Archive for July, 2013

Going Pro?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

What you should know about starting a home-based food business Story today in The Poughkeepsie Journal

Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business

Home Baking for Profit

The Faux Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Shared Use Kitchens and Profitability

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Cottage food laws across the U.S. have enabled many people to become food entrepreneurs with only a small up-front cost. Sometimes, however, using one’s own kitchen is not feasible. In those cases, it’s necessary to find a commercial kitchen.

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Culinary incubators (kitchen incubators) were originally created to help small food businesses become viable operations. Because these shared use kitchens were subsidized by non-profit organizations or state-funded programs, their rates were very low. It made for affordable entry into new business ownership.

But over the years as food has become trendy, for-profit businesses have sprung up to fill the need for more shared use kitchens. The cost of renting these kitchens has become cost prohibitive.

Rates vary from $15 per hour (unusual) to $60 per hour, with the average rate of $35. In addition to their hourly rental fee, other costs are involved. There may be a minimum usage fee plus surcharges such as for cleaning, use of separate storage, water usage, garbage disposal, equipment rental, etc. And don’t forget that the new business also must pay for their commercial license, have insurance, and cover the cost of ingredients and packaging.

Rental fees may not be a problem if someone has a high-end catering business. But for a new food entrepreneur with limited capital and the need to create an income, it makes their business unsustainable.

If you need to find a commercial kitchen space, do the math. Think realistically about how much time is needed to start and finish your product, then multiply the number of production hours times the hourly rate and add in the surcharges. Think about how much product must be sold to cover the costs of ingredients, packaging, insurance, and rent. Is there any left to pay for your time?

Before the widespread availability of these for-profit kitchens, I’d suggested that new entrepreneurs find a shared use kitchen; but no longer, because these kitchens have become quite expensive. I now recommend looking around your community for places that have commercial kitchens: social service agencies (VFW, Knights of Columbus, etc), fire halls, schools, churches, restaurants, delis, pizza shops, coffee shops, bars, etc. Renting these kitchens can be as little as $8 per hour and many of these organizations or businesses will consider a trade – you leave them cakes or brownies, and you get to use their kitchen. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

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Baking Powder, FYI

Friday, July 26th, 2013

My favorite chocolate cake!

I was in the kitchen last week making a chocolate cake. I’d already mixed the batter when I looked over at the can of baking powder. I haven’t been baking as much lately, so it occurred to me that it might be old.

“How old is this?” I thought, turning the can over to see the expiration date.

Darn it, ten months out of date. I assumed that it had lost leavening power (isn’t that what they say?) so I added an extra teaspoon to the 2 teaspoons already in the batter. When the cake finished baking, I was quite surprised.

See those cracks along the top creating a domed appearance?

Usually this cake is flat so I knew there was too much leavener. Apparently, the baking powder was still active. I leveled the top and the scraps were delicious. They had a smooth and fudgy flavor with no off notes to indicate there was too much leavener. Now I have two things to ponder: (1) expiration dates for leaveners and (2) the number of other baking myths waiting to be discovered.

Still my favorite chocolate cake!

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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No One Ever Plans to Fail

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

We’ve all heard the statistics: an extraordinarily high number of food businesses fail within the first year. There are the usual reasons – no business plan, under-capitalized, lack of business knowledge, not managing or focusing brand identity, no perseverance, no follow-up, no margin for error, the list goes on.

There are also a few contributing factors that never seem to be addressed. These have to do with the personality of the business owner: Lack of common sense, lack of energy, lack of support with good business advice, and inability to accept constructive criticism.

But it is possible to succeed. What can you do to foster success? Start with a business plan. Don’t take a shortcut and avoid the first step of actually planning your business. A written comprehensive plan will give you a solid platform from which to start.

A good business plan contains a series of steps and options.

Your business plan is your guide into the world of small business ownership. Write it, read it, follow it. As you move along with your plan, you’ll have to use perseverance and know when to make adjustments. Having a plan will move you ahead along the bumpy road of small business ownership. Don’t give up.

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Local Corn in Your Homemade Muffins

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Local corn at Adams, my favorite hometown market.

‘Tis the season for wonderful fresh, tasty, local corn.

Silky ear of fresh picked corn.

New summer product idea: Fresh Corn Muffins! Most of us think about corn muffins as the perfect go-together with soup or chili on a cold winter night. But corn muffins using fresh corn kernels are an ideal summer product to capitalize on the local and seasonal trends. Simply prepare corn on the cob using your preferred method and scrape off the kernels with a sharp knife. Separate the pieces of corn and pull off any stray silk.

Add another seasonal product and capture the market for both taste sensations.

Don’t scrimp on your additions. Your muffins should be loaded with produce.

Use your favorite cornbread recipe and add fresh corn kernels.

Above, my basic cornbread recipe with fresh corn.

In Home Baking for Profit I also have recipes for Banana Corn Muffins and Corn and Cheese Muffins. These recipes were excellent sellers in my bakery and café.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business, 2nd Edition

Monday, July 15th, 2013

If you want to start a profitable artisan food business, this book will walk you through the necessary steps to achieve success.

Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business 2nd Edition

Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business, the first comprehensive book to help entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality, was published in August 2009. After several printings a second edition was recently published. To read more about all the Baking Fix books, visit our Bookshelf.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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A Good Loaf of Grammatically Correct Bread

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Everyone has an opinion on what makes a good loaf of bread.

Definitely a good loaf of bread!

This one, too, is excellent!

Every meal needs a good loaf of bread. Last Saturday I should have made bread but it was so hot and I was so tired and it was so late in the day. I asked MrMacho to pick up a loaf at the store.

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He found this “bread” on the store shelf. Crispy Italian bread? Nope. Neither “crispy” nor “Italian.” Note “sell by Tuesday” on right hand side of bag. I didn’t know Crispy Italian Bread has a three day shelf life.

And notice all the quote marks? Quotation marks are properly used when quoting, or to denote irony. (For a short lesson in the proper use of quotation marks.)

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If artisan bread is your business base, remember there are many consumers who would much prefer a loaf of your real bread as opposed to faux bread.

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Market Research: Bagel Land, Bakery Tour!

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Bagel Land

Bagel Land is located in Winchester, Massachusetts. We love bagels and visit every bagel shop we see. This store’s unassuming facade held treasures: in addition to the basic bagel assortment (plain, poppy, sesame, everything, etc.) there was an amazing array of unusual flavors such as Cajun (hot!), cinnamon raisin with a glazed sugar coating, and French Toast with a brown sugar topping.

We're a bagel kind of family, the real boiled-in-water bagels!

We found excellent customer service - the friendly clerk made sure we had extra plastic bags and twist ties.

As soon as we got home, we set everything out.

What an assortment!

The topping on this cinnamon raisin was eye-catching.

This calls for a close examination.

Would you like this one?

What makes your products stand out from your competitors’ products? Little things can make a huge difference to your customers. Something as simple as  an eye-catching topping can draw customers to a basic product.

Satisfied customers. You know we'll be back!

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Do your market research. Bakery Tours are fun and help keep you current on the latest fads and trends.

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