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.
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.
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.
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.