It all began with my daughter’s first birthday cake …
That’s when I was bitten by the cake decorating bug. I had worked at Baskin-Robbins as a teenager and learned the basics there. When it came time for my oldest daughter’s first birthday, I set out to make her cake. I had a great time doing it and before I knew it, I was making all kinds of cakes for my friends and family.
Fast forward to last year. My daughters were getting older and I knew they would both be in school soon. I started thinking about turning my cake hobby into a small business from my home. I could keep myself busy while they were in school, earn a little extra money, all the while doing something I truly loved.
Using my internet sleuthing skills, I set out to find out what I needed to do in order to start a legal cake decorating business from my home. Imagine my heartache when I learned that in the state of Georgia, a person must jump through many, many hoops in order to have a legal home bakery. Those hoops go a little something like this:
- Apply for and obtain a temporary land-use permit from your county. This is what turns your “home” into your “business”.
- Once that is approved (which it may or may not be), then you can begin construction on your second kitchen. Yes–your SECOND kitchen. In order to have a legal home bakery in the state of Georgia, you must make all your cakes, cupcakes, breads, and other goodies in a kitchen that is completely separate from your living space.
- Once you have your shiny second kitchen all set, your local Health Department has to come and inspect. As long as you pass, you may move on to the next step.
- Obtaining a business license, liability insurance, so on and so forth.
- Ta-da! NOW you’re open for business!
So after figuring out all the steps required for a home bakery, I was crushed. I knew that a second kitchen addition would be impossible in our current home. I also knew that I didn’t have $30,000 lying about anyway for a kitchen remodel. So I resigned myself to putting my dream on hold until we could move out of this house and into a house better suited for a second kitchen. (Have you heard about the housing market lately? Exactly.)
I sat on all this information for a good six months or so. I complained about it to everyone who would listen. I started trying to figure up the costs to open a storefront. I ultimately decided that I didn’t actually want a storefront. I wanted a small business that I could manage from home while still being able to pick up my kids from school. Period.
I began getting more involved in cake/baker message boards. I kept hearing from people who were just as frustrated as me with the Georgia regulations. Folks kept saying, “Texas has their Cottage Food Law! And Florida too! When’s it going to be Georgia’s turn?” So finally I looked away from my computer screen and over to my husband. I told him, “That’s it. I want to do whatever I can to get this law changed.” And he looked at me and said, “Yeah! THAT’S my girl!” He is and always has been my biggest cheerleader.
In the middle of July, I started the Georgia Cottage Food Law Facebook page. I was surprised at how quickly our numbers grew! On August 1, 2011, I set up the Georgia Cottage Food Law Petition. By August 3, we had reached 100 signatures. As of this writing, we’re at 630.
To: Georgia State Legislators
We are petitioning our Georgia state legislators to enact a Cottage Foods bill authorizing the The Georgia Department of Agriculture and local health departments to issue customized “Home Bakery” licenses/permissions to residential kitchens for the purpose of selling non-potentially-hazardous bakery products, such as, but not limited to: breads, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, rolls, cookies, biscuits, and pies (except meat or cream pies).
This law will help create employment opportunities for state residents currently out of work to become food entrepreneurs. It is acknowledged that the cottage food laws may require food processors to pay a license and/or permit fee. It is this licensing requirement that could bring in money for the entire state or partially pay for any cost incurred for additional regulatory program operations. This law will also allow small commercial bakery owners to operate from a home-based location should their business revenues start to decline due to changes in the economy.
Cottage food laws have been passed in 25 other states, some of them as recently as the last year. The success in these states gives us hope that Georgia can and will follow suit to help small business owners succeed in a growing market. It is currently very difficult to obtain a home bakery license in Georgia, and in some counties, almost impossible. A statewide Cottage Food Law could change all of that and help change Georgia's economy for the better.