Every food-based entrepreneur starts with a vision of providing a great recipe for more than just their close friends and family. Those first few bites that friends and loved ones rave over are often the inspiration behind a business’s original opening. There's often nothing more fulfilling, since food nurtures the soul. However, when you really start to get serious about starting an online food business and asking yourself, “What do I need to start selling food from home?”, then there are a few things you’ll need to check off your to-do list before you can get started to ensure that you're successful.
There are rules on selling food from home, including those that govern how to sell homemade food, if you need a permit (which often depends on which state you live in), and more. Here you’ll find a “starting a food business checklist” that will help you launch it with ease.
Cottage food laws vary widely depending on where you live. Some states are friendly to food entrepreneurs. Some make you jump through some significant hoops, but fortunately, every state allows cottage food entrepreneurs to conduct business. Some states require permits, licenses, and even kitchen inspections. Others allow entrepreneurs complete freedom to start selling from their own kitchens without any of these requirements.
Many entrepreneurs wonder if they need a permit to sell food from home because the cottage food laws can be super confusing. Before you can start worrying about how to make money selling food from home, or how to start a food product business from your kitchen, you’ll need to check on your state’s permitting guidance.
A home-based food business can thrive in any state, even if it has more restrictive laws, but there are a few that don’t require permits due to recent legislation and food freedom laws.
Every state also varies in what foods you’re allowed to cook, so if you’re wondering how to sell food from home legally, generally it will have to fall into one of these categories:
Some states offer wider leeway in what you can sell from a home kitchen, but these items are the most widely accepted.
If you live in a state with few restrictions for cottage food businesses, you’ll have an easier time getting started. Those wondering what permits do I need to sell food in Texas, for example, are in luck. This state has very friendly laws for food entrepreneurs. There are no permits, licenses, or inspections to start in the Lone Star State. You can simply find your best recipe, use a food app to figure out your costs, and get started immediately.
The following states require NO permit or license to start your cottage food business:
In states that do require a permit or license, like a Class A cottage food permit in California, or permits for a home-based food business in New York, you can consult the Department of Agriculture for each state, which has very specific guidance outlining if you need a license to sell baked goods from home or if you can sell items that are prepped but not cooked, for example.
Acquiring a Class A food permit in California is a bit of a hurdle compared to cottage laws in other states. There’s no requirement for a kitchen inspection, but you must submit a self-administered checklist to the state. For a Class B food permit to sell food from home in California, but also to stores, third parties, and directly to consumers, you have to follow 2021 cottage food laws for California which involve an inspection, certification, and other licensing requirements which you can find in detail at the California Department of Public Health.
A home bakery license in California may fall under a Class a food permit type, but selling food from home in Los Angeles like salsa, or yogurt curry may need a Class A food permit. If you’re asking yourself, “Do I need a license to sell homemade food in California?” and you aren’t sure what type of permit you’ll need, you can email questions to the Department of Public Health at FDBRetail@cdph.ca.gov.
Amendment AB1144 that will go into effect in January of 2022 also requires that a food permit in California’s price is between $150 to $250 in most counties and a home food entrepreneur can only make $50,000 from their at-home business. Consider this cost in your start-up budget when considering how do I get a cottage food license in California.
Selling food from home in Texas is easy compared to selling food from home in NYC, too. Selling food from home in Washington State is also a bit of a nuisance. Both states have permitting requirements. Washington charges a $250 application fee for a permit. You also have to have a food worker’s card and apply for a business license before you can get started. New York state requires you to get a food permit from the local health department.
These and other states have more restrictive laws, so consider the laws for your state. You’ll know how to get a permit to sell food from home by calling or visiting your local health food department online.
From these examples, it’s clear to see that to start a home-based food business in Texas, it’s much easier than if you were to begin a home-based food business in New York.
When you get started selling homemade food online for your cottage food business, it's good to know the best app to sell food easily and effortlessly. Castiron is a software app for selling home-cooked food. It walks you through the creation of your own food store, helps you complete sales, update your inventory, fulfillment, and even helps with marketing. Ideally, once you have a license to sell food online, if you need one in your state, you can get started creating your recipes, decide what ingredients you need, and how to source them in the most profitable way, and start cooking and selling!
People who have already succeeded and know how to start a small food business at home know the importance of their storefront, product presentation, ingredient listing, and licensing, so they aren’t breaking any cottage food laws. Castiron and similar software can help you do everything but get your license. Just some of the users of Castiron are able to set up a store in less than an hour and, though you may not be able to talk to them directly about how to sell food online from home, you can use them as an example and follow in their footsteps. Need extra inspiration? Statista reports that the U.S. online food business will be worth $18.7 billion dollars by 2025. Don't you want a piece of that pie?
If you’re not sure where to start and need a few trending online food business ideas, here are a few popular and successful endeavors you can try on for yourself:
Your home-based food business ideas will start to overflow when you taste your first minor successes. With practice, great food business software, and your license taken care of should your state require it, nothing can stop you from being successful as a food entrepreneur. Do your research, be sure you figure out your cost and profits prior to starting, and you’ll soon be teaching others how they can be successful in a cottage food business, too.
My business would not be the same without my Castiron website! It is an easy setup with lots of customization and tons of support! I am so glad I set up my shop last year before the holidays — it really helped increase my sales!
The Whimsical Cookie
Castiron provides me a professional site to my customers increasing my credibility and value while giving me the tools to effectively market and manage my business in an easy, user-friendly manner.
Wesley's Treats Hallie's Sweets
Castiron has made my cottage bakery shine, and my business easy to manage. As a platform they care about my business as much as I do.
Before Castiron, I was taking orders really manually, through emails or texts or Facebook. Now I can send customers straight to my website, and I don’t have to worry about missing any details.
I couldn't run my business without the Castiron platform. It made it so easy to get my shop up and running — it truly removed a massive barrier to me getting started!
I realized that the barrier of having to DM or text me to order was holding a lot of potential customers back.
Now that I have a professional website and a simple ecommerce checkout, I'm seeing a huge increase in new customers and they appreciate how easy Castiron makes ordering.
Easy to start, created specifically for local, handmade food: Castiron’s website builder was created to help you grow. Create a website in minutes with our templates, sell where and how your customers want to buy, and look professional without being technical. Keep customers coming back with email marketing tools, customer records, and more.
Food entrepreneurs, this is your moment. Your community is more and more conscious about what they buy and where it is from. They want food made with love. With ingredients they can pronounce. And they want to support their community while doing it.
Castiron is the best fit for your food business because we're not a one-size-fits-all tool. Selling local food is different from pre-packaged warehouse products. Whether you sell cooking classes, need local pick up, utilize pre-sales to plan inventory, or need a fully custom order form — we got you.
No code required. Add pages, sell your products, build order forms, and show off your beautiful work. We'll handle the tech so you can focus on growing your food business.
Never track down a payment or oversell products again. Real-time inventory tracking and secure payment processing make life easier for you and your customers, and our order form builder makes managing custom requests a breeze.
With our marketing tools, your email marketing can go on autopilot. We make it easy to promote your latest products, announce custom order availability, and stay connected with customers.