How the Man is keeping me down from side income (okay, not really)

One of my favorite hobbies is cooking and baking since I think the whole process of chopping/seasoning/measuring/concocting is cathartic.  With cooking,  I like its creative aspect because you can wing it since it doesn’t have to be so exact, and love going to or putting together dinner parties and potlucks.  With baking, I like its preciseness (at least with the main ingredients), the house smells fragrant and welcoming after you bake, and I love giving them as gifts to family/friends over the holidays, packages to cheer people up, and as ice breakers when I first meet people like B’s family so they’ll like me as a “Nice to meet you!” gift.

Though I sometimes forget I have stuff baking (which has led to the occasional “Great news – the fire alarm works!” text to B), for the most part they turn out fairly decent.  I don’t have decorating down, but people seem to enjoy them:

So this past weekend, I was thinking of possible side income, and figured why not bake goods and sell them for a little pocket change here and there.  I love doing it, people seem to like it, and I bake on Sundays so what’s another batch or so to add on.  I looked on Ebay and Etsy, and it looks like people seem to do that online, but I wanted to do my due diligence first since people tend to be sue-happy and I’m pretty law abiding in general  (i.e., don’t even jaywalk).

The Governator Governor Brown signed AB 1616, also known as the California Homemade Food Act, which took effect January 1, 2013.  It allows some low risk foods (called “Cottage Foods”) to be made in residential homes and sold to the public since before, you needed a certified commercial kitchen.  I checked the list, and it looks like cookies, brownies, and bread/loaves are on it, which were primarily the foods I’d like to make.  So far, so good.

In order to do this, you either need a Class A registration, which allows you to directly sell, or a Class B permit, which allows you to directly or indirectly sell.  I would be in the Class A category, and it looks like I would need to register with my local health department (I think a couple hundred or so), take some food processing guidelines course, not required to have routine inspections, be aware of how I label/package it,  etc.  While I’m not loving the registration since, really, like $50 at most should be sufficient, it is what it is and I would hopefully make that up sooner or later.

Then, the clincher – Advertising and transactions made on the internet are okay but NOT for shipping the product via courier service/mail/FedEx/UPS. Product may be delivered by the CFO within the county only.

ARGH!  So I’m not allowed to sell and ship stuff off on Etsy or Ebay.  I’m pretty good about sending Priority Mail to my loved ones the next day after I bake so they get it fresh, so if it’s being shipped in the U.S. then I would think this is a reasonable method to sell.  But, The Man won’t let me. *shakes fist angrily*

Okay, so I know it’s for the consumers’ best interest and protection, so I get that perspective.  But I was getting pretty excited about baking lots, putting them in decorative bags and tying pretty bows on them, etc., so yeah, it’s a bit disappointing.

So what’s an alternative option?  I don’t want to sell it to my friends and family here since I already make it for them for free (I can’t have them take a bite and say, “Glad you like it… five dollars!”).  And I’m not sure how it would be to advertise on Etsy with specific instructions that it must be given in person, or maybe Craigslist.  With such a limited potential base to work with, will it even be worth the registration fee?  I mean, I’d break even this year and then have to renew registration again.

So, it’s back to the drawing board, I guess.  It was a good learning lesson, at least, and I do like the bill’s premise since it promotes fresh eating rather than packaged stuff made on factory lines.  I told it to my boss and she brought up the thought of maybe I can write the registration and any transport fees as a tax write-off, so maybe that’s a possible route if selling person to person?  And when I disappointingly told it to B, he advised maybe selling at the Farmer’s Market – I looked it up and it looks like there’s a Vendor seminars for it, so maybe I’ll research that (update: you’ll need consumer liability insurance and it’s getting too complicated with start-up costs, so don’t think I’ll be going this route).  I’ll look into it some more and see what I come up with.

If anyone in Cali was thinking about this, here’s the bill:


22 thoughts on “How the Man is keeping me down from side income (okay, not really)

  1. I agree with GMD…look I’m not that far being in in case you need a quality assurance person you could probably twist my arm. I think the idea of selling them at farmer’s markets is a great idea! Or what about catering some parties?

    • LOL thanks for being altruistic enough to volunteer for the QA department! I read a bit today about Farmer’s Market and there’s a lot of start-up costs involved with it, but I’m still going to think of alternatives. Catering is a great idea, maybe I’ll ask local catering companies and network that way. Thanks!

  2. Wow, I really admire your creativity. I’ve tried to generate a little side income with a couple of ideas, but they’ve all failed because they take too much time… and I’ve gotta keep my day job.
    If you figure out a way to legally send baked goods across state lines, I’ll be your first customer! Your dark chocolate brownies look awesome.
    I know this is thinking a little outside the box, but is it legal to send kits or ingredients or something like that? I bake a lot, but let’s say I don’t, what if I ordered a muffin kit and you sent the right amount of everything I needed, laid out in an easy way to just throw it in a bowl and bake??

    • I think that was the appealing part of this since I tend to bake frequently so it wouldn’t take too much time. That’s a great idea about the kits! I’ll have to look into that… and since you’re a health nut, have you tried substituting coconut oil into your baked goods? It’s awesome! 🙂

      • Hmm, I’ve never tried coconut oil. I’ve mostly just stuck with vegetable oil. I’ll have to check it out, if it’s not crazy expensive, that is!

  3. I’m not a baker. I’m a baked goods buyer. Man, I’d be ordering from you if you could send your goods cross country all the way to the east coast. (my turn to shake my fists angrily) Hope your side gig works out. Sounds like you’re pretty determined to find a way to make it work. I know you will~

    • I do that for my friends when they’re in a pinch, but I’ve been doing it for free so it would feel awkward (for me) to ask to be paid. I’d consider it for strangers, though… thanks for the idea!

  4. It’s this way for most states actually. I have looked into this several times and am always discouraged.

    • Bummer, sorry to hear you’re in the same boat! I guess I just got my hopes up when I saw Etsy people were doing it, but I guess they must be an actual brick and mortar business or something.

      • I asked one person on Etsy how they did it and the woman used her local Church’s kitchen, which had been inspected & approved for commercial use. However, the woman herself still had to take some sort of food+safety courses before she could sell what was made in that kitchen. In larger cities there are commercial kitchens you can rent just for this purpose. Or some restaurants/cafes will let you use their kitchen after hours.

    • I can’t reply to your latest comment for some reason, but thanks for the tip! I was checking out commercial kitchens here but some charge a minimum of $300/month, which is way more than what I was thinking of… going to local churches or restaurants is a great idea! Do you think you’ll pursue it? Do you have a blog, as well? 🙂

      • A friend and I were going to split the cost of a commercial kitchen at one point but even then, it’s still a risk if it’s worth it or not. I decided that if I am going go for this, it would be for more than just “baking on the side” because it will take a bit of resources to figure out.

        I have participated in some baking competitions/sales here in nyc and even for that it’s been difficult for the organizers to find hosting. At the last one, someone who has been approved as a food+safety person had to be onsite the entire time. Unfortunately, state governments here are very strict about food sellers.

        I do have a blog! — it’s specific to nyc living but has lots of recipes too! 🙂

  5. I will absolutely be your customer. I can only image how delicious those peanut butter cup cookies taste, plus the bf loves baked goods and I’m not much of a cook. Boo on the man for keeping you down. If you find a way around state law, or want to take a chance 😉 let me know!

    • Thanks for the support! People seem to like those because they’re brownie-like and soft… I think I might be able to if I find a certified commercial kitchen, but just looking into it thoroughly and weighing the start-up costs. I’ll keep you posted!

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