, one year we had to switch lightbulbs, yada yada yada.. In order to be recognized that they are in fact doing their job, they have to put something down on the paperwork even if the kitchen is spotless when in production. If you're easy to deal with as an inspectee, they're usually more amiable to deal with as an inspector, of course being easy to deal with simply means, only speak when spoken to and only ask intelligent questions. Inspectors also like it when you are in production and make them work to find something and it puts you in a better class with them (and yes, inspectors are even a source for word of mouth recommendations because they aren't afraid to say where they would/wouldn't do business when talking with friends)

OTOH, just a word of caution, there are people whose job (at the state) it is to stroll for people operating illegally and THEY DO call/show up!! I've gotten these phone calls and experience shows how to sniff them out. You're posting "I'm going to still make my cakes even if I'm illegal, and not change what I do", puts you at risk because this is a public forum and there are people who will turn you in. I've been around for a while and have had non-licensed friends who have had this happen (I didn't call them in, so nobody jump on me). Granted, it doesn't bother me a bit when I get the calls, heck, even my inspector calls me once a year to see if I'm ready for her to come back out 'cause I was one of her tougher inspections because I made her work to find something to fix for once. There's nothing to fear if you aren't doing anything wrong, if you're sticking your neck out in a public forum/website/advertising/business cards/etc., be careful that you're following the letter of the law, ESPECIALLY here in MN!!!

If you don't like what we've got, start calling your legislators and they'll be sure to add more beurocratic red tape to have to sift through to make it even more difficult to be a businessperson in this state...

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Mabma80 Posted 19 Jun 2009 , 9:57pm
post #14 of 16

You know, my teacher that teaches the Wilton classes has a website. She told me that she called the evil Dept. of whatever, and they told her that she can't sell over a certain amount of cakes. I don't know if it's a month or what. But then that way she can have a "business" at home. She has prices up and everything on her website. She's really good.

I wish everytime someone calls "them" that they would all give the same ansewers. It's very annoying. They even contredict the websites info.

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CoutureCake Posted 19 Jun 2009 , 10:26pm
post #15 of 16
Originally Posted by Mabma80

I wish everytime someone calls "them" that they would all give the same ansewers. It's very annoying. They even contredict the websites info.

While I agree that this is intensely annoying, the thing is, your teacher was given the wrong info if push came to shove according to food codes for the DOA (i.e. someone calls DOA to report an outbreak of e.coli and all of the guests that got sick ate a custard filling that wasn't made with pasteurized eggs and undercooked, state does investigation, baker wasn't licensed, guess who's SOL, yes, it's an extreme example, but the point is ignorance of the law doesn't get you off the hook), advertizing w/o a license is still considered advertising which is prohibited here, you can have a gallery website with approximately what a cake is worth (OSSAS cake you designed "is worth ~$15/slice" type thing), you just can't be SELLING said cake actively on the site (i.e. "Sheet cakes are $20 delivered and I need a week or more notice" - why people do this I'll never know...). There isn't a "dollar amount" that a person has to be above or below to be required to have the license, churches aren't charging for soup kitchens but they need to have the license all the same even though their income is technically "$0". That's also why the DOA has a pricing structure for the different levels of sales in the license structure, it's not just one license fee, it's all dependent on what you earn.

That's the other beauty of MN State Laws... For each law there is an equal and opposite loophole, you've just got to know where to look. OTOH, some things don't have loopholes and the advertising is one of them.

There's a saying "Trust: But VERIFY!!!" The compliance officers will be more than happy to explain those distinctions and it's easy to get confused on them!!!

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flourpowerMN Posted 28 Jul 2009 , 7:31pm
post #16 of 16

I just spoke to my local DofAg rep today and she told me that as long as I was only doing cakes on a word-of-mouth basis and NOT advertising then I was exempt from having a license (and can also charge $$). It seems that "advertising" is the tipping point when it comes to needing a license or not (besides the type of food you make).

She also let me know that in the case of doing this as a business, getting a commercial license isn't as scary as it seems (as Couture has pointed out earlier). I asked her some questions about my local church's kitchen and I think it might be a possibility. The only concern I have is refrigerator space & if the current 2 standard refrigerators will pass muster.

Bonus? My husband's food manager license will meet the requirement as long as he is involved in the business. Woot! But, I will still take the classes and get my own license...just nice not to have to do that RIGHT now.

Off to the KitchenAid website to see if my model of mixer is NSF approved...

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