When Home Based Isn’t An Option

In many parts of the world, having a home based business isn’t an option. Usually because there is no legal precedent for it – either it’s simply not allowed, or the country/city you’re in has not regulated it so they kinda don’t know what to say or do when you ask. Often it can be a really, REALLY frustrating process of getting passed from department to department, clueless person to clueless person and getting different answers at every stop along the way. Of course in an ideal world, you would have checked all this out BEFORE starting up the business. I’ve learned however that a lot of people decide to run a food business from home, start selling kinda on the side, and THEN go and find out the information required only to discover it’s not possible. It can be a major dream crusher when that happens, especially if you’ve already begun the business in some way and are excited about it.

If you’re really struggling to figure out how to register your home based business, here’s a few ideas for you for how to deal with this process:

  • Ask another small food business for advice. Go to a local farmer’s market or food event, and ask the other vendors how they got themselves registered. Chances are there’s at least one of them in the area who has already dealt with this and they might have some insight for you.
  • Get everything in writing. So if you speak to someone in your local municipality about this, get them to email you the information, so at the very least you have a trail of evidence as to what you’ve been told.
  • Consider other options. Can you rent out another space somewhere and use it? A by-the-hour commercial kitchen, a church hall, a cafe that operates part time, a small apartment somewhere? Don’t give up on the dream entirely before you’ve exhausted the other options. If home based business can do everything other than (for example), make products with eggs – can you register your home but make ONLY your egg based products from a commercial kitchen once a week or once a month?
  • Share the burden. Chances are if you are having a hard time, so is someone else. Find another person wanting to start a food business and see if you can’t help one another out. Perhaps you can share a space so the rent is halved?
  • There’s probably a local cake/cookie maker group on Facebook – there are hundreds of them! – so find one of those and ask the people there what the process was like. Often people will suggest a nicer/kinder food inspector, or will give you some “key to the lock” which will make the process easier as they’ve already done it.
  • Carry on without registration.  I know, this sounds like crazy advice right? I am NOT SAYING that you should avoid registering or getting your business legal. I’m saying that I’ve now met DOZENS of people for whom home businesses are simply not regulated in their area. It’s not that it’s not allowed, it’s that there is no existing precedent and no requirement for an official registration. So as long as your local council knows it exists, and you’ve done your best to follow whatever rules exist – then you can carry on until you learn otherwise. I’d still recommend doing a food safety class of some kind, to protect both you and your customers. I actually met one woman who was waiting seven YEARS to get registered and kept nudging the authorities about it. With no requirement to be registered, she carried on her business nonetheless, and even counted several local law makers as her customers. (By the way, it never happened. Her business eventually got big enough for a storefront.) So if they don’t require it of you (and you’re 100% certain of that), carrying on is a reasonable choice.

I’d love to tell you that being based at home is always possible, but it’s not – so if you’ve not yet gotten started with your business, that’s the very first thing you should check. Make sure it’s possible BEFORE you start selling, before you pick a business name or register a domain name. You don’t want to get all the way down the road only to discover a “road closed ahead” sign.  Not being able to work from home doesn’t have to mean the death of your business.  For a lot of people, being based from home is about lifestyle and cost – so if the home part of it is essential to you, best to check on that part BEFORE you start throwing the grand opening party.

Got a part time home based business? You should check out Sweet Side Gig, my online community for people just like you!

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