I guess I will start. I have a large family and wanted to work from home for a lot of reasons. I started doing fundraising for our church and kids groups by making and selling cinnamon rolls. It quickly became a big deal and a very successful fundraiser. As a result of a lot of encouragement, I started a corporate catering/gift basket company that was focused on breakfast. We added a licensed commercial kitchen to our home. For a couple of years we had a retail coffee shop/catering kitchen. For lots of reasons, we closed the retail location and kept the catering/gift basket company working form the home commercial kitchen. That is a very brief description of the over ten years I was in business. I learned a ton, made a bunch of mistakes, and want to help others from the experience I gained. How about you?

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Hi, Grace:

I want to be in business, and am drawn to what I love to do, which is bake. I have a half-formulated idea of what I want to do, but having virtually NO experience in this I am at a loss as to how best to proceed. As you know, I am hunting up a good not-quite-industrial mixer, and am baking and developing a "clientele" among friends, family, and acquaintances.

"For a lot of reasons...." you closed the retail location. What reasons? Do you still have the catering/gift basket company?

My first goal is to develop a second source of income, that will not replace my full-time income but will add to it. I want to do something that will transfer well when I move up north to Seattle in 3 to 5 years.

Any bits of your story will certainly prove helpful, thanks!


It is a long story, and I don't want to monopolize the conversations. I don't mind answering any questions, so don't hesitate to ask. MY purpose is to help others get started and avoid some of the mistakes I made.

As far as the retail coffee shop, you have heard it said, location, location, location. The shop itself was beautiful, all granite counter tops, designer tiles, gorgeous. Expensive to say the least, but it had many flaws, some we should have acknowledged, others we could not have foreseen. The obvious one was location. It was simply too far off the beaten path to get the traffic we had hoped for. We thought that our reputation would drive the traffic, but that is a dangerous misconception. No matter how much people like the food, if it is not convenient, they might visit occasionally, but you need regular traffic.

Since we had an established clientele, the big commercial kitchen was very attractive. There was a huge problem though. We needed to keep our phone number and checked that with the phone company five times before signing the lease. When they came to install our phones, we were told that not only could we not keep our number, we could not even get service! It was unbelievable since there were businesses there already. It is a long complicated story. The business we rented from was not in compliance with regulations, & our lawyer gave us horrible advice.We suspected that but now, years later my daughter is an attorney now and she verified that our attorney was wrong. Anyway, it was months before we could get reliable service and it almost killed our business. As soon as the lease was up, we moved back to our own kitchen and continued on. It took me a long time to repay the debt that fiasco put us in. I am a big Dave Ramsey fan to say the least!

We did close the company two years ago because it was no longer a good fit for our family and we are considering moving when my husband retires.. I was getting up to bake everything for the daily orders at 2:00am each day. Sometimes my day did not end until 10:00pm. I still tried to do all the things with my family that everyday life holds. In the beginning my kids were small and living at home, baking when they were sleeping worked out perfect. Luckily I don't require a lot of sleep, so it was okay. As my kids grew and left home however, they would want to visit on Friday nights, and I would fall asleep in their faces. I made a decision it was not worth it, and started working with Free Agent Academy to develop a new plan.

This is getting long, so I will wrap it up. I will continue the story if you want, but that is a summary, sorry it was not a brief summary.

Just what I needed to read, Grace, thanks so much for sharing it. I am the wiser for it.

Last night a couple in my FPU class GAVE me a KitchenAid 5-quart 325 hp mixer. I'd been shopping for the next size up, refurbished to save some coin, and here God plops this lovely couple's generosity in my lap. Hooray. Tomorrow we make the inaugural loaves! I'll take a before and after set of photos of the mixer, it's been in someone's garage for awhile, and looks it!

I'll be in touch, and please, your summary was just the right length. Too brief and I would have been crying for more.


I am a big believer in signs. If you are currently in FPU, you will learn more about signs as you go through it. The free mixer is truly a blessing, and hopefully it will be just what you knead to get a baby step toward getting your business started following the debt free principals Dave talks about all the time. (excuse the puns, I have been living with my husband for a long time, and he is the ultimate punster). One thing I did not include in that not so brief summary was that I facilitated 14 FPU classes after we went through FPU. As a matter of fact, at one of the later ones, we were able to stand in front of the class and scream "We're Debt Free!" That was really cool. Since the coffee shop was what put us in so much debt, it has also become on of the reasons I so badly want to help others avoid that trap.

I truly believe that starting the way you are won't make you rich quickly, but it won't make you poor either. Use the money you earn to pay off your debt snowball, and build your emergency fund. As you work through that process, you will make wise money choices and win.  I love that you are already beginning to make it happen!

I have a very small family but still want to work from home for a ton of reasons. I currently manage restaurants for a living and am not looking to replace that right now... I need a second income stream.  I'm not willing to take the few hours a week that my daughter has with me away from her to actually get a second job so i've been rolling this baked goods idea around in my head for almost a year. I too have been the "go to girl" for fundraisers and church events. Spent my entire life in a kitchen of some sort.  From summers baking pies with grandma while everyone else was outside, to managing them now, and bonding with my daughter over a fresh tray of butter cookies, I can tell my life story through food. I feel like it is time to actually do something with this art.


I love your story, especially the relationship built with your grandma learning her art of pie making, to the fact that your relationship with your daughter is following the same path. I totally relate to not wanting to sacrifice the valuable and precious time we are given to be with our children. I have cherished my time with all my kids, and we had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it possible for me to be a stay at home mom. I am here to tell you that it is totally worth it. We see the results of our efforts because our oldest kids are adults, some with children of their own now. We know that staying the course with our youngest kids who are teenagers is so worth it.

You have such a wealth of experience. One of the things I have done for years is fundraising with youth groups. Providing quality baked goods for them to sell is a win win situation. I do cinnamon rolls, you can read about that on my site Dough Raising Mom. The great part about it is I do that on a weekend, work with non profit groups, they do the marketing and sales, they supply the customers, I provide the labor and baked goods, and we split the take. As long as you choose a product that gives you a good profit margin, it is a great way to make money. Sometimes if you did not have your own kitchen, the church you are helping does. It sounds like you are perfectly aligned to pull that off easily. Your daughter could be your baking partner and earn some money too. Keep us up to date on your thoughts.

The church I go to has a perfectly wonderful kitchen but since most all of what I have done for others for free to this point has been throught the church I truly have no idea how to market it as a business to the "outside world." I'm sure they would give me run of the space (for the price of goodies between Sunday school and a.m. service most likely, LOL) What troubles me is how to get the clients. The same methods I use with my various restaurants just don't seem right since I don't have a great "corporate" name behind me now. Getting off the ground has truly stumped me. That is why I have sat on the idea for a year now.


What type of things have you done for the church? Do you mainly do baking, or are you making dinners etc? Have you thought about what product you want to start with? I think that once you decide on the product, we can brainstorm ideas here. For example, if you are wanting to do full blown catering, you can market to people in your church who already know you. If you offer a discount to your beginning customers in exchange for handing out business cards at their event, that can help get the word out. If you are wanting to market pies, maybe you can set up a day or two a week when people could preorder pies and pick them up. If you are interested in baking cakes, letting people know that you are open for business will help you get a start. Honestly, when I had the catering company open, I frequently had requests for special cakes. I know how to make and decorate the cakes, but it just was not something I enjoyed. I looked for a cake decorator to hand that business off to.

When I work with youth groups for fundraising, I make the cinnamon rolls and deliver them to the group. Could you market to not for profits? Those are just a few ideas. Let us know what you are thinking about as far as products, and I bet we can come up with some marketing ideas.

My thing is sweets so I would definatly stick to what I'm good at. No full blown catering. By specializing it makes it easier to get off the ground (same as a restaurant - a sandwich shop will always be easier than a full service joint). But like you, I'm not a decorator. Stick to what Grandma and Mom taught me. Lots a southern favorites (tons of cookies, pound cakes, cobblers) and some trickier specialities(rum cakes, tea cookies, biscottie, red velvet, scones). I could call the business Diabetes in a box...yes that is a joke! I stole it from my mom - she predicted that I would accidentally kill someone my senior year in high school. My boyfriend had gone off to college and I sent him a different cookie every week for months. when I ran out of ideas I started making candy. Needless to say his rommies LOVED me! Anyway... question for you. Outside of the church itsself I would not even know how to market myself to or even find a non profit that would be interested. How did you do it?

Since I focused on  working with youth groups, I talked to youth ministers who have the responsibility of organizing and implementing the fund raising for things like mission trips. They always have to figure out a way to make that happen. Here is an idea for you. You could develop a nice brochure with pictures of up to five things you  would make for them. You have to be careful in that situation that you can charge enough to make a profit.  Let the group have the kids take orders and sell the items ahead of time and they deliver them as well. Basically they are your sales force. You have seen kids doing that for years. Ther beauty of this is they would be selling great quality products people love and don't get everyday. Besides that, people love to help kids raising money for good deeds.

There are other groups needing to raise money all the time. School groups funding trips or uniforms, sports groups wanting to cover their fees, cheerleaders. Just watch for any car wash and talk to the organizer, I can almost guarantee you that mid way through such an event they would be interested in just about anything but car washes. (One of my daughters was a youth minister). Find not for profit groups, contact them and take them samples of what you could provide with the marketing materials to leave with them. The easier you can make it for the group, the better the response. 

If you don't mind going the full blown business, tax id etc. I would have other suggestions. I had my corportate catering company up and running when I was actually making money with the sales at church. To be sure I had done them for a long time for no reimbursement (before I had a commercial kitchen and I was just doing it for the kids).Once I started the company, I had the ability to collect and pay sales tax, so it did not matter if I was responsible to pay taxes on the sales. I am not an attorney or a CPA so check out tax obligations, legalities etc with a professional.

If you would be able to collect and pay tax, then we could have another discussion. 

Hi, I am recently unemployed, I have enjoyed cooking, various crafting as well as photography.  I have an idea to work with single mothers and believe that these interests would be helpful with this project. I am interested in how to be able to use any of these skills to help support my family as well as  help out single mothers. I like the idea of the bread baking parties and have had some ideas about some similar cooking parties. Any information and wisdom you share, I am sure, will be helpful to me. Thanks! 


It is really great that you are wanting to help single moms. One of the beauties of the bread baking or cooking parties is that it does not matter if you have a commercial kitchen, as long as you are not selling the products, you don't need one, at least I don't think so. I have a licensed commercial kitchen in my home, but during an inspection by the health department I asked about those types of parties and the whether a licensed commercial kitchen was needed. I was told it was not required as long as I was not selling the food. You could check with your local department to make sure.

You can also set it up so that you have someone host a party and your are the teacher. The parties will be small and intimate by nature, so the attendees get a lot of one on one attention. You could also check out renting a large kitchen in a church, school or business that you could teach at. The community colleges often have adult instruction informal classes, and you could approach them about teaching a class there. Then you could possibly promote your own classes or talk about your availability to bake for others.

Those are a couple of ideas that came to mind immediately. How about suggestions from the group? I will keep thinking on that. Please keep asking questions if you have them and that will keep our discussions lively and get you moving. Invite anyone else you know that might benefit from what we are talking about to join our group. The more people we have, the more ideas we will generate!


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