Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rights of Passage

This past week has been really busy! I need to be better about updating my blog more regularly- don't want posting once a week to become a habit. I hate when you stumble across those blog posts that are ridiculously long and I have tendency to ramble on as it is. I'm thinking creating a new posting every couple days would suffice.

On Tuesday, we had the chance to bake for the first time in the commercial kitchen that we have thought about using for a while. The director of the kitchen was kind enough to allow us to come in for a day and let us bake several batches of the cookies with which we are planning on launching the company. The good news is that the cookies turned out quite well! This was the first time that we have baked them in mass quantity.

The kitchen is actually a small business incubator. The idea of a small business incubator is to provide a facility where entrepreneurs can produce their products in a commercial environment and at a cost effective rate. This facility that we're planning on using is supported by several community development organizations that aim to encourage small business growth and increase the number of jobs in the area. The kitchen is a great space for us to use- it's relatively new and has all the equipment we need: professional-grade stove tops, ovens and an industrial mixer. Here are a couple photos of the kitchen, so you can get an idea of what the space looks like:

On this same day, we had a health inspector (they call them sanitariums- weird, huh?) from the Dept. of Agriculture come to inspect the kitchen. One of the requirements for being able to use this specific kitchen is that you have to have a license issued by this government department. Before you can get your license, someone from the Dept. of Agriculture must come to check out the space to make sure it's up to snuff with safety and health regulations. Luckily, we passed our inspection and we received our temporary license to regularly bake in the kitchen.

We've also made lots of progress in taking the steps we need to officially be recognized as a business with the federal and state governments- these are like rights of passage that you have to go through before any business can be legally recognized. We set up a separate bank account and also got a separate phone line (for now, this separate line is an additional cell phone that we've added to our family plan).

Yesterday we had a meeting with a local lawyer that specializes in working with small businesses to discuss how we should file our business structure. Legally, a small business can be anything from a sole proprietorship or partnership to an LLC or corporation. What I've learned from my research is that you and your business are subject to different tax regulations and various levels of personal liability depending on what structure you choose for your business. Filing as a sole proprietorship vs. an LLC can mean the difference between whether someone can claim you lost their pants, sue you for $54 million dollars and take all your personal assets or have your personal assets completely protected from any possible payout. I'm sure they were extremely nice pants- wool perhaps, or maybe silk.

This next week I'm continuing to work on our business plan- the financial projections are proving to be a bit tricky.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Goodbye New York, Hello Pennsylvania!

This is the first post of a blog which I hope will serve as a sort of on-line documentary, which will chronicle the baked goods business that I will be starting up, along with my mom. It's a bit of a new chapter in my life and I figured, years from now, whether the business takes off or not, I will appreciate being able to look back on this adventure.

For the past 3 years, I have lived in New York City. True, I didn't have much money, but I moved there to experience all that the city has to offer- the museums, theater, live music, food and mosaic of cultures, even if that meant being on a budget (which, I didn't always do the best job of following). I think this is a very typical thing that 20 somethings tend to do these days and I would recommend it to everyone.

Living in a large and bustling city like New York can teach you a lot about yourself and provide you with a new perspective. For example, it is not unreasonable to ask yourself, "Do I really need a window, let alone sunlight in my bedroom?" If the difference in rent is a couple hundred dollars per month, than your answer may likely be "To heck with the window, I get enough sun on my walk to work."

But truly, leaving the city was bittersweet (baking pun not intended) for me, but I knew that if I really wanted to start my own baked goods business, it would not be financially or logistically feasible for me to do so in New York right now. It was while I was in New York that I realized just how much of a passion I had for food.

My old apartment in New York

The cityscape of my new home

If you think about it, food plays such a prominent part in our everyday lives. It isn't just the idea that we are supposed to eat three square meals a day anymore. What you eat and how you eat helps to define your lifestyle and who you are as a person. Social gatherings often revolve around food and drink, whether you're at a wine and cheese party or stuffing your face with pizza while watching movies at friend's place.

Food and all things gastronomic are becoming a larger part of our popular culture. I can name ten friends easily, who watch the Food Network on a regular basis. Chefs like Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Paula Dean, Giada De Laurentiis and Jamie Oliver have become celebrities. Rachel Ray has even come out with her own brand of EVOO (yup, extra virgin olive oil.)

I also think that learning more about the food that you consume can teach you to be more environmentally and socially conscious. You also become more aware about your health. Issues like obesity, organic farming and food sourcing are things that are important to think about and discuss now, more than ever.

But, all things aside, the bottom line is that I have a dual interest in baking and business and realized that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. I was inspired by how many entrepreneurs were making and selling their food stuffs at the Greenmarkets or local food shops in New York. As an avid baker with my own sweet tooth, my niche is making healthy baked goods (I swear, they don't taste like cardboard). I'm the type of person that will bake something and then, if I don't give it away, I end up eating half the pan. Given this tendency, I figured it would be great if I could make treats and snacks that are actually pretty good for you. After months of toying with the idea of starting a small business, I decided that fully dedicating myself to this project would give it the best chance of success. Here's where Pennsylvania comes in.

I've recently relocated back home to western Pennsylvania, where my family resides.
It's beautiful here- the scenery is all rolling hills, green trees and beautifully constructed bridges which span across the rivers. I'm starting this endeavor with my mom, because she is A) one of my best friends B) practically lives with one foot in the kitchen and I'm certain that this is where my interest in baking comes from C) has quite the business savvy and has been an entrepreneur in the past. Over the next couple months, we will be ardently working on bringing together all the things one needs to start a small business in the food industry (i.e. business plan, licenses/ permits) and eventually rolling out with our first product.

Wish us luck and follow this blog to see how things are going!