So for the past year or so, I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a home-based baking business. It all started when I got a Kindle for Christmas and looked around for free books to put on it. The Kindle store had a ton of free books. The catch was that they were all so old that they were in the public domain. No matter – I downloaded a bunch of old cookbooks and “receipt” books and started poring over them. I quickly became fascinated with the simple, elegant preparations of such classic colonial American desserts as pumpkin puddings, various cakes and “biscuits” (the colonial equivalent of today’s cookies). I made a few batches of tavern biscuits, a colonial shortbread flavored with mace, nutmeg and brandy, and they turned out delicious! Everyone who at them raved about them, and many people told me I should consider selling them.
I already had some experience, having worked my first “real” job at a local gourmet bakery. In my senior year of high school and my first few years of college, I baked batch after batch of gourmet chocolate fudge brownies with a cream cheese layer and a kahlua or amaretto glaze, old-fashioned chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies and sweet breads like pumpkin and lemon poppyseed. I knew how to bake in large quantities, and I knew how to keep my product somewhat consistent. I daydreamed about starting a company to sell historic desserts using local, artisan ingredients and including information on the history of the recipe and the cookbook’s author. My plans were nothing more than a daydream, until I met Amy, the mother of one of my son’s school friends. She bakes too, and we came to the conclusion, over a couple of beers, that we would dive into this adventure together.
First things first – we had to figure out where we would bake. Initially, we had thought we’d be able to work out of one of our houses, but I checked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who regulates bakeries and restaurants in Virginia, and discovered that, if you have a pet, a home kitchen used for a baking business must have a solid door that can be closed completely between the kitchen and the part of the house where the pet is. Bummer. My kitchen has a baby gate in the doorway, but no solid door. Amy’s kitchen is open to the rest of her house. Looks like we’ll have to find a commercial kitchen to work out of.
In the Richmond area, there’s a rental kitchen called Kitchen Thyme that rents kitchen space to bakers, caterers and food truck operators. Unfortunately for us, we are basically bootstrapping this entire startup, so we weren’t willing to lay out a $200 deposit and pay hourly rental fees just to test the waters with our baked goods. What that means is that finding a commercial kitchen is the highest priority, because until we know where we’ll be baking, we can’t really get started on the legal aspect of starting our business. I have two weeks off work over my son’s holiday break from school, so my task during that time is to put together a proposal and look for organizations or companies that have commercial kitchens that might be willing to partner. I have a few leads in that department, so I have my work cut out for me. Wish me luck!