Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need insurance? How do I structure my business? Do I need to be an LLC? When do I pay taxes?
A: All great and important questions! Thanks to the Judge’s 2017 ruling recognizing your constitutional right to earn an honest livelihood, you have the opportunity to go from a hobbyist that gives away your baked treats to a legal food entrepreneur, running your own business out of your home kitchen.
With that comes the responsibility of asking such questions, researching and making the right decisions for your business to keep you thriving as a legal, legitimate food entrepreneur. The answers to these questions require you to think and dream about the business you intend to build (and then write it down and take action), research what you need to individually do and make the best decision for your business as there often is no 100% right or wrong answer. That reality is part of being an entrepreneur.
This goal of this website is to help you get a key understanding of the basics of selling your non-hazardous home baked goods – and are not in the position to it does not provide advice on legal or accounting issues. You can find your local Small Business Development Center here.
SBDC staff cover every county in the state and can answer those LLC, insurance and (some) tax questions off the tops of their heads. SBDC business coaches provide FREE and confidential advice and can help you think through your dreams and help you research the best ways to start your business. They can help you put together your business plan and figure out your financing.
Additionally, contact your county Economic Development Corporation and local Chamber of Commerce for other business start-up resources in your area.
Q: The farmers market near me doesn’t allow cottage food bakers. Or another event in my area doesn’t allow home bakers. Can they do that?
A: Good question! Overall, most markets are inclusive and wanting more vendors (especially baked goods), but sometimes folks hit barriers like you:
• If a farmer’s market (or any event/craft fair, etc. where you might sell) is their own non-profit or private organization, they can set their own rules and only allow products made in a commercial facility with commercial licensing. The big Madison Dane County Farmers Market on the Square, for example, is their own non-profit organization with their own rules. Sometimes the venue itself if it is a private venue that is hosting the event (i.e., a hotel) may have their own requirements but typically that more so has to do with requiring proof of all vendor’s insurance.
• If the farmer’s market you are referring to is somehow city or municipally tied (i.e., your tax dollars are funding it technically), you would have a reason to question the decision process and advocate for including home bakers.
Sometimes the organizer is simply unaware of the Judge’s ruling lifting the ban on the sale of home baked goods in 2017. This overview letter written by the Institute for Justice that represented us in the lawsuit gives a quick summary – feel free to pass this along.
If they are aware of the Judge’s ruling and still exclude home bakers, you would have reason to challenge that. You may then need to take it to the market manager’s higher ups depending on how your municipality is structured. As seen at other markets, more vendors means more happy shoppers and unduly hindering local legal entrepreneurs like yourself hurts the local economy. Contact Erica Smith at the Institute for Justice (see letter) if you still hitting undue barriers.
Q: Can I give away samples at an event I’m vending at?
A: Check with your farmers market or event manager for the answer to that one. Giving away samples is something that is venue/event related, not related to cottage food or the judge’s ruling. There may also be local health department regulations you need to follows and, of course, protocols are different and amplified currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sometimes markets have rules regarding sampling (i.e., you might need proof of insurance) and others (particularly smaller markets) might not.
Q: Can I make and sell pet treats out of my home kitchen under the Judge’s ruling?
A: No. Pet treats have separate/different requirements via DATCP https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/MakingPetTreatsForSale.aspx
Q: Can I rent/use a commercial kitchen space and do my home baking from there?
A: No. Cottage food only applies to producing and selling out of your home kitchen. If you use a commercial kitchen you need commercial licensing. Here are some starter resources: https://foodsystems.extension.wisc.edu/programs/food-business-development/