Skip to main content

Top Business Tips For Cottage Food Entrepreneurs

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.

How To Sell French Macarons Online with Anthony Rosemond

Anthony Rosemond, along with his wife Yami, live in Phelan, CA and sell French macarons online with their bakery, Pastreez.

Back in 2017, Anthony and Yami wanted to move from France to California, and they applied for an investor visa to do it. However, they only had three months to prove that they had a successful business on their hands!

As graduates of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, and they started by selling French pastries at farmers markets in Southern California, and quickly learned that they should focus on macarons.

From there they transitioned to selling macarons online and delivering them nationwide, and eventually built their own commercial kitchen. Now they sell hundreds of macarons each day, and they have amassed 113,000 Instagram followers!

While Yami has focused on the baking and production side of the bakery, Anthony has focused on the business and marketing side of things. He has become an expert in ecommerce, SEO, email marketing, social media, etc.

In this episode, you will learn their formula for success, which involves listening to customers, creating a great customer experience, constantly trying new things, and focusing on what’s working well.

Mom By Day, Baker By Night with Daniela Zographos

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!

No Stopping, Keep Popping with Payshee Felt & Steve Bivans

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.

Chocolates That Almost Sell Themselves with Anne Reist

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!

Blending Coffee & Business with Jim & Crystal Whitmarsh

A few months before Jim & Crystal Whitmarsh were expecting their first child, they started roasting coffee beans at home with a $20 popcorn popper. At that time, little did they know what their new hobby would grow into!

Jim & Crystal live in Kasson, MN and sell small-batch roasted specialty coffee with their business, Trail Creek Coffee Roasters.

They initially leveraged Minnesota’s cottage food law to start and grow their business from home, and after a couple of years, they moved into a brick-and-mortar storefront to expand their business.

Although their loyal customers rave about their coffee, it’s likely their continued marketing efforts that have had a greater impact on their business. They are constantly finding new and creative ways to collaborate with other businesses and organizations, and then they showcase those collaborations through social media.

A far cry from their initial popcorn popper roaster, they now own a commercial-grade roaster that costs tens-of-thousands of dollars! Their path to success hasn’t necessarily been the quickest or easiest, but through a double shot of passion and persistence, their small business continues to grow!

Turning Up The Heat with Nathan & Nicole Parchman

The Parchmans weren’t trying to start a cottage food business. Back in 2012, little did they know that their small garden of tomatoes and peppers had the seeds for so much potential!

Nathan & Nicole Parchman live in O’Fallon, IL and sell salsa, pickles, and sauces with their business, Nitro Family Foods.

After strong demand from family, friends, and (sometimes) complete strangers, they started selling “Nitro Salsa” at their local farmers market in 2019. And they haven’t looked back since!

Despite working fulltime jobs plus significant side jobs, as well as raising a family, the Parchmans somehow manage to find time to produce and sell over 200 jars of salsa and pickles each week!

In addition to the farmers market, they now also wholesale to stores and are in the process of building their own brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and storefront.

In this episode, you will learn what makes this dynamic duo so successful!

From Part-time Hobby to Full-time Bakery with Jennifer Jacobs

As a successful TV producer, Jennifer Jacobs never thought she’d run her own business someday. But as coworkers discovered her delicious desserts, her baking hobby started turning into a little business back in 2013.

And now that little home business is booming, with customers sometimes lining up down the street to get her baked goods. Jennifer sells custom cakes, cookie sandwiches, and other baked desserts through her brick-and-mortar bakery, the Wandering Whisk Bakeshop, in Pinellas Park, FL.

Jennifer didn’t start out with a business or culinary school degree, but she did understand how to market her products. As a producer for the Home Shopping Network, she spent countless hours watching the TV hosts sell anything and everything.

But she has marketed her baking business completely organically, without ever paying for ads. She has a large Instagram following and has been showcased locally and nationally in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and more.

In this episode, Jennifer shares how to grow your cottage food business from part-time hobby to full-time brick-and-mortar without spending a dime on advertising.

From Sugar Geek to Online Influencer with Liz Marek – Part 2

With over 300,000 followers, Liz Marek has become very well-known in the cake decorating community! She lives in Beaverton, OR and teaches beginner and advanced bakers how to craft amazing custom-decorated cakes through her online business, The Sugar Geek Show.

Liz began her cake decorating business as a side job just 13 years ago. After running that business from her licensed home kitchen for many years, she started winning cake competitions and making more of a name for herself.

Liz has written books, appeared on television and the Food Network many times, and traveled around the world as a professional speaker. She is a mom to two young children, and she now focuses solely on teaching online through The Sugar Geek Show.

In this interview, Liz shares plenty of helpful tidbits about running a cake business, but what I found most compelling were her many missteps and consistent persistence along the way. Things often didn’t go the way she hoped or planned, but she still made something great out of it by constantly reinventing herself!

This is Part 2 of Liz’s interview. In this episode, Liz shares beginner tips for starting a cake business, what it was like to compete on (and win) Halloween Wars on the Food Network, and more about how the Sugar Geek Show has grown (and where it’s going).

From Sugar Geek to Online Influencer with Liz Marek – Part 1

With over 300,000 followers, Liz Marek has become very well-known in the cake decorating community! She lives in Beaverton, OR and teaches beginner and advanced bakers how to craft amazing custom-decorated cakes through her online business, The Sugar Geek Show.

Liz began her cake decorating business as a side job just 13 years ago. After running that business from her licensed home kitchen for many years, she started winning cake competitions and making more of a name for herself.

Liz has written books, appeared on television and the Food Network many times, and traveled around the world as a professional speaker. She is a mom to two young children, and she now focuses solely on teaching online through The Sugar Geek Show.

In this interview, Liz shares plenty of helpful tidbits about running a cake business, but what I found most compelling were her many missteps and consistent persistence along the way. Things often didn’t go the way she hoped or planned, but she still made something great out of it by constantly reinventing herself!

In fact, by the end of this episode, you will learn that if things had gone the way that she planned, she almost certainly wouldn’t be where she is today.

Bold Branding & Even Bolder Spice Blends with Jennifer Knox

As a creative writer and published poet, Jennifer Knox was never in it for the money. But when she made $6,000 in one weekend from selling her salt blends, she knew she was on to something!

Jennifer sells unique, preservative-free spice blends with her business, Saltlickers, which she runs from a commercial kitchen in her home in Nevada, IA.

Jennifer’s branding is fearless and unforgettable. Each of her salt or sugar blends have a creative product name like Das Bigfoot, Queen of Tarts, or Herky Perky.

Although her marketing skills spark people’s interest, it’s the products themselves that keep customers coming back again and again.

After using her home kitchen for many years, Jennifer and her husband converted their basement into a commercial kitchen so that they could sell in retail stores and ship their products nationwide.

And in 2020, although Jennifer’s farmers market closed down due to the pandemic, she used email marketing to stay in touch with her fanbase and keep on selling.

How To Start An Eco-Friendly & Socially Responsible Cookie Business with Barry Sherman

For Barry Sherman and his life partner, Scott, their cookie business is about a lot more than the cookies!

Since 2018, Barry and Scott have run their eco-friendly and socially-conscious cookie business, Urban Bakers, in Tampa Bay, FL.

Initially they started from home due to Scott being diagnosed with early onset of Parkinson’s Disease, but they quickly expanded to a commercial kitchen.

Their dense quarter-pound cookies are very unique. They come individually-wrapped in compostable bags with compostable labels, and the quality of the ingredients is top-notch. They also come in a variety of flavors, including root beer float, piña colada, and spicy dark chocolate chili.

In addition to operating their business as sustainably as possible, they also give back by donating a portion of each sale to a different charity each month.

Barry talks about the triumphs, challenges, and surprises of running a high-end drop cookie business, and what he’s learned along the way.

Bringing Artisan European Bread To America with Yuliya Childers

When Yuliya Childers moved from Ukraine to the United States, she lost one of the most fundamental staples from her homeland: good bread.

Yuliya is a classically-trained pianist, but when she started making the sourdough bread from her childhood, she found that others wanted a slice as well.

She now lives in Prattville, AL and has fully shifted from a musical career to running her home artisan bread business, Wild Yeast Kitchen.

Yuliya’s story is one of passion, dedication, and plain hard work. Every single Friday, she works for 24+ hours straight to prepare a couple hundred loaves and pastries for her Saturday market.

She also runs a bread subscription service, with many customers getting her delicious items every single week. And she does all of this bread making from one regular home oven!

Yuliya shares some amazing stories in this episode, including her immigration story, the time she brought a customer to tears, and how she sold bread for many years to pay for bread school.

13 Years Old and Already In Business with Lauren Inazu

Lauren Inazu isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. When she was 8, she recruited friends to sell and market her lemonade stand, Lauren’s Sweet Treats. In 5th grade, she started a school newspaper. And now, she recently launched a cottage food business.

Lauren lives in St. Louis, MO and sells all sorts of baked goods with her new business, Count It All Joy.

Between school, homework, piano lessons, sports, youth group, clubs, and Bible study, Lauren is somehow finding time to fulfill baking orders. Sometimes she likes to surprise her classmates with that fact: “I think it’s always kind of fun to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I just have to go make four dozen cookies tonight for an order.’ And they’re like, ‘An order?'”

Lauren may be one of the most ambitious and mature 13-year-olds I have ever met, but she is not unique in wanting to make a little dough from her baked goods. Many kids reach out to me to ask if it is legal for them to sell their creations.

In this episode, Lauren shares what she’s learned about legally starting her cottage food business as a 13-year-old, in hopes of inspiring other young entrepreneurs to try it out as well.

Turning A Kitchen Mistake Into A Thriving Business with Nicole Pomije

It all started with the wrong baking pan. Back in 2014, Nicole Pomije couldn’t find a cookie sheet in her home kitchen, so she made her chocolate chip cookies in a mini muffin tin instead.

And with that, the idea for The Cookie Cups was born: cookies that look like mini cupcakes. Nicole started her business out of her home kitchen in 2015, and she has now expanded into two brick-and-mortar storefronts near Minneapolis, MN.

Although it might seem like Nicole’s unique idea set her up for success, it’s more likely that her many years of marketing, PR, and management experience played a much larger role.

While the cookie-in-cupcake-form is still at the core of her business, Nicole has now expanded well beyond selling cookies. She’s managed to put all kinds of food items into mini cupcake form, such as tacos, mac & cheese, pizza, etc. She now caters events, hosts birthday parties, teaches cooking classes, and has most recently created at-home baking kits in response to the pandemic.

Nicole talks about the importance of sharing your story, managing time, starting simple, building a local following, and constantly being willing to try new things.

From Failed Kickstarter to Successful Storefront with Melvin Roberson

These days, Dough Boy Donuts is a popular gourmet donut shop that is bustling with customers and employees, but it all started from very humble beginnings.

In 2014, Melvin Roberson used Texas’ cottage food law to start his donut business from his home kitchen. A year later, he expanded to a food truck, and eventually, to a brick-and-mortar location in Fort Worth, TX (now relocated to Burleson, TX).

Melvin has faced plenty of obstacles along the way, including negative customers, family feuds, and a failed Kickstarter campaign.

But through perseverance, sacrifice, and plenty of hard work, he has built a loyal customer base that keep coming back for one of his unique signature donuts, like the Sriracha Maple Bacon or The Last Call.

Melvin’s has a tremendous amount of experience in the food industry… before building a successful food business through three different stages (from home, food truck, storefront), he held just about every food service position available, ultimately managing hundreds of employees as the kitchen manager at a popular steakhouse.

Marketing Cake Art with Jennifer Lopez & Emily Blattel – Part 2

Over the past decade, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Blattel have sold dozens of custom cakes that run the gamut from elegant buttercream cakes to realistic cake sculptures. The results are always exceptional, and sometimes they are nearly unbelievable!

This dynamic duo runs The Cake Mom & Co. from their homes in Paducah, KY and Scott City, MO.

Because they are both amazing cake decorators, I thought this interview would be focused solely on cake artistry.

But they ended up touching on so many facets of running a cake business that I had to split this episode into two parts. This is Part 2, and you can listen to Part 1 here.

In this second half of the interview, they covered startup advice, the ordering and design process, business partnerships, social media platforms, cake supplies, promotional giveaways, and cake competitions.

Jennifer also explained how she helped changed Kentucky’s cottage law, even though she initially had no intention of spearheading that effort!

Marketing Cake Art with Jennifer Lopez & Emily Blattel – Part 1

Over the past decade, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Blattel have sold dozens of custom cakes that run the gamut from elegant buttercream cakes to realistic cake sculptures. The results are always exceptional, and sometimes they are nearly unbelievable!

This dynamic duo runs The Cake Mom & Co. from their homes in Paducah, KY and Scott City, MO.

Because they are both amazing cake decorators, I thought this interview would be focused solely on cake artistry.

But they ended up touching on so many facets of running a cake business that I had to split this episode into two parts. This is Part 1.

In this first half of the interview, they covered their startup journey, online marketing strategies, photography, pricing, delivery, and many stories of their triumphs and near-failures.

Make sure you listen to the end to hear the “beach cake” story, which led Emily and I to agree that Jennifer is a veritable “crazy cake lady”!

From Bread Factory to Artisan Home Bakery with David Kaminer

For David Kaminer, sourdough bread is a way of life. After graduating from culinary school and spending 15 years working in commercial bakeries and restaurants, he built a pizza oven into his kitchen and opened Raleigh Street Bakery in Denver, CO in 2015.

He now has dozens of customers who show up each week to pick up their near-perfect sourdough baguettes, boules, and batards from his in-home bakery.

After working in a factory that produced 40,000 loaves of bread per day, David appreciates the slower pace of his cottage food business, plus the opportunities it brings to connect with his local community.

David talks about the ins and outs of running a lucrative home bakery, intentionally limiting business to prioritize his family, and why he only sells one type of product: sourdough bread.

Wholesale Strategies That Work with Sonia Chang

Sonia Chang never planned to start a food business, but now she has two of them!

Sonia lives in Pasadena, CA and runs a granola cottage food business called Cali Granola (formerly named Chef Sonia’s Granola By The Handful). After successfully selling her granola for a couple years, she purchased and operated My Sweet Cupcake, a popular cupcakery.

She has sold her granola in over two dozen stores and has used a variety of marketing strategies to build her businesses, such as her “leap frog” and “flavor profile” techniques.

Her journey is filled with many unexpected surprises, but every step of the way, her service-based approach and collaborative spirit have carried her forward.

How To Live On What You Make with Lisa Kivirist

Farmer, baker, author, law advocate, speaker, mother, podcaster, entrepreneur… Lisa Kivirist wears many hats!

She and her husband, John Ivanko, run a B&B ecofarm in Wisconsin, and co-authored the most popular book for the cottage food industry: Homemade for Sale.

Lisa is a national speaker, runs a podcast, and was one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit that gave Wisconsin bakers their freedom to sell. Most recently, she spearheaded a new project to help farmers make the most of their produce by selling it as cottage foods.

Lisa talks about living off the land, moving away from the corporate life-style, creatively packaging products, diversifying income streams, advocating for your laws, and everything in between.

How Many Products Should You Sell?

One mistake startups often make is offering customers too many choices. Initially this may seem backwards and unintuitive… wouldn’t you sell more if you had more to offer customers? Not necessarily.

Feasibility Study: Testing the Market

While you may have a great-tasting product, you still have to test it in the marketplace. It’s one thing if everyone you know loves your muffins — especially, if they’re free. It’s something completely different to see if customers will buy them at two dollars a pop. This process of testing the market for your products is often called a feasibility study; it may take the following route: