Many prospective bakers dream about having a brick-and-mortar bakery someday, but few recognize the not-so-glamourous truth about what it takes to actually get there.
Jenni Reher lives in Mead, CO and started a vegan & gluten-free donut business named Rustic Donut back in 2015.
Initially she used her home kitchen under Colorado’s cottage food law, but eventually moved into a shared commercial kitchen in Loveland, CO so she could wholesale her donuts to coffee shops.
Over the course of 4 years, Jenni grew her bakery into a substantial business, with about 20 wholesale accounts that re-ordered every single week.
But then in 2019, when her business was doing better than ever, she decided to sell it to a vegan restaurant.
Why did she sell? Why did she want to quit? Why didn’t she pursue her initial dream of owning a brick-and-mortar?
In this episode, you’ll not only learn about great strategies about growing a vegan, donut, and/or wholesale bakery, but you’ll also get an honest look at what NOT to do so that you don’t end up burnt out at the height of your business.
Amy Wong & Lawrance Combs live in Cupertino, CA and sell massive 6 ounce cookies, which they call “pudges”, with their bakery, Batch 22.
Amy and Lawrance started their Instagram-only bakery at the beginning of the pandemic, and they put a lot of strategy into their marketing and launch efforts. And those efforts have paid off in a big way!
They now have an avid following of people who can’t seem to get enough of their incredible cookies, and their business is growing extremely fast.
They recently hosted their own Investor Day to raise money for moving to their own storefront, and they raised over $150k!
In this episode, you’ll learn about their unique and fascinating business journey!
Janna Paterno lives in Charleston, WV and used to sell custom decorated cookies with her cottage food business, Sweet Janna Lea.
She shut down her business in 2021 after only running it for two years.
It’s no secret that most new businesses in any realm struggle to get off the ground. Usually cottage food entrepreneurs have challenges finding customers, or they produce a product that doesn’t meet the needs of their target market.
But it’s the exact opposite with Janna. She always had more customers than she could handle, and that’s because her cookies are literally some of the best you will ever see.
A lot of new entrepreneurs believe that if they have a great product, then they’ll have a successful business. But of course, there’s a lot more to it than that!
There are a lot of lessons in this episode. You’ll learn why a cottage food business wasn’t the right fit for Janna, the importance of finding balance in your business, and what someone should know when trying to make and sell custom decorated cookies.
Scot & Christine Steenson have one of the craziest startup stories that you’ll ever hear!
They used to live in Paradise, CA, and as you may know, their entire town was destroyed back in 2018’s Camp Fire, which was California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in history.
Scot & Christine now live in Forest Ranch, CA and sell roasted coffee with their cottage food business, Road Roaster Coffee Company.
After losing their home and nearly all of their physical possessions, they had to start over. And that’s exactly what they did!
Christine had long dreamed of opening a coffee shop. So they decided to try it. After all, why not? They literally had nothing else to lose.
And as you’ll see, they actually had a whole lot to gain! Their coffee business quickly took off and they have been going pedal to the metal ever since.
With almost $50,000 of sales last year, they are one of the most successful cottage food businesses in California.
In this episode, you’ll hear how they created a very unique brand that flies in the face of traditional coffee marketing, and how their mission driven approach has allowed them to become very involved in their local community.
You’ll also learn what it really means to be living in paradise.
Jen Holmer El-Azzi & Danny El-Azzi live in Austin, TX and sell sourdough crackers with their business, The Sourdough Project.
Most food entrepreneurs have to pound the pavement to get stores interested in selling their products. But not Jen & Danny!
Almost from day one, they had wholesalers knocking at their door. Their situation is quite unique, as is their product.
Although they started selling from home under Texas’ cottage food law, they quickly started renting a commercial kitchen to take on wholesale accounts.
Now they have 50+ wholesale accounts, plus sales at farmers markets, and they quit their jobs to focus on the business.
In this episode, you will hear about their growing pains, branding strategies, business partnerships, and what makes their crackers so unique and special.
Jill’s cottage food business journey is nothing short of remarkable!
Jill Baethge lives in Plano, TX and sells unique chocolate piñata cakes with her cottage food business, Kaboom Chocolaka.
Ever since starting it in 2018, her business has exploded, and she has now created an entire product line for Michaels stores across the nation!
Yes, you read that right. Now anyone can buy her molds from the store and make her chocolate piñatas themselves!
Jill’s success is what so many entrepreneurs dream of. In fact, she can hardly believe it herself. “I just feel like I’m still dreaming,” says Jill.
How did she go from small cottage food business to nationally-recognized brand in just a few short years? That’s what you’ll learn in this two-part interview.
In this episode (Part 1), Jill shares how she built her chocolate piñata business from the ground up, including the many challenges along the way.
And in the next episode (Part 2), Jill shares how she created a product line of chocolate piñata molds for Michaels stores across the nation.
In this episode, I take you behind-the-scenes of my podcast and share some of what I’ve learned over the course of producing the first 50 episodes.
The cottage food entrepreneurs on the show have really impressed me, and I share the top 8 traits that they have in common.
I also describe what it takes to actually produce the show, including my process for finding guests.
And towards the end, I reveal my #1 favorite episode from the first 50, and more importantly, why it was my favorite. There’s a good lesson in there!
Finally, I share a new-ish direction that I will be taking the podcast as we head into the next 50 episodes!
In this special 50th episode of The Forrager Podcast, we hear from the experts!
All of the guests on this episode run Facebook groups that support cottage food entrepreneurs. In total, the owners of these Facebook groups represent over 125,000 members!
On this episode, each guest shares a quick tip that they have for someone starting or growing a cottage food business.
Facebook groups are the glue that holds the cottage food industry together. They are fantastic resources for entrepreneurs to find support and connect with each other.
Those who run these Facebook groups spend a lot of time supporting and maintaining their groups, oftentimes behind the scenes and without compensation.
This episode not only contains tons of valuable advice for cottage food business owners, but also recognizes many of the individuals that help support the growing cottage food industry.
Daniela Zographos lives in Anderson, SC and sells custom-decorated and custom-sculpted cake pops with her cottage food business, Yumsies Cake Pops.
But Daniela hasn’t always made cake pops. In fact, when she started her business in 2013, she had never made a cake pop in her life!
Daniela used to run a typical home bakery, selling custom cakes, custom cookies, etc etc. But now, Daniela ONLY sells cake pops. That’s it.
She simplified her business model to make it easier to be a stay-at-home mom, but niching down to just cake pops had a surprise side-benefit: it made her business more successful!
She now has a thriving business with 3k Instagram followers. And because she has full-time mom duties during the day, she does most of her baking at night after her kids go to bed.
Daniela shares a ton of info in this episode. She shares the surprising way she found customers when she moved to a new area, the surprising way she makes her cake pops, the surprising way she offers pickup outside of her home, and the surprising way she gets almost all of her ingredients for free!
And if all that weren’t surprising enough, she also managed to start development of her city’s first shared commercial kitchen space. How she finds the time to do it all, we will never know!
You know those kettle corn vendors you see at fairs that pump out mass quantities of popcorn, and make it live on-site?
That’s what Payshee Felt and Steve Bivans now do (except in a not-so-generic way) in St. Paul, MN with their popcorn business, Payshee’s Popcorn.
But they didn’t start that way. They actually used their cottage food law to prepackage dozens of bags of homemade popcorn for their local farmers market each week.
And they did that from home for two years before they were ready to make the leap to some pretty-pricey equipment for popping tons of popcorn live at events.
They have gone from making just a few hundred dollars each weekend, to now selling over $5k of popcorn in a weekend!
Initially, Payshee romanticized her vision for the business, imagining herself custom-flavoring each bag for a customer in real-time, and serving it from a Cretors wagon.
That idealistic vision not only delayed their business, but also cost them a pretty-penny before they realized that they should just keep it simple and start from home.
Running a successful custom cake business is a lot of work. Running a popular Etsy shop is also a lot of work. And taking care of young kids full-time is definitely a lot of work.
Meet April Spencer, who has managed to do all three AT THE SAME TIME!
April is a cake decorator and sugar artist who lives in Harrod, OH and sells impressive custom cakes and lollipops with her cottage food business, Spencer’s Sugar Shop.
In addition to running a very successful custom cake business from home, April also rented a commercial kitchen to sell her custom lollipops on Etsy and ship them across the nation. She’s currently put the Etsy business on pause due to the mass influx of weddings recently, but at one point she was shipping out over 30 custom lollipop orders per week!
As if running two businesses and a young family weren’t enough, April also manages to put a strong focus on her social media presence, and she now has thousands of social media followers.
How does she do it all? Nobody knows for sure, but listen in and learn how she went from knowing NOTHING about cake decorating to becoming one of the most popular bakers in her area in just a few short years.
Eric Sorensen’s home bakery business may be small, but that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant!
Eric lives in Pullman, WA and sells homemade bread, bagels, and pretzels with his cottage food business, Clumsy Crow Baking.
Unlike most bakers, Eric doesn’t sell throughout the year, or even throughout the summer. Instead, he takes frequent sailing trips for a month at a time, and only boots up the baking business when he’s back home. And when he returns, his customers are ready!
He started selling his bread back in 2017, and grew his customer base by selling at winter markets. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, he switched to selling solely from his driveway, and he hasn’t looked back. He simply puts the bread on his driveway for customers to pickup, and then heads back inside to take a nap!
In addition to being an avid baker, Eric is also an avid learner. In this episode he shares many resources for learning about home baking, and also shares many cost-saving hacks for running a home bakery without going into debt.
He is also an advocate for local grain economies, and shares what he is doing to help get great, sustainable bread into more people’s hands.
Anne’s chocolates certainly make an impression! It’s easy to see why her truffles instantly captivate potential customers.
Anne Reist lives in Holladay, UT and sells hand-painted chocolates with her confection business, The Chocolate Palette.
Anne built her business from her home kitchen using Utah’s cottage food law (not their food freedom law), and recently expanded by building a commercial kitchen into her home.
Through mostly word-of-mouth marketing and a very strong brand, she has grown a following of loyal customers fairly quickly!
We often hear the same entrepreneurial advice: Start simple. Start small. Start a side hustle. Don’t throw all your eggs in one basket.
But when Debbie George started her custom decorated cookie business, she threw caution to the wind and took the opposite approach: go big or go home!
Except that Debbie pulled off the rare feat of going big AND going home! At the beginning of 2020, she started her cottage food business, Cookie Mill, from her home kitchen in Gilbert, AZ.
For starters, she bought seemingly every kitchen gadget or appliance available. A cookie oven, industrial mixer, 3D printer, edible printer, silhouette machine, dehydrator, dough sheeter, projector, stainless steel counters/racks, etc… all told, she invested in about $20k of equipment in the first year.
And most notably, she bought this equipment before she even needed it.
And you know what? It worked! In that first year, she sold over 10,000 cookies!
This episode starts off with a crazy story about how she attended Cookie Con, and by the end, you’ll see a consistent trend of how Debbie’s positive mindset allows things to work in her favor.
It’s not just positive thinking though. Debbie is an expert networker, and she shares some great tips on how to network with other businesses.
Unlike most custom cookie makers, Debbie sells mostly to businesses by focusing on a B2B model (business to business), instead of catering to weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc with a more typical B2C model (business to consumer).