[Please note: The suggestions in this article are general in nature. They do not constitute legal advice. They do not cover all details of business development. You are responsible for discovering and complying with local and national laws and regulations related to your business.]
Creating Your Own Products and Services: Food Related Products and Services For The Solo Entrepreneur
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
One of the best selling categories of products online or offline is food. As far as actually making the food is concerned, however, there are few opportunities for the solo entrepreneur. There are too many health and safety regulations you'd need to comply with in order to produce your product. If you just want to produce some candy or baked goods, for example, you have to invest in or rent a commercial kitchen and have periodic health inspections. Then there is the whole deal with regulations for packaging. In fact, today, you can't even make free food for church bake sales in your home kitchen. (That's why lots of churches have their own kitchens that comply with the regulations.)
But don't bemoan that difficulty. If you've been paying attention to the news, there's good reason to be found for it in the constant recalls of food and drug items for problems like salmonella, e-coli and (occasionally) botulism. There are many risks for both producer and consumer in food products.
Nevertheless, there are numbers of great and fun opportunities. Here are a few:
1. Cookbooks. This old advice still applies: If you know how to cook and have some great original recipes, you can make some pretty good money writing a cookbook. Cookbooks are some of the best selling books anywhere.
You can publish one one your own easily enough through POD publishers like CreateSpace.com and Lulu.com. While there are some publishers who specialize in cookbook production in particular, complete with templates and a system, their rates are so high that you can't really make much of a profit. Better to use a POD publisher and spend a little on buying cookbook templates to lay out your book or cookbook software that does much of the layout for you.
As for selling the cookbooks, the POD publishers will give you your own storefront to sell them from and take care of all the printing, shipping and financial details and just send you the royalties. You can sell them directly to individual customers. You can modify them slightly to appeal to various organizations that use them for fund-raising, gifts or promotions. (That is an entire business in itself.) Some of the POD publishers will distribute them to bookstores for you. You can place them on consignment with food-related boutiques or small food shops, or even restaurants. Cookbooks are big, big business. For small entrepreneurs.
2. Classes, In Home Demos and Private Parties. If you do want to cook for others, having a cookbook can lead to being hired to teach cooking classes. At community colleges. At local restaurants. At the "Y." One method of getting started with cooking classes that is growing in popularity is the "cooking party." A friend hosts a cooking party for about five people. You go, take your cookbook, if you have one, and cook up a demo while the others follow along with their own dishes. It's a private party, and you're just providing teaching. Everyone brings his/her own ingredients.
The attendees can buy copies of your cookbook for themselves and for gifts. They might also want to hire you occasionally to come cook in their kitchens. Being a private cook can be quite profitable, and you can do it as an independent service, rather than as a domestic employee.
A fun variation on the cooking party is the barbecue party and contest. Guys get together at one place, bring their own portable barbecue and ingredients and have at it. If you have a barbecue related cookbook, you can be a judge or a coach, and you can sell copies of your book to those guys.
Please note that none of the above includes you doing any form of catering. Catering is a service that usually has need of commercial kitchens for preparations and a host of regulations and licensing that may be nearly as difficult as running a restaurant. All of the above assumes that you will merely be teaching or coaching or, in one case, working as a private cook in someone's home. You do not supply food.
3. Food Gift Baskets. These are very popular, year 'round. Just get commercially made and packaged food items and put them together in a basket, decorative box or tower of boxes. There are many sites and books that help you learn how to make gift baskets, etc. You can make them for all kinds of interests and niches. If you've written a cookbook or other food-related book, you can include it as part of the package. How about a basket containing coffees, baking mixes and a recipe book for breakfasts in bed?
You can sell them locally by direct order or consignment. Gift baskets are great for distributing through "home party" sales. And you can take advantage of Amazon.com's large audience by becoming a seller there. If you learn to package your product well, this is a great product for "fulfilled by Amazon.com."
These are just a few of the ways people are making money with food products. They also lend themselves to business growth. For example, you can start with food gift baskets that you can produce alone and later move into simply designing them and supervising others who put them together. Go to Amazon.com and shop for food items and see what kind of ideas you can get for your own business.