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Starting a Food Business
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Cook for Cash: Starting a Food Business

Do your kids love your enchilada suizas? Are your friends begging you for your low cal lasagna recipe? Are your spiced pecans a hit every holiday season? You may think friends can cook like you or even love to cook. But that’s not the case. I can hardly boil water, and I would love for someone to cook for my family. And I’d pay them for it.

So many women love to cook and are getting paid to do it. Take Megan Ruppenstein for example, she began cooking great meals for her family and sharing her ideas with friends on the soccer sidelines watching her boys’ games. But when her friends said, “Would you just make extra for me?” she had an idea for starting a food business. With four boys to feed, she named her company Four Forks. Megan began by sending an email out to her friends a couple of nights a week, sharing what she was making and asking for orders. Customers would pick up their dinners at her home.

But her business grew, and she needed a bigger kitchen. Now she has a commercial kitchen and store front and offers prepared meals four to five days a week. The ordering process is completely automated and she’s rockin.

Another mom began making granola for her family around a recipe she developed herself. She shared her bags of handmade granola as gifts, and the fantastic feedback made her realize starting a food business with her granola could be successful. Naming her granola, By Hand, and using a hand drawn hand as her logo she was in business. Her son came on board and began selling the bags of handmade, By Hand granola to hotels creating a profitable business.

Cooking SauceImagine your family’s marinara sauce in the local super market. That’s what happened when Stefanie Bhalla had an idea for starting a food business, “Launching the sauce business that we had talked about felt right to me. I could give part of the proceeds to leukemia research to honor my brother, and my own venture would give me ownership of my time.”

First step: Stefanie knew of a food incubator program at Cornell. She reached out to them to gain an understanding of the process of going from the stovetop to the shelves. “I worked with my Dad in a commercial kitchen to formulate a shelf-stable recipe for our sauce.” Due Cellucci specialty sauces was born.

Stefanie sent an email to everyone she knew—friends and family, business associates and her family’s restaurant patrons—and the orders started coming in. With an office at home, Stefanie ran the distribution center out of her dining room. Word of mouth fueled the growth of the sauce business. “When I got my first order from someone I didn’t know, I felt great. You offer this product with no idea if anyone will like it and ultimately buy it.”

What’s your specialty? Take your gift for cooking and use it to make money. Who knows, you could be the next Martha Steward. She began by cooking for others.

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