Your recipe for how to start a food business

If you have a tried, tested and much-loved family recipe that you think more people should enjoy, you may have considered the possibility of starting a food business from home. Many condiments, cordials and conserves that are on supermarket shelves today began life in someone’s kitchen. Perhaps most famously, Levi Roots launched his family Reggae Reggae sauce recipe on hit TV show Dragon’s Den, and his product is now a household name.

Although the giddy heights of celebrity might not be on your agenda, getting your brand out there may be, so here’s a short recipe on how to start a food business from home.

Begin with a good base of market research

Few can deny that there are a great many food products of similar type on the market. There are dozens of different varieties of chutneys and jams, each appealing to slightly different tastes and preferences, and it’s not just ingredients that distinguish them. Each brand has a specific identity that helps differentiate one type of cake, sauce or preserve from another, so as to capture different aspects of the market.

Testing your product on friends and neighbours can help you to gather useful feedback. If you are worried they are being polite you can get objective feedback by getting them to do a blind tasting. You can use their feedback to help inform your food product’s ‘brand identity’.

Starting a food business from home in the UK means seeing what’s on the shelves already. Before you pour your savings into ingredients and quit your day job, be sure to undertake some rigorous market research. Review market research reports and write a detailed business plan about how you will produce and launch your product. You may be able to find small business start up workshops in your area, which can provide the mentoring and support you need to get your business plan going. They can also ask you questions which you might not yet have thought to ask yourself, so it’s worth doing a quick search to help you discover the support that’s already out there in your area.

Getting to know people who have been there before is also very helpful. Many more experienced business people are only too happy to share the stories of their success and to point out the pitfalls. Networking will help you to meet people whose experience you can draw upon. Meeting other people starting out can also lend a feeling of solidarity at the beginning of your business venture.

Prepare your working area with the right premises

Figuring out how to start a food business is partly down to locating the right premises from which to operate. Many products are first established in domestic kitchens, but as success grows, so premises must change also. The main thing to consider is that any food business premises must be registered at your local authority’s environmental health service a minimum of  28 days before you get started . There are some things you are permitted to do at home and others you are not, so it’s worth checking first with the officer who will know whether or not your kitchen is fit for purpose. It’s essential that you demonstrate an understanding of food hygiene as well as knowledge of fire arrangements and health and safety. You will need to get your product labelling right too, so it’s worth speaking to your local trading standards officer .

Keep your business ingredients fresh

And we’re not talking about your food ingredients (which should go without saying) but your business idea. Although starting a food business from home means becoming familiar with the dos and don’t of the food industry, it’s important to keep your idea fresh and lively. It may be that you have to tell a journalist about your product, or pitch your product to an investor who may help you get your product off the ground. You need to be able to express the benefits and uniqueness of your product without falling into the staid and dry language of business. If you are inexperienced in business then not being bogged down in business jargon can work in your favour and may help communicate your innovation with more authenticity.

Potential investors want to experience your product and the story surrounding it. A good story and brand identity backed by a robust and well-thought through business plan and strategy can spark genuine interest and reassure would-be funders that your product is worthy of investment.

Mix together good skills

There are a number of different aspects to running a business, not just the creation of your product. Marketing and advertising is the next most important step if you want to make your product visible. You understand your brand the best, but you might need others to visualise and articulate the messaging. You could work with web and graphic designers, illustrators, packaging designers and copywriters to help you come up with a visual identity and tone of voice for your product.

Consider too the practical aspects of running your business, such as bookkeeping and completing your tax return each year. You can hire a professional bookkeeper on a freelance basis to help you out with your accounts if you’d rather not be responsible for everything, and it can be a good way to take some of the weight off your mind. Don’t rule out setting up a partnership either. Some of the most successful businesses are born out of a combination of skills between two or more people.

Don’t be afraid to draw upon the skills of different people to help your business to thrive rather than take everything upon yourself. This may mean putting aside a marketing budget or a business admin budget, but this can be worth it. Don’t forget, if you hire employees then you will need to take out employer’s liability insurance and get up to speed on all the relevant employer legal responsibilities and obligations.

Separate your homelife from your work

Working from home has many advantages such as keeping costs down in the early days of your business and not having to commute, but it presents challenges too. If you can carve off a space that’s away from the domestic hubbub and purely for business purposes then that helps. It’s very easy to let products and resources hemorrhage into your home, so allocate storage space, or hire it if you have to, and be diligent about maintaining order for the sake of everyone who shares the space.

Sprinkle with passion

Starting a small food business is a lot of hard work and involves a mix of ingredients like  time, resources and energy. If possible, every now and again, check in with the passion that inspired your idea in the first place, and celebrate your milestones and achievements, no matter how miniature they might seem.

As a small business owner you do not want to see your hard work undermined, so look after your business by taking out the right level of small business insurance.  Contact us for a quote today.

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