4 Tips for Breaking into the Food Business
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Breaking into the food business isn’t easy, but with a whole lot of motivation, ambition, and a love for culinary arts and entrepreneurship, it’s possible to strike success. Sometimes, getting into the industry can even happen by accident. Nicole Pomije, the owner of The Cookie Cups, says her small business was “the result of a ‘genius mistake.’ ” Today, she owns two stores in Minnesota, and ships her products across the U.S.
“I started the Cookie Cups out of my house five years ago, and after testing the brand at various local events and farmer's markets, I single-handedly built and opened two bakery locations,” Pomije tells CircleAround.
The Cookie Cups specializes in a cupcake-shaped cookie line, where cookie dough is baked in a mini cupcake pan for a bite-sized treat. Pomije and her team now have many different flavors and bake everything from chocolate chip cookies to savory cups, like mac ‘n cheese and pizza.
“We are about to launch our COVID-pivot, at-home baking and cooking kits for kids to make up for the cooking classes and birthday parties we can no longer do (temporarily),” says Pomije. “We have a Unicorn Cookie Cup Baking Kit and a Pizza Making Kit available now on our website, on Amazon Prime and Etsy."
We asked Pomije for her best tips for those looking to break into the food and baking industry, especially in this transitional time. Here are four pieces of advice she gave us.
1. Do Your Research
Before building any new business, there should be plenty of time spent on research and education — otherwise, you’ll have to learn on the job, and make mistakes that could have been avoided. Pomije notes that — especially when it comes to food — there are considerations (like health and safety protocols) that can stall your growth if you’re not careful.
“Understand the state and local food laws you may need to deal with before you start your business. There may be certain licenses and fees associated with this. This will help you plan your budget, as well.”
2. Know Your Competition
“Don't let your competition be a surprise,” Pomije advises. “Know who you are up against in your area.” It might sound obvious, but this is an essential part of the food industry growth process, as well. It’s not only about quantity (does it make sense to open another pizza shop in a town that has six shops already?); it’s about quality (what makes your pizza different or stand out?).
“Stop by the other shops or food trucks and check them out,” she says. See what they are charging, how they are presenting their food, what items are on the menu, and what’s missing. Then you can potentially fill in the gaps.
3. Plan Your Packaging
To market your business effectively, consider design elements, as well as costs and distribution.
Pomije suggests asking yourself these questions: “How will it be packaged? Are you offering delivery? Takeout? Will the packaging be different for different circumstances? Where will you order your packaging from and how much will it cost? Will it be branded?”
4. Perfect Your Recipes
“Test, Test, Test!” Pomije emphasizes. What tastes great to one person may not be amazing for the next, and while you can’t please everyone, there will always be ways you can improve your recipe or discover new ways of cooking.
But at the same time, it’s also important to take your time. “Don't rush to get something out there,” she adds. “Make sure your product is the best version it can be, to avoid any negative reviews.”