How to Start a Baking Business Without a Commercial Kitchen

Most state laws mandate that any food products sold to the public must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. But opening a retail bakery is a big investment for an unproven business. For example, when Erin McKenna founded the vegan bakery BabyCakes NYC in 2006, she was out some $38,000 in startup costs for construction, equipment, inventory, and permits, and more than $11,600 in monthly expenses for rent and utilities, staffing, inventory, and insurance. If you don’t have access to that kind of dough, here are a few other ways to bring your baking business to life.

Join a cooperative commercial kitchen. If you need access to restaurant-grade equipment, but you aren’t ready to buy or rent your own commercial space, a co-op is the perfect solution. In shared kitchens, individual bakers and cooks sign up as tenants and pay for exclusive rights to use the kitchen for a specific number of hours each month. Because the costs are shared among multiple people, co-ops are often very affordable: Evergreen Kitchen in Bremerton, Wash., charges just $300 per month for eight hours a week of exclusive kitchen time. Possible drawbacks: The nearest co-op may not be that close to you, and you’ll want to make sure that you have a secure way to transport your finished products.

Rent a restaurant or facility kitchen during its off-hours. If there’s no co-op kitchen in your area, look into renting kitchen space from a restaurant or another facility, such as a school, church, or community group hall. If you have an “in” with a higher-up at one of these institutions, start there; if not, call the restaurant or kitchen manager to discuss the possibilities.

Work as a personal chef. You can get around the “commercial kitchen” requirement if you cook for people in their homes. As a personal chef, you bring all of your raw ingredients and equipment to the clients’ kitchens. Most often, personal chefs prepare up to a week’s worth of meals in one visit and package and refrigerate or freeze each dish for later use. In some cases, personal chefs also cater client parties and special events. If a client has requested a large product order, this may be a viable way to produce it: Just make sure that the kitchen meets your standards and that the client has a clear expectation of how the process will work.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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1 comments
Greg Lam
Greg Lam

Hi Kathryn,I'm located in Vancouver, BC Canada. Those three alternate ways are definitely good ones worth exploring. There may be a 4th option, depending on local regulations.Where I'm located, some people are able to sell baked goods made from their homes at farmers markets. So, people looking to test the waters may want to check out this option as well with their local authorities.

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