August 4, 2021

How to Start an Online Food Business

Do you dream of opening your own bakery, food store or restaurant someday? Maybe you never want to go brick and mortar — selling online is all you’d like to do, thank you very much. 

No matter if an online store for your food business is step one or the final step in your food business aspirations, there’s no overlooking the importance of a digital presence for your culinary business. An online store gives your business a unique edge that a brick and mortar can’t — a way to serve customers any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re ready for your online ribbon cutting ceremony, here’s how to launch a site and start selling in minutes. 

Pick your products

As a culinary artisan, there’s a good chance that your products of choice will be food. While that narrows things down a little bit — you won’t be selling shoes or candles in your online store — there’s an entire world of food products to choose from. 

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got a specialty, something you’re known for making and that your friends and family love. Maybe you’ve decided you want to sell that product, or maybe you’re going to sell something you just learned to make but want to share with more people. No matter what you end up selling, your store’s product selection is one of the most (if not the most) important choices you’ll make as you start a food business online. Don’t forget to consider your pricing — do you know how much you should be charging for your products?

Many home-based food entrepreneurs start by selling something that’s on the approved cottage food list, which means that a state or local government has deemed it to be a low-risk food to sell. These often include things like jam, breads, cakes, granola, and other shelf-stable food products. 

Choose a name for your food business

One of the most fun (and important) parts of building a business? Naming it!

Think about what you want your name to communicate. Should it let customers know right away what you’re selling? If you only sell flatbreads, maybe you include the word flatbread in your business name. Alternatively, if you sell a wider range of products — say, ones that all fall under the savory food umbrella — you might incorporate the word savory into your name. Test out your food business name ideas with friends and family to see if the name resonates. 

We recommend using your business name in all of your social media profiles and as your website address. This will help your customers (and future customers) to immediately recognize your brand. 

Set up your online store

You’ve got a name and you know what you want to sell. Now it’s time to build your storefront, which in this case is 100% digital. 

Castiron’s easy to use, customizable, free ecommerce website builder helps you quickly set up your store, add products, take payments, manage customers, keep track of orders, manage inventory, and more. In a matter of minutes, you can launch a professional-looking website to sell your homemade food and simplify the ordering process for customers.

You can set inventory quantities so you never oversell products again. If you’ve been selling food on Facebook or Instagram, you won’t have to worry about disparate messages from customers again. Everything is contained in one easy to use platform.

Take orders online

Start accepting orders in 3, 2, 1… go! It only takes a few minutes to set up your Castiron store, so you can start taking orders online faster. Sell your products and accept payments via credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay directly through your store.

Decide on a fulfillment method

Are you only selling your food locally? Cottage food laws restrict many home-based food vendors’ ability to ship their products, especially out of state. 

Fulfill orders on your own terms by making your fulfillment methods crystal clear to customers. Do you only offer porch pickup? Maybe you deliver to customers, or maybe you bring pre-ordered products to the farmers’ market each week. No matter how you get your food to customers, make sure that they have all of the information they need about how and when they’ll receive their food ahead of time. 

With Castiron, you can select from shipping, pickup, and delivery fulfillment options and provide your customers with all of the details they need for each method. 

Start marketing your food business

Now it’s time to spread the word about your food business. Let customers know about the products you make through social media, email marketing, SEO, and events. The more you show up online in all the places your customers shop, the greater the chance that you’ll convert your audience into buyers.

For more tips on marketing your food business, check out our food photography tips and our guide to influencer marketing for food businesses.

You're serious about your food business. We are too. Ditch the complex order tracking spreadsheets and late night texts from your customers. The Castiron platform is purpose-built to help culinary artisans build and grow their businesses online.
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