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.
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!
It all started with a Facebook page. Back in 2018, Beverly Clutter decided to start showcasing her decorated cookies on social media, but she had no idea that it would soon turn into a business!
Beverly lives in Fairmont, WV and sells custom decorated sugar cookies, cakes, and other baked goods with her cottage food business, WV Cookie Jar.
At the recent national cottage food conference, Beverly earned the top spot on the leaderboard as the most active attendee (out of 900+ attendees), and her submissions into the photo contest were equally impressive.
Whether it is posting on social media, being hyper engaged at a conference, or teaching decorating classes to her local community, Beverly consistently puts herself (and her business) out there and focuses on serving others.
The result? A successful side business that has grown organically, brings her plenty of joy and freedom, and provides her family with some extra income.
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).
Kathy Sing started her caramel corn business 7 years ago, thinking it would just be a fun hobby for about a year or so.
Well, here we are 7 years later, and Kathy’s Kernels in Visalia, CA is definitely not a hobby. Kathy is busier than ever, and she did almost $50k of sales last year!
Kathy’s treats would sell very well at farmers markets and local events, but unlike most cottage food entrepreneurs, she skipped over those and went straight into selling through retail stores.
After just one year, she was already selling in 15 stores!
How did she do it? What does it feel like to make $50k worth of treats from home? Kathy breaks it all down for us in this episode.
In 2013, after many months of breast cancer treatments, Lisa Petrizzi-Geller began experimenting in her home kitchen. She started with cake pops, but quickly expanded to chocolate-covered Oreos and other types of treats. “It was kinda like therapy for me”, Lisa says.
Apparently the therapy worked! Fast forward 8 years later, and now Lisa runs POP Culture, a successful food business in Berkley, MA that is based out of her residential kitchen.
Over the years, Lisa has sold her treats at all kinds of events, from small popups to large corporate events to huge festivals. How huge? One time, she did $8k of sales in a single weekend!
And despite events being cancelled due to the pandemic, 2020 was her busiest year yet. As she put it, “It just kept going. I never got a break.” The year culminated with the craziest of holiday seasons, where she made over 3,000 hot cocoa bombs alone!
In this episode, Lisa shares creative and trendy ideas for treats, tips to prepare for a home kitchen inspection, the dark side of running a cottage food business, and what she’s learned from selling at tons of events and fulfilling countless custom orders.
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.
For Mallory, it all started with a chocolate chip cookie. But that was just the beginning!
Mallory Dies, owner of The Crassy Cookie in Stafford, VA, tried selling many variations and flavors of her drop cookies, and ultimately found the most success with her innovative gourmet cookie sandwiches.
These cookie sandwiches are certainly unique. They range from “safe” flavors like rainbow chip, strawberry shortcake, or choco fudge brownie, all the way to more “oddball” flavors like blueberry lemon-lavandula, fruity pebbles, and matcha munchie.
Mallory shares how she slowly built a customer base (twice) and had self-doubts along the way. As an introvert, she resisted putting herself into her brand, but eventually “bit the bullet” and started developing significant engagement on social media.
She also shares many marketing ideas that have worked well for her business, like creating monthly boxes, adding bonuses to orders, and promoting her products in local Facebook groups.
Despite the many challenges with selling basic drop cookies (short shelf life, low perceived value, etc), Mallory has found many ways to make a cookie business work well for her.
When it comes to creating custom decorated cookies, Tina is very prepared. She owns a plethora of cookie cutters (including over 500 just for Christmas), and amazingly, she is always looking to buy more!
Tina lives in Saginaw, MI and has run her popular cookie business, the Chunky Chicken Cookie Company, for the past three years. Whether she is designing cookies or naming chickens, her creativity shines through.
Tina talks about how she manages to decorate hundreds of cookies each week, as well as pricing, resources, and what she’s learned over the years. She also shares her philosophy about putting life onto cookies to make the world a happier place.
Kevin Martino started his cottage food business, Chef Kev’s Specialty Foods, when California created its cottage food law in 2013. He wholesales flavored peanuts to a number of breweries and hardware stores in Concord, CA, and also sells online.
Kevin was actually one of the first cottage food business owners that I ever met, and it’s cool to see how far he has come with his business over the years.
Kevin talks about what he’s learned through producing and wholesaling spicy peanuts, how he’s grown his business so far, and what he’s planning for in the future. I also share my insight on why an LLC might not be the right fit for him at this point.