Sometimes the hardest part of starting a food business is just that — getting started.
There’s a lot to do when launching a cottage food business, a commercial kitchen-based food business, or any food business, for that matter. Of course, you need to nail down your recipes and menu, but you also need to decide on a name and a brand. You need to get your licensing and legal ducks in a row. And you need to figure out how you’ll take orders. There’s a lot more beyond that, too.
We built Castiron because we know that managing orders tends to be more complicated than it needs to be. We wanted to help artisans turn their messy ordering and payment systems into an easy process for both you and your customers.
Ready to simplify (or just start!) your food business? We chatted with current Castiron users and asked our artisan support team for their tips on setting up and launching a store on Castiron. Now all you have to do is take the first step!
Jump to the section you're looking for:
Step 1: Knowing Your Local Cottage Food Laws
Step 2: Naming Your Food Business
Step 3: Prepare Your Shop
Step 4: Add Products
Step 5: Add Fulfillment Methods
Step 6: Set Up Payments
Step 7: Customize Your Shop
Step 8: Share Your Link and Market Your Business
Step One: Know the Laws
Before you get too far in your food business journey, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re in compliance with your local laws. In the U.S., there are a set of laws known as cottage food laws that dictate what you can and can’t sell from your home. If you work from a commercial kitchen, requirements are different. Cottage food laws vary from state to state, and can even differ from county to county.
The best place to find information on your local laws on selling food is your local health department or agriculture office. Some universities also have extension offices with resources for cottage food producers.
What kind of information should you look out for when doing your research?
- The types of foods you can sell
- Where you can sell
- Where you can make your products
- Whether you need a kitchen inspection
- Labeling and packaging requirements
- What permits or trainings are required
- Any special rules that your state or county has about selling food
Step Two: Choose a Name
One of the most fun parts of starting a food business can also be one of the most difficult! Don’t let your branding hold you back from launching your business — after all, you can tweak your business name or edit your logo at any time.
As you get ready to launch your food business, it’s good to have a basic visual representation of your brand, but it’s not a make-or-break requirement. With Castiron, you don’t have to upload a logo to your store. Instead, you can just show your store name while you work on a logo.
Having trouble thinking of a name for your homemade food business? Use these thought-starters to start the brainstorming process:
- Can you incorporate your name into your business name?
- Is there anything special or unique about your products to call out in your name? (Are your products ready super fast? Are they really sweet? Are they fruity? Are they really creative?)
- Can you include your product category in the name?
- Could you mention your location in your business name?
- If your product is specialty or unique to a certain area, can you call that out?
- Could you use alliteration?
- Could you include initials, a nickname, or any name of personal significance?
- Can you use descriptive words in your name?
One tried-and-true way of coming up with names for a business is by listing out as many words as possible that describe you and your business. There are no “wrong answers” in this exercise, but seeing all of the possibilities on paper can help you to create interesting and unique combinations.
Step Three: Prepare Your Shop
It’s time to start building your store on Castiron!
As you go through the store setup process, you’ll be walked through each step. We’ve built our setup process in a way that makes creating a store easy, not overwhelming. Now that you’ve decided on your products and business name, building a store is quick.
Here’s everything you’ll need to do to be ready to launch your Castiron store.
Castiron Store Launch Checklist
- Decide on a name for your business
- Know at least one product that you’ll be offering (product name, description, price, and inventory at a minimum, but you can also include a photo, allergen information, dietary information, and more)
- Create at least one fulfillment option (do you offer pickup, delivery, or shipping?)
- Connect to Stripe, our payment processor, so your customers can check out and you can accept payments
- Customize your shop with your logo, a photo of you, a cover photo, shop badges, and more
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’ll be ready to launch and share your link with your future customers! Don’t forget, you can pick up on any of these checklist items at any time — while we’ve made it so easy to launch your store that you could go live in just a few minutes, you can also resume the store setup process on your own timeline. If you’ve started the store setup process but haven’t finished, log into Castiron here.
We’ll show you how to complete each of these store launch checklist items below.
Step Four: Add Products
Products are the core of your Castiron store. Whether you sell custom wedding cakes, heat-and-eat meals, or chocolate chip cookies, you can set up products in a way that works for the way you do business. You can sell ANY product, whether simple or complex.
In Castiron, you have the option to create a Standard Product or a Custom Product. What’s the difference?
- A Standard Product is one that a customer can buy from your store without you needing any additional information. For instance, if you sell cookies, and have chocolate cookies, sugar cookies, and snickerdoodles for sale, and you just need to know how many cookies someone ordered in order to complete the order, you would use Standard Products in your store. You can manage small product variations through Standard Products (think: things like “add frosting for $1,” “write ‘Happy Birthday Emily’ on the cake,” or “choose a filling flavor”).
- A Custom Product is a product that involves some back-and-forth and consultation on your part. When a customer wants to order a Custom Product (like a custom cake, cupcakes, or cookies), they aren’t able to check out immediately due to the nature of custom orders. From your Castiron store, customers can fill out a custom request form (with the questions that have been customized and added by you). Once they submit their request, the request will show up in Castiron and you’ll be notified via email. From here, you can reach out to the customer to get any additional details you need, or you can reject the order. Once you have all of the details you need for an order, you can send your customer a final invoice for payment through Castiron.
Prefer to watch a video? Here’s an explanation of the differences between custom and standard products:
No matter which type of product you choose, when you add a new product to your store, you’ll see several ways to inform your customers about ingredients, allergen information, and more. As you build out products, remember: the more detail you can provide to your customers, the more likely they are to make a purchase. This is your opportunity to inform them before they try your products!
To create a well-rounded Standard Product in your Castiron store, you’ll want to include:
- A title
- A product description
- A product image
- Allergen information
- Dietary information
- Product category
Learn how to add variations to Standard Products in Castiron:
Custom Products include many of the same fields, except for inventory. You can also add a “starting at” price so that customers understand that your prices vary based on designs, complexity, or quantity. You can also add Custom Request Details fields to gather the information you need from a customer in order to provide an estimate for their order.
You’ll never need to ask your customers for their emails, phone numbers, names, or (if applicable) delivery addresses — Castiron collects that information for you when your customers check out.
Step Five: Set Your Fulfillment Options
Pickup, shipping, or delivery? Or all three? With Castiron, you can let your customers know how they’ll receive their orders up front — and you have the freedom to only fulfill orders the way you want.
You can create as many fulfillment options as you’d like in Castiron. Offer a Tuesday pickup and a Thursday pickup, along with a Friday delivery option? Create all three and allow your customers to choose whichever fulfillment option works for them. Only want to offer shipping? Turn on a shipping fulfillment option, collect a shipping fee (or offer free shipping when a customer purchases a certain dollar amount), and start making sales!
If you offer local pickup and delivery, your customers will be able to see your pickup zip code or delivery neighborhoods before they order. You can provide post-purchase pickup details if you’d like to keep your home or kitchen address private prior to a purchase being made.
Prefer to watch a video? Learn how to create your store’s fulfillment options:
Step Six: Get Ready to Take Payments
Before you can make your first sale, you have to connect to Stripe, which processes payments. You’ll be walked through each step of the Stripe setup process — no accounting knowledge needed.
As you set up your Stripe account through Castiron, you’ll be asked for your:
- Mobile number
- Either your bank account or debit card information
- Date of birth
- If you are a business or individual
- If you are setting up your Stripe account as a business, you will be required to provide an EIN number and legal entity name
- If you are setting up your Stripe account as an individual, you will need to provide your social security number
- Business website (you can use your Castiron store link!)
- Business type
All of this information is used to verify your identity to monitor and prevent fraud. Castiron does not store your financial or personal information — only Stripe stores your details, securely in their platform. Still have questions about Stripe setup? Visit our Help Center here.
Congrats, you’re ready to make your first sale!
Step Seven: Customize Your Shop
Customizing your shop is one of the most fun parts of creating your Castiron store. It’s easy to put your spin on a Castiron store with a logo, profile photo, and cover image.
After you add visuals to your shop, share your story with your customers. In the About section of your store, you can write as much or as little as you want — but remember, this is your chance to give your customers an inside look at why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what makes your business special.
You can also link out to your Facebook and Instagram business pages, giving customers an opportunity to view photos of the products you’ve created. By sharing your social links, you’re also providing your customers with an additional opportunity to connect with your business and stay up to date on your latest products, sales, and holiday specials.
If you’ve added allergen information to your products on a specific product level, you may also want to create shop-wide allergen warnings. In the About section of Castiron, you can select any of the allergens that may be present in your kitchen to keep your customers informed and safe.
Step Eight: Share and Market Your Business!
You’ve done it! You’ve created a complete, ready-to-sell Castiron store for your food business.
We can’t wait to watch you grow and succeed. There’s still one thing you must do to start selling: share your store link and market your business! To view your store and get your store link, click “My Shop” in the left column of your Castiron admin. From there, you’ll be taken to your live store!
Share your Castiron store link on social media, via text, via email, and anywhere that you think your customers will be. You might even create a QR code that links to your store that you can put on business cards, print ads, t-shirts, or packaging. Don’t forget to update your Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter pages with your store URL so that your customers can easily make a purchase!
For tips and best practices on marketing your business, check out these helpful resources:
- SEO tips for food businesses
- Photography tips for food businesses
- How to work with influencers for your food business
- How to make sales with social media
- The best free marketing tools for your business
- Facebook groups vs. pages: which to choose
- Branding tips for businesses with small budgets
We wish you the best on your journey, and remember: Our team is always here to support you. Need help with your Castiron store? Visit the Castiron help center to find articles or connect with our artisan support team.