Turning Your Hobby into a Business
I’m excited to welcome a very talented guest blogger today, my mother-in-law, Brenda Faus. She’s the owner of Moon Glitz Delicioso, a small business that specializes in hand-decorated theme cookies. Brenda donates most of her proceeds to the non-profit organization, World Vision, and she’s got a few thoughts on her journey from hobbyist to small business owner!
“These are so good. You should sell them.” That is such a nice compliment, and you may have even heard it about something you make, but could it be a reality? I began to ask myself that question a couple of years ago. My family loves eating my cookies, I enjoy making them, but would they sell? Could I make a profit? What are the legal boundaries?
The most complicated aspects of creating a small business from a food product are the health regulations. When the state where I live began legislation for a Cottage Food Bill I saw my opportunity. I began to investigate the guidelines and how they applied to the custom designed cookies that I enjoy creating. This could work. The next step—a visit to the county courthouse. I paid for my license and I was on my way.
The licensing process was actually fairly simple, but then the real work began. After the Limited Liability Corporation fee was paid, I realized I had to get serious about earning a profit. I had now made an investment and needed to see some return. That first year was consumed by a lot of free cookie gifts and photos of cookies posted on every social network I could find. There were times I wondered if I was becoming somewhat obnoxious to my friends and family. Little by little I began to get orders, so my efforts must have been heading in the right direction. I kept my prices low and sometimes felt discouraged by the money I made for the hours of work I put in.
Those long and discouraging nights have now grown into productive and profitable weeks. I have gradually increased my prices and have amazingly seen my orders increase as well. My goal was to attain a price for my product that is in line with current market value for a boutique type cookie. I am now fairly close to that goal. Word of the quality and uniqueness of my product has spread through customer referrals, social media, and simple advertising efforts.
My next goal is to expand my product line. I recently added a cookie gift box that comes in two sizes and is packed in a quality, clear-lid box. I would like to add more similar items, possibly some cookie bouquets, and expand my selection of cookie favors. I have found it helpful to be a secret shopper on other cookie websites and see what large corporations offer. After my research, I create a sample to use for a product photo on my website. I often use this sample product for a contest prize or some kind of give-away to create interest in my business. Who wouldn’t want to win a beautiful and delicioso cookie?
Heavy social media advertisement, competition investigation, and contests for product giveaways have all been keys to my success. If I were to share a final word of advice for creating a business from a hobby it would be to consider product selection and pricing carefully. Just because you love doing something or you can create a beautiful product doesn’t mean you can make an easy profit when selling it. For example, I have learned that a cookie made to look like an antique car with chrome bumpers, a windshield, and a gum paste hood ornament may look amazing. It also takes much longer to create than my average cookie. If I post a photo of it on Facebook, everyone tells me how amazing it is. However, nobody would pay the $10 or more I would need to charge for it in order to make up for labor and other overhead while still making a profit. Because of my inability to make a profit on this specific cookie in any reasonable sense, I would have to view it as merely a marketing tool or discontinue it as a product. And these are the kinds of decisions that make the difference between a business and a hobby.
Thanks for sharing, Brenda! If you’re interested in ordering some of her delicioso cookies, please check out her website. She ships anywhere in the world, and the cookies arrive fresh, beautiful, and unbroken (I can personally vouch for this!)