The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

new cupcakery

JoslinDJ's picture

new cupcakery

Hello everyone. My girlfriend and I have had a made-to-order cupcake business fir a couple years now. We have our current recipes down, a following, and a business licence. We are well rehearsed in the cottage laws, but are hoping to make the leap to opening a small bakery/cafe where we will strictly make and sell cupcakes as well as coffee and a few random retail items. We just have a few questions about opening.

We have a good commercially zoned location in mind. Just curious as to how/if there is specific zoning for a bakery? 

Are we going to REQUIRE (by law/ordinances) to use a commercial oven or other equipment? We have grown VERY used to our residential unit. Is other commercial equipment required?

Will we need to install vent hoods?

We would like to be ready for inspection, but are hesitant to ask other local bakeries or cafes right now. Neither of us have any lack of working in commercial kitchens, but are not sure on minimum requirements. Any help would be great. Thank you so much and bake on!!

pmccool's picture

With your local health department, since the answers to your questions will vary by location. If you go in with an "I want to do things right" attitude, you will probably find them to be very helpful. 

Do talk to insurers about the kinds of insurance you will need for your business, too. 

Best of luck with your new venture. 


MANNA's picture

If you do good business now and have not outgrown your residential space I would advise not to go retail. I wouldn't even advise going retail even if you have outgrown your space. Just expand your space to fit your need. I know two people who have started baking at home. Both were successful and made a profit. After doing farmers markets and trade shows decided to go retail. There lives have been overwhelmed. They hemorrhage money. Right now you don't have much in overhead because your at home. Prime retail location costs some bucks. And there is no guarantee that it will produce the traffic you need to sustain. Then there is the equipment. All the stuff that's fine for your house wont be fine for retail shop. Some will be OK but not all of it. You will need commercial equipment with range hoods and fire suppression. And depending, exhaust fans for the flour dust because it will cause explosion hazards. Then there is food labeling, handling, storage, sanitation and the list of health stuff goes on and on. Then there is marketing. You need to generate alot more business to sustain a retail shop. And just cupcakes wont provide the income you need. You need to diversify your products to attract a wide spectrum of people to generate the traffic your bakery will need to stay afloat. Making all that takes time and strict baking schedules. And I stress ALOT of time. Then you have to sell it or hire someone to work up front. Hiring takes up more of your money. So they need to sell enough to pay their salary. That means you need to bake more to cover it. And it goes on and on and on. Go talk to people who are in the bakery business and see what they have to say about it. Drive the next town over if you have to. Its time well spent. I don't want to deter you from your aspirations. I want to make you aware of some things that you will face. You need to answer these questions and be prepared for it financially and mentally before embarking on such a venture. 

Richard Moore's picture
Richard Moore

First of all you should work on establishing your name then think about expanding.

goodcompanionbakery's picture

Hello Cupcakery,

Have you moved ahead with your plans to go commercial with your space?  Speaking as someone who treads between home-based and commercial worlds I can really see both sides.  I would say that if, as you say, a residential oven is still adequate to support your production then you should NOT move to a rented space.  Instead make changes to your home space until you are totally maxxed out to what the cottage laws will allow you to do.  The overhead mentioned above is significant.  Think about supporting a whole second household financially, a second set of phone, power, heat, plus rent, licenses and insurance.  Then you or your partner have to be there and ready to do business during all posted hours.  If you run an errand you need a second person to cover for you.  None of these costs or obligations really apply to the home-based business.  You do have the nuisance of living on top of your work of course but that is a minor inconvenience compared to burdensome costs and obligations of a rented space.

For me, I am halfway in that my bakery is on my farm.  It is in a separate building but shares utilities and such and once constructed, it posed few costs beyond what it normally costs us to live here.  What this means is that we have the liberty to bake or not bake as we see fit.  For winter months we can close altogether and not worry about needing revenue to pay fixed costs--all we lose is the lack of income for the work we chose not to pursue.  Having to go to work and accomplishing nothing beyond making rent and utilities is pretty common for small business owners more of the year than most of us would like.  Stay away from overhead if you at all can.  Lack of overhead can give you a lot of flexibility and make you very resilient!  We are still going after 7 years, while various cafes and restaurants have come and gone.

When you are really bursting at the seams and too big for the cottage category, get help from your local small business development center developing a business plan too.  Free!  And you can acquire a lot of useful skills and perspectives doing this too.