The Chocolate Life

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I became legit, got a kitchen and started doing some farmer's markets however the kitchen rental is $25/hour, that on top of ingredients and theoretically paying myself there is no way I can make enough and have reasonable prices without having crazy high prices. A cottage license would have been a beter way to go, but I have a dog. A friend of mine in DC (I'm in Oregon) said the way she and a lot of other people get started is to rent a kitchen for a few hours a month but do most of the making at home. I have a dog, or else I would have gone the cottage route. Her suggestion was to do it at home to start and just keep the dog out of the kitchen while I'm chocolating and use the kitchen for a few hours each month for appearances. I don't like breaking rules/laws... Any thoughts? I have a plan to propose a partnership with a local bakery/candy shop, but I need to make some samples before I meet with the owner...

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I am in Oregon also. To certify your home kitchen from what I understand, NO PETS ALLOWED in the same building unless you can shut the kitchen off from the rest of the dwelling. Check with your county inspector and/or FDA. I'm over here in Eastern Oregon and I have two different certified kitchens I can rent. The first one is about a mile from me at our county extension office ( OSU ). Their rent is $50 @ day or $200 @ week. The other is at one of the grange halls about 7 miles from home. Their rent is $35 @ day. This might give you some other options to look at that might be closer and cheaper especially with you being on the western side of the state.

I know that there are no pets allowed, that is why I did not go the cottage license route. I will look into some other rental options, I'm in a smaller city so there are a lot fewer options than say, Portland or Eugene. 

You're thinking the right thoughts. Kitchen rentals are very expensive. Great for catering, bad for a small unit cost like a chocolatier. We were in that boat.  First we used church kitchens and also found banquet halls worked. We also made a partnership like you with a local baker, since they only use their kitchen in off hours.

If you have a garage you can convert that.. 

Other thoughts... if you have a Small Business Development & Technology center in your local (community) college those often have incubator kitchens along with courses to help get everything above board.

Talk to your local SBA and SCORE as well. Their networks can be invaluable and put you in touch with others that if not help directly might help sleuth out a solution.

Much luck! We remember the pain all too well!

There is no garage, but I have thought about building a separate structure kitchen someday, I'd need to figure out how much that would cost... glad I'm not alone in my struggle and also in wanting to follow the rules!

My opinion for what it's worth - if you were doing wood-working and got caught without the proper license, etc I don't think it would hurt you that much. But you're making food. If you get caught breaking health laws most people probably won't hear or care about the details, and it could really damage your reputation. So I would recommend against the "fake it till you make it" approach in terms of using your house.

I like your idea of sharing space with a local bakery/kitchen, and I think that situation occurs more often than people realize. Have you heard of "Danny Macaroons"? As I recall, this is pretty much how he started his business. It helped that he didn't need specialty equipment or much storage space. 

Of course then the question arises of how much that situation would cost compared to the $25/hour you are spending now. Perhaps you can get the space for "free" in exchange for providing the current business with chocolate, or some of your product, or something they need that you can make? If not, what you might think about is finding out how much it would cost to have a contractor build something that separates your kitchen from the rest of your house enough to satisfy cottage license requirements. As I'm sure you realize, there are rarely any easy answers when the budget is tight. Good luck.

Exactly. I don't want to break the laws with things people eat. I need to contact the owner of the candy/bakery shop but I want to make some samples of things to take her and then we can talk about how we could have a mutually beneficial relationship, especially if I make stuff for the shop and then can use the kitchen in off hours at no fee. I have no money to build a separate kitchen on my lot but it's something I've been thinking about doing, someday. For now I'm pretty limited to outside kitchens. 

If you build a separate kitchen structure will you be able to build it according to cottage industry standards, or will you have to build it according to commercial kitchen standards? I think it will make a big difference in not only figuring the actual cost to build but also many other costs. It would impact zoning, permits and licenses, property taxes, utility costs, insurances. That may be more than you want if you only want to do this part-time as a fun profitable hobby. I do realize you mentioned about possibly building down the road. Hope you find a solution that works well for you. It can be very discouraging if your costs exceed your profits. Hopefully you can find a place that will charge a reasonable daily rate as opposed to an hourly rate.


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