Making your own chocolate chip cookies during your free time is plenty of fun. But what if you could make a part- or full-time living selling food online, especially your favorite baked goods?
Knowing how to sell cookies online is more than a pipe dream. With the right digital tools, business licensing, and a few phenomenal recipes, you can sell baked goods online. It doesn't have to end at cookies, either. You can sell wine online, sell beer online, sell whiskey online, or any other kind of food product you're licensed to purvey.
Let’s look at the essentials of getting your homemade baked goods venture up and running.
Selling Baked Goods Online
Starting an eCommerce business that sells baked goods can be full of fun and profit when you do it right. There are some online business basics, legal precedents, and marketing approaches you should be aware of first. Let’s examine each area.
Can I Sell Baked Goods Online?
If you’re wondering whether or not you can sell baked goods online, the short answer is yes. However, there are certain food laws your business must adhere to.
The biggest requirements to be aware of are cottage food laws. These are national, yet state-specific safety requirements for food creators. Whether you’re an up-and-coming cookie baker or an established food brand, these laws exist to protect both you and your customers. In short, cottage food laws require the following from every business owner:
- Annual inspection by the US health department
- A no-animals-allowed kitchen and cooking environment
- A valid business license from your state of operation
- Adherence to zoning regulations and required permits
- Appropriate food storage equipment for both cold and dry goods
Once these requirements are met, here are additional baked goods fundamentals you should research:
- Get your food handling certification. Becoming a certified food handler is an industry-recognized mark of professionalism. You’ll know how to keep all ingredients safe in your kitchen and also signal to consumers and the government that you’ve earned their trust. Consider buying eCommerce business insurance and a specific eCommerce business license for additional layers of protection.
- Use the most specific packaging and labeling requirements for your product. Avoiding proper labeling requirements for your products will quickly become a legal headache. Correct labeling practices include listing all ingredients in the item, proper label size, eCommerce packaging that’s appropriate for the product, and listing allergens. This is not an exhaustive list of requirements, but it will put you on the right path.
- Remember to include sales tax. One difficult aspect about collecting sales tax is these laws vary from state to state. However, most states require businesses to collect sales tax if they have a physical location for work functions (kitchen, storefront, or both). BlueCart’s B2B eCommerce solutions include calculating sales tax automatically so you don’t need to.
How to Start Selling Baked Goods Online
When your initial research on how to sell products online is complete, there are other tasks necessary in setting up your business. The more you can set up ahead of time, the less you’ll be burdened by unforeseen difficulties.
Here’s what you need to complete before the sales come rolling in:
Finalize Your Legal Paperwork
All of your business files should be completed before you start baking goods. This includes sales taxes, eCommerce shipping and handling fees, and any other cost you need to include in the sale of goods. It will also prevent legal issues later on.
Establish a Basic Business Plan
While your business will grow over time, you still need a basic framework to guide your operations. At a minimum, your eCommerce business plan should include:
- Purpose of business (mission statement, values, culture)
- Type of products you sell (including wholesale products to sell)
- Target customer and buyer’s journey (a semi-fictional idea of who you sell to and why)
- Warehouse management procedures, including merchandise inventory and pipeline inventory
- Inventory carrying cost
- Starting equipment and miscellaneous inventory (any assets beyond raw materials inventory and products)
- Basic sales and eCommerce marketing plan (where, when, and how you’ll reach customers)
- Potential or realized funding sources
- Initial financial projections (sales, revenue, and net profit expectations for your first quarter)
This information acts as a reference tool when you’re feeling unmotivated, fleshing out a particular part of your business, or hiring employees. A business plan makes it easier to track goals and spot problem areas that need to be fixed.
Set Up Your Online Storefront
Every online business needs a customer-friendly hub for selling their products. Researching options early in the process makes it easier to decide what DTC or B2B eCommerce platfrom you’ll go with. Make sure the software or site you use provides all of the features your business needs.
Firm Up Your Product Offering or Menu
Your shop needs at least one version of the menu for customers to start buying. The menu should include professional pictures, detailed descriptions, FAQs, and any other information buyers need to make a decision. Consumers are rightfully picky when it comes to food quality. Use this fact to guide your eCommerce product catalog design.
Create and Equip Your Kitchen
Your kitchen will need reliable equipment to make those delicious baked goods. It’s smart to set aside enough money in the beginning so you don’t need to constantly buy new equipment. Here are the essential tools every baked goods chef needs:
- Multiple baking pans and/or sheets
- Baking rack
- Hand mixer or stand mixer
- Mixing bowls, spoons, and spatulas
- Smallwares (knives, flour sifters, icing tips, etc.)
- Parchment paper
- Pastry bags
- Icing and decoration equipment
- Storage equipment
- Refrigerator, freezer, and/or other food preservation equipment
- Bread slicer (if making bread)
If any equipment on this list is too expensive, consider working in a shared kitchen or renting tools. This makes it easier to produce goods in large batches, then freeze or refrigerate them, and sell them later.
Buy eCommerce Packaging and Labeling Supplies
Every baked goods business needs attractive and legally approved packaging and labeling. Buy enough supplies to cover your initial batches and then some. Occasionally, you’ll need to repackage a product. You’ll definitely need more if you experience a surge in buyers.
If your operations are large enough that you rely on a warehouse, you’ll need to keep materials organized here, too. Buying the right warehouse labels and signage contributes to efficient warehouse management process flow and high fill rate.
Put Together a Marketing and Sales Plan
A business without a defined sales and marketing approach will be short-lived. You should have a clear idea of your ideal customer, what they need most, their purchasing habits, and their preferred price range. Then, look at the sites they would normally shop on, and reverse engineer from there.
If there’s a high-traffic website relevant to your goods, ask them for a media kit to see what kinds of advertising opportunities are available. Leveraging an established brand can create an influx of new customers.
Another important marketing approach is inbound marketing. This online marketing method focuses on using content, landing pages, and organic traffic methods to bring new leads directly to your business. Take the time to research the kind of content your buyers would be interested in, and then make your own version of it.
Create and Bake Your Sweets
Finally, the truly fun part can begin! Set aside time blocks in your schedule to bake new goods. Aim to combine only as many raw ingredients as you need to finish your daily goals, as this reduces waste.
Your kitchen should be set up for maximum efficiency. The spaces used for non-preparatory actions, like baking and cooling, should be arranged logically .
Run a Business Launch Promotion
When your products are ready for sale, you can gain a lot of momentum up-front by running a launch promotion. Create an attractive offer that people will actually value. A couple examples are three free cookies for every purchase over $30 or 20% off all orders after signing up for your email list.
BlueCart’s email marketing features make it easy to run promotions and get results. No longer do you need to worry about reaching the right customer at the right time, as our platform can handle segmentation for you.
How to Sell Home Baked Goods Online
Once your creations are complete, it’s time to make money with them! Selling your home-baked goods online is a straightforward process once the necessary resources are in place.
- Function test your website. Every button, form, and option on your website should be fully functional before launching. If a customer is trying to reach you or buy a product and your site doesn’t work, they may abandon their purchase altogether.
- Double-check your handling, packing, and shipping process. Running an eCommerce operation necessitates fast customer delivery, especially if you’re a B2B business. Most consumers today will consider buying from you a bad experience if shipping takes longer than two business days. You can still ship outside of this timeframe, but it should be clearly noted for your buyers during checkout.
- Announce that you’re open for business. It may seem like a no-brainer, but remember to share with the public that your business is officially open! Humans are naturally interested in new things, so you’ll probably win multiple buyers simply for opening up shop.
- Start executing your marketing plan. Your marketing efforts are only useful if you put them into practice and measure the results. You may discover that some marketing plans work, and others need to be adjusted. This is totally fine because the nature of marketing is thoughtful experimentation. Keep using and refining what has a numeric ROI over time.
- Use a long-term eCommerce marketing strategy. Even if you have hundreds or thousands of dollars at your disposal, spending this money poorly won’t help your business. Think about ways your business can garner attention that don’t need large amounts of financial resources. Recipe blogging, YouTube tutorials, and downloadable eBooks are all content marketing methods that are inexpensive and scale well over time.
- Strengthen your unique selling proposition (USP). Operating an online business takes time to start, but once you have momentum, it can provide unprecedented convenience for you. The part most people give up on is attracting repeat buyers who love your goods. Focus on what makes your business unique; this makes it much simpler to sell home-baked goods online. You may find that transitioning into a subscription business model generates more revenue with less work.
Which Baked Goods to Sell Online
Wondering which kind of baked goods to sell online? This is an important question to ask. The exciting part is that you can sell virtually any kind of baked good online, provided your product adheres to state and food sales laws.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Cinnamon rolls
- Cookie sandwiches
- Conchas (Mexican sweet bread)
- Cookie bars
- Crisped rice treats
Best Place to Sell Baked Goods Online
As long as you have the website and digital tools to meet customers’ needs, you can sell baked goods anywhere online. Modern Internet technology allows anyone with business gumption to get their own venture up and running.
You can also use existing platforms if you only plan to sell in your free time, or create a full website for your new food company. Here are a few more options to consider:
- Local Harvest
- Facebook Marketplace
Bake It ‘til You Make It
The work that’s required to get a home-based baking business (or a business selling liquor online) off the ground is well worth it. You get to make your own sweets, offer them for sale, and make money in the process. You could combine these efforts with selling coffee online to create a dessert-centric business. Delivering value to buyers through unique and mouth-watering products will foster brand recall, whether you're selling alcohol online or dry food products.