Doing it Right

Recently, I was approached to possibly do a large scale cookies order for a friend. (Exciting!) Over the last year and a half I have been making cookies for family and friends at a pretty modest scale. I think the most I’ve made and decorated at one time in my home kitchen was this year’s Valentine’s Day bake sale with about 100 large cookies. All of the requests in the last couple years have been informal, but this one really prompted me to seriously think about doing all of this the right way: to get certified so that when orders like this came up, I could excitedly say “yes, of course”!

In order to “do it right” in Wisconsin, to sell cookies, I need to have a food license. In order to get a food license, I have to have a certified commercial kitchen (among a few other requirements). It is incredibly difficult to certify your own home kitchen (you basically have to have a whole separate kitchen from your own) and while people have been trying to pass a cookie bill to allow Wisconsin home-bakers to sell low-risk items, it seems that if that ever passed, it would be a long time from now. Since I’m not interested in opening a brick-and-mortar shop right now, the hunt for rental commercial kitchen space began.

It turns out that although we have a pretty vibrant food community in Madison, access to shared kitchen space is pretty minimal. During my search, I came across what seemed to be the only viable option in the area: the FEED (Food Enterprise & Economic Development) kitchen. Last week, I attended an info session to learn all about the space and my options there.

First, I should say, wow, FEED does some pretty amazing stuff. They provide a LOT for the Northside community. They take extra foods and produce from companies that would have been thrown away and re-process it to be donated for food pantries. They also have a bakery training program that provides unemployed and underemployed individuals free job training and help with job placement in local bakeries. Soon, they’ll also be implementing a line cook training program (apparently there’s a major shortage of line cooks in Madison) where trainees will learn from the best chefs in the area including Tori Miller. Seriously, that is SO cool. And with all of those amazing things, they also often work with people just like me. Individuals in the process of opening a small business in order to sell their product. FEED works with many of the area’s food carts, bakers, and sauce-makers. They sit you down to go over what you need to achieve what you want. Given that this will not be my full time job, it’s a huge advantage to have a resource like that in this process.

Today I met one-on-one with the FEED manager and he walked me through all of the paperwork to make this thing the real deal. Today I officially became a FEED kitchen member, and I also officially registered Cookies by Kate as an LLC, applied for my seller’s permit, received my federal employee identification number, and submitted the paperwork for a food license. There are still quite a few steps that I have ahead of me, but this is really happening. I’m really going to have a business and really going to sell cookies. And that’s really exciting.