December 1, 2020

Many states have a law called the Cottage Food Act that allows certain products to be made in a home kitchen and sold directly to a consumer. My guest today, David Crabill, is who I turn to as the expert on all things Cottage Food with his website

David shares his own cottage food journey, whether you need insurance or an LLC and his top five tips for success that have come out of his own podcast interviewing founders.

We are seeing many more Cottage Food producers coming out of the woodwork due to COVID, and you just might be one of them!

Sari 0:04
I'm Sari Kimbell and I've done just about everything in the food industry. I have helped hundreds of packaged food business entrepreneurs and now I want to help you make your delicious dream a reality. Whether you want to be successful at farmer's markets, online, or wholesale on the store shelves, Food Business Success is your secret ingredient. I will show you how to avoid an expensive hobby, and instead run a profitable food business. Now let's jump.

All right, everyone. Welcome back to this week's podcast. I have an awesome guest, David Crabill and David is the founder of Forrager and he helps cottage food businesses get started. So welcome, David.

David Crabill 0:54
Thank you.

Sari 0:55
Thanks for joining me today. So like I said, you are the founder of Forrager. Forrager is an online community. It's specifically for the cottage food industry. And you are really like, in my mind, the cottage food expert in the United States and you help entrepreneurs get people off the ground. Is that the best way to describe what you do? Who you are?

David Crabill 1:19
Well, it's nice of you, I would say I, I'm considered one of the leading experts in the cottage food laws. I don't know about cottage food businesses in general, I don't know when I talked to all these founders and these people who have run amazing businesses, I just always learn about, I just learn how much I don't know about the industry. And there's just so many facets to it. But the cottage food laws, I have researched those over and over and over again. And I'm not saying I know everything about them but there aren't too many resources out there that takes such a broad national scope of the cottage food laws. So there are certainly people that know more about a specific state than I do. But there aren't too many people who just are as familiar with all the laws.

Sari 2:09
Awesome. Yeah, I think I found you, gosh, probably a year and a half ago, maybe even longer. We've been we've been we've known each other over email and social media and watched each other's stuff. But this is our first time actually talking in person, which is super fun. But I found you, I think I was doing some research on cottage food laws for a specific state and found Forrager, and was like, Oh, what is this? This is awesome. Like, what a great resource. So it's at And we'll put that in the show notes. So great resource there. And then you have a whole forum and so I reached out to you and said, Hey, can I, can I talk about what I do? And you know, answer people's questions and so that kind of started our professional relationship, which has been great and it's been fun to follow you. But how long have you been building this online forum Forrager?

David Crabill 3:09
Yeah, so I started Forrager back in 2011, actually. That that was way back when I started with my friend. And it was initially going to be an online marketplace, like kind of an Etsy for cottage foods, which I've seen a lot of people try that concept over and over again, since we kind of abandoned it. But in the process of starting that, I realized that there are all these cottage food laws- I actually started Forrager before I even knew about the cottage food industry or any cottage food laws, I just thought hey it'd be really nice to be able to sell things to your neighbor. But in the process of learning about the cottage food laws, I created a resource for the cottage food industry because I thought, if people are using our platform to buy and sell cottage foods, they should be aware of what the laws are because kind of confusing. So that resource became a website. And then that website became popular. So it kind of sort of took a life of its own because what we're trying to build- the marketplace- didn't really go anywhere. People didn't want it. And the other website that I built, which was this cottage food law resource was becoming very popular because it was filling a great need because the cottage food laws, quite frankly, are pretty confusing. And even if you talk to state officials or local officials, sometimes they don't even know what the law is. So, so that sort of is where Forrager came from. And I'd say in about 2013 that's when the law resource started to grow and I've been supporting that off and on over the years. I kind of took a break, I'd say between 2017 it coincides perfectly with when I met my wife, so Yeah

Sari 5:00
That's fair.

David Crabill 5:01
2016ish to 2018 or 19, I wasn't too active on Forrager but it has grown quite a bit and a lot of people still come to the website and you know learn about their cottage food law and how they can get started.

Sari 5:17
Yeah and good interaction to on the forum. So it's nice that you have that that piece as well. Now, you actually started a cottage food business, which maybe we should back up for listeners who are like, what, what is a cottage food business? What the heck are they talking about? So maybe let's back up first, and I'll just have you explain what a cottage food business is. And then you can tell us about yours?

David Crabill 5:42
Yeah, I feel like your audience probably is a little bit more familiar with the cottage food industry than the average person. I walk down the street most people don't hear that know what the cottage food industry is or what a cottage food law is. But basically, my there is no official definition of what a cottage food law is, or what a cottage food business is but my definition is basically someone who is using a cottage food law, which is a law that allows people to use their home kitchen to start a food business. Someone who's using a cottage food law to use their home kitchen to run a legal food business. That's my definition. As I said, there is no official definition.

Sari 6:24

David Crabill 6:25
But yeah, so I would say that the, the, the, where I got started with Forrager was actually back when I was trying to start a cookie business. And I at the time, kind of thought it might be illegal, but I didn't really know that it was in fact illegal. And so these cottage food laws basically legalized my cookie business, which didn't end up panning out for a variety of reasons, but eventually, I moved into a fudge business a couple years ago.

Sari 7:03
Nice and that's still up and running, right? You're still doing that business?

David Crabill 7:07
Yeah. It is up and running. I'm in the night. The difficult thing with the fudge business is that there's also Forrager and Forrager consumes most of my time, so I, I sort of by design wanted the fudge business to be on the side. And it very much has been I was at the markets a year ago, I kind of focused it as a holiday thing, because fudge really sells well, in the fall and at Christmas time, doesn't really sell that well, I mean, it sells kind of well at Easter, and somewhat at Valentine's Day. But by design, I kind of wanted it to be a very seasonal part time thing. This year, I really haven't touched it, for the most part. And I'm not going to be touching it for the holiday season primarily because we have another daughter on the way. I have a young son who's 17 months old now. And our daughter is is due in early December. And there's the the Coronavirus makes things a little bit more complicated and it just, it just doesn't seem like the right thing to try to be pulling out of the bag at this time. This year.

Sari 8:22
It makes sense. Well, congratulations. I think that's when we first connected was after the birth of your your first your son. Cuz I remember saying

David Crabill 8:29
That's right. Yeah.

Sari 8:31
That you were a new father. So that's exciting. Is this your full time gig doing Forrager and in the cottage food business?

David Crabill 8:42
I well it kinda depends. I mean, I also have a son who takes up a lot of my time.

Sari 8:48
That's fair.

David Crabill 8:51
It, I mean, it's it's what I do more for work than anything else. But I do kind of run a couple other types of side businesses-ish. And I've been a website developer for a long time. I'm trying to not really do as much web development right now to focus on Forrager. But yeah, I mean, you could say full time ish. I do part time take care of Ray, my son and then we do are fortunate enough to have quite a bit of help from grandparents for him.

Sari 9:24
Awesome. All right, well, let's jump into I mean, your your area of expertise is really around helping people navigate cottage food laws and start a cottage food business. You know, you said you were kind of backing off doing your own fudge business this year, but you launched a podcast this was this year, right? Or was it last year?

Yep, in February.

So maybe tell listeners a little bit about that and why that might be valuable to them if they're thinking about starting a cottage food business.

David Crabill 10:00
Yeah, I started the Forrager podcast in February and I, I've had that idea of starting a podcast in the back of my mind for two, three years now. And it just seemed like now is as good a time as any to get it started. And what I do on the podcast is I just bring people on who've started, and in a couple cases are in the process of starting their cottage food business, and some of which have run their business for over a decade. So it's been really fun to hear some of the stories that have come out of this industry. And when I started the podcast I was actually a little concerned that the stories will get a little redundant, you know, like, oh, here's another cake maker, here's another decorated cookie maker. And what's really blown me away is how unique all the stories are. And every time I do an episode, I'm like, wow, that was a really good episode. So um, yeah, I've really gotten a lot of value out of it myself, just from hearing from these founders, and I've gotten a lot of good feedback from other people as well.

Sari 11:06
That's great. Do you have a pretty large following then? Like people just kind of hovering around this cottage food industry and thinking about starting or have started?

David Crabill 11:20
I mean, it depends on what your definition of large is, right? Because it's all relative. I mean, I'd say it's relatively large for the industry, for sure. I don't know if it's the largest, but it's, it's probably up there. But that being said, you know, we're always working on I mean, you know, Sari, as you grow your business to like, they're, no matter how large or significant it is, it's, it's difficult to monetize it. And that's kind of the current focus for me is trying to figure out how this, you know, potential business could support my family even, you know. So it's large, but I wouldn't say it's super profitable at this point. But I'd like it to get there.

Sari 12:06
Absolutely. Yeah. Well, we need people need people like you and like myself to to help them I mean, I do help cottage food businesses who you know, want to get started but they they typically have a goal to move into wholesale or Amazon or, you know, other e commerce pretty quickly. But it's so great to have that other another resource and cottage food that's, that's really dedicated to the to that group. I know in Colorado, we have a Facebook group called Colorado Cottage Food Peeps that I'm pretty active in and has a lot of people and it is really cool to see the entrepreneurship in those in those groups. Do you guys have a Facebook group that you're a part of in California?

David Crabill 12:54
That yeah, there is. There were a couple when the law got passed, and one is kind of taken over is the main one, Creating your Cottage Food Business. And I can't remember if they changed the name recently, but it's a very active group. I'm not I have I've kind of lost my activity in it just because it's just there's so much to focus on and deal with. But yeah, there are some really great people in that group supporting California business.

Sari 13:24
Yeah.Would you say? Are you seeing an uptick? Do you think in people wanting to start these kind of businesses this year specifically?

David Crabill 13:31
Yeah, huge, huge uptick in interest. I, I didn't really know what to expect. I thought there might be a decrease and there was a decrease for the first couple weeks of the Coronavirus. But since then I think people being at home, and some people have lost their jobs. And you know, the, the cottage food and home food business is kind of a unique one because there are a lot of people that always have that idea in the back of their head. And they, they think, well, maybe someday I'll start a food business. There's so many people that fall into that category. And so if somebody loses their job, then they go, Oh, this would be actually a good time for me to focus on creating a business, creating an asset that can maybe you know, replace my job some day so I don't have to go back to the office or I don't have to lose my job again. So that has happened for sure. I've seen that in the analytics on my website. I mean, it's a pretty good judge because most of my analytics, most I should say most of my traffic that people come to my website, they come from Google search and so people are searching for 'how do I start home food business?' And so I saw in particular, New York was the most interesting case

Sari 14:47
Oh, interesting.

David Crabill 14:48
Where New York used to be, I don't know, obviously, it's a huge state, but it wasn't the top five traffic source for me. And it jumped to number one in May/June. Yeah, so obviously, they're one of the most hard hit states for the pandemic. And I don't think they're still at the number one slot, but they're definitely still in the top three.

Sari 15:14
That is really fascinating. I know, I've been going to some farmers markets here in Denver and meeting a lot of brand new entrepreneurs starting under cottage food. So I'm pretty excited about it. Honestly, I think it's great that people are finally doing that.

David Crabill 15:29
Yeah, and it's not just, it's not just the analytics or the traffic numbers. But people reach out to me all the time every day, introducing themselves. And I asked them to when they sign up for my email list, I asked them to, you know, let me know who they are. And so I hear those stories in off the grid, but people are saying, Hey, I lost my job, or I've been thinking about doing this. And over and over again I've seen that trend this year, for sure in a big way.

Sari 16:01
Yeah. So So when people are starting, which is really your specialty, so somebody has an idea. They're, you know, they make something delicious out of their home kitchen. They maybe have heard about cottage food, or they Google and kind of figure out Oh, there's this way that I can make a product legally out of my kitchen and sell it. What are some of the next like the top three big questions that people have? Or things that you're really helping them with in this really early stage?

David Crabill 16:37
I'd say the number one question people have is they just don't know where to start. They feel confused, or they feel overwhelmed. They want to make sure they're doing everything the right way. And so they just kind of want some sense for how to start. And to be fair, it is really confusing. I mean, if you get into the commercial space, which I know, Sari, you have more experience there, that's massive confusion, right? The red tape. The complications.

Sari 17:06
Right. That's a whole next level of confusion.

David Crabill 17:09
Yeah. So but the the cottage food laws do represent a major simplification of that process. But still, in many states, it's still pretty complicated and confusing. And people are calling up their local officials. And, you know, they're finding out they have to get this permit that permit and they aren't really sure what which way is up. And so that's the biggest reason people reach out to me or find me is because I kind of simplify the law on Forrager. And then I can kind of help guide them with what's important to focus on and what's not important to focus on when they're starting out. And I generally recommend kind of taking the simpler approach of just kind of getting your feet off the ground. People get really caught up in wanting to make sure they have all their T's crossed and their I's dotted and make sure that there is legal as possible, so they're not going to get sued. And I don't know from my experience in the industry, I've never seen anybody get sued over the past 10 years. And I've talked to like the flip program, the insurance program, that is probably the number one that helps provide cottage food businesses with insurance and they couldn't tell me that they'd even had anybody call a claim. And if you think about cottage foods, we didn't really define it earlier, but typically, a cottage food business is limited to shelf stable foods or low risk foods. So by definition a cottage food business is a very low risk business. You're almost certainly not going to get someone sick and in only in the cases of certain types of canned foods, would I say you'd want to take some more precautions. But yeah, a baked good, a cookie, a piece of bread is not going to make someone sick. So it's not likely going to result in liability. So I generally recommend that people just get their feet going and get some sales and talk to their neighbors, talk to people at church, talk to an organization they're a part of, and and see how the market responds, see if people are willing to buy something and see if if they can generate some customer feedback early on.

Sari 19:32
Yeah, I so agree with that advice. Like just start taking some action and get your product to market a, you know, an MVP, a minimum viable product that meets the requirements of cottage food. I mean, the labeling is fairly simple. I mean, I'm very familiar Colorado and pretty familiar with California. You're familiar with all states, so I shouldn't generalize too much. But typically, you're just going to need to figure out if your food is allowed. There's an application of some kind with your county or the state. And you there's a certain label requirement. And a lot of times I'm assuming I know in Colorado, there's a food safety, like a test or something that, that you have to that you have to take, is that pretty common for most states?

David Crabill 20:20
Yeah, I don't know if it's for most states, but probably about half the states have a requirement for a food safety test. But I actually recommend people take it no matter what. It costs only like seven bucks online to take a food safety course. Takes, what two hours from the convenience of your home? And it's even if it's a refresher for somebody who maybe has food experience, food industry experience, it's still good to have the refresher. And I mean, we're talking about insurance earlier and liability. Like I think the number one way to to prevent there from being liability is to educate yourself, right? And to make sure that you're doing things the way that every food service worker has been educated to do them. So yeah, yeah. And talking about the process. I mean, generally speaking, the very basics of learning about a cottage food law would be looking on Forrager and then there are, I've laid out the restrictions. So they're typically restricted by venue. So sometimes you can only sell at farmer's markets, or you can sell it events, and you can't sell in stores. There's restrictions in terms of how much you can sell like limitations, that would be like maybe your state has a $50,000 revenue limit, or sometimes even as low as I think $10,000 maybe it's the lowest now, I can't remember, it used to be $5,000 believe it or not

Oh my gosh!

but I think that's improved. And if you think about the limitations, it's, it's really in the cottage food laws are intended to be a starting point right? There, people get caught up with those limitations, and they think, Oh, my gosh, I mean, I need to be making more than $20,000 per year from this business. And so they just don't even start or they don't, you know, that holds them up. And if you think about it, $20,000 is actually quite a lot of product. Like if you actually went to the market and sold that much product, it's a ton. And by the time you get to $20,000, or $10,000, or whatever it is, your business is gonna look a lot different than you initially envisioned it to be. And you're going to have a lot of feedback, and you're going to know so much more. And at that point, if you do reach the limit, you'll have a much better ability to jump to the commercial space more easily and more profitably. So I generally recommend people just to ignore their sales limit, don't worry about it. And when you do reach that limit, that's the time to jump off into the next phase of your business.

Sari 22:50
Yeah, hundred percent, because they are intended to just get people going, let's not spend forever thinking about our label and our website, and all of these things that you know, can really get you hung up. Like it's intended to get you selling as quickly, like, very quickly, within a couple of weeks, you could really be up and running.

David Crabill 23:13
Yeah, and that that limitation thing was a little bit of an aside, I was talking about the limitations of the cottage food laws in general. And the big, big one is the food items. Yeah, that's, that's probably the number one thing that holds people back because they want to sell a certain thing that's not allowed under the cottage food law. And generally, in that case, I do recommend people to consider amending what they make just to start a food business more easily from with their cottage food law, and just getting some industry experience under their belt. But in some cases, people decide to jump into renting a commercial kitchen and getting the required permits to sell what they want to sell. And then finally, there are some some business and labeling things to know. But those don't usually constitute restrictions with the exception of sometimes they're like pet restrictions. But yeah, I try to lay it out as clearly as possible on Forrager as to what you need to know before you jump in so you can be as legal as possible.

Sari 24:19
Yeah, it's definitely where I go when I need to look up a certain state when I'm working with a client in Food Business Success. So thank you, I would say thank you for for me for putting together such a great resource that that's one of my go-tos. So, you know, one of the questions I see a lot in the Facebook group, and I'm sure you get this a lot is do people, so we talked about insurance, and a lot of times markets, farmers markets will require you to have insurance. And like you mentioned, is the best, the one I always recommend too. And then LLC is like should they form an LLC and I'm curious what you what you typically tell people?

David Crabill 25:04
Yeah, I have a unique perspective on that. I think that actually might differ from what you recommend, although I'm not exactly sure, although I do I think that differing perspectives are important. We definitely don't have the same opinions about certain pieces of advice. And I think that's good, because there's no one size fits all business strategy, right? Like, there's different ways of doing business and they're all valid for different types of businesses. But generally, what I recommend with insurance is, I mean, it depends on your risk tolerance. I personally didn't get insurance when I started my fudge business, because I didn't really feel like I needed it. I knew how safe my product was, I knew that I wasn't gonna get any sick, anyone sick. I knew that I was selling to local people face to face. And so I just I sort of knew that the business was very unlikely to yield in a liability claim. When I moved into the farmers market about a year later, then they required to get me to get liability insurance. And so I did, but that Flip, Flip is a good like, $300 per year insurance company, but it's by no means the only one. I actually personally just used my State Farm Insurance to get insurance. And people ask like, what's the best one and it really doesn't matter, as long as you're covered for the amount that the market requires you to be covered for. Yeah, I'd say go with with anything, and I did State Farm just because I could get month to month coverage, since I knew I only needed it through the holidays.

Sari 26:47
That make sense.

David Crabill 26:47
So it just kind of depends. And then the LLC side of things. A lot of people recommend LLCs I actually don't. That's partly because I started an LLC, and in California, there's this franchise tax that costs $800 per year, no matter what your business looks like. You could literally be in debt, and they're still gonna charge you $800 a year to have an LLC.

Sari 27:12
Oh my gosh! Really? I had no idea.

David Crabill 27:15
Uh yeah. You do get like a year free but after that initial year, it's 800 bucks a year Franchise Tax no matter what. And if you're selling a certain amount, it's even more than that. But you It takes a little while to get there

Sari 27:29
That's a lot of product that you have to sell for $800. Yeah, wow.

David Crabill 27:35
So in some states, it's actually really simple to set up an LLC, and it's not expensive. And if that's the case, then might as well go ahead and do it. But I think I see people getting tripped up on this. And also, people don't fully aren't fully aware of what the LLC does for their business. An LLC company, as far as I am aware, is really good at protecting your liability when someone else does something wrong in your business. So like if you have an employee, and they drive their car into someone and something else or someone else's thing, then that's where the LLC will protect you. Because the LLC, it's its own entity, and you're not at fault, so your assets are going to be protected. But technically, if you're the one who drove into something, and harm something or someone, then because you're at fault for that, I believe that the court could come after your assets, even if you had an LLC, and with most cottage food businesses being sole proprietors, or basically sole owners, single owner businesses, you're pretty much the only person doing everything in your business. So I don't know if LLC's provide the kind of comprehensive protection that people think that they do. And I generally recommend people going with insurance and sticking with that. And only doing the LLC if it's if it's really easy or inexpensive to do because of the cost of an LLC and the complication of it can also be a risk that can can derail you and prevent you from focusing on the right things too. And getting your business off the ground.

Sari 29:23
Yeah, I would say actually, we're in agreement on those things. I think as a corrage, specifically for cottage food, like your product is already low risk anyway, it's shelf stable, it's been deemed by the state to be safe to make out of your home. So I feel like you know your risk is pretty low. Like you said when you go to farmers markets oftentimes they make you get the insurance but I think whatever you can do to get started and and I do know businesses that have been cottage food businesses for a number of years and are very successful. And maybe by that point, you do want to form an LLC. I mean, it's, you know, falling under your personal taxes and all of that, but we won't get into all the tax issues. But I would say whatever yeah, get whatever gets you up and running quicker. And I agree, I think LLC's can add a lot more complication that you don't necessarily need to tread into that that water quite yet.

David Crabill 30:21
Yeah, I wasn't sure. But I do hear a lot of people recommend you need to have an LLC, you have to get business insurance, you have to protect yourself. And I don't know, I always try to make sure that everything I'm doing in my business is done for essential reasons. And cottage food businesses are very unique form of business. And sometimes I do also realize when people are recommending a product, they're oftentimes getting a commission for that recommendation. And so that's always something to have in the back of my mind, like, Is there a vested interest for them to be recommending this? Or is it truly essential? So that's something I always like to think about as well, when I when I hear people saying you like have to have this thing. And quite frankly, I've seen a lot of cottage food businesses that don't have those things and they do just fine.

Sari 31:13
Right, right. Well, what are some of the key ways that you've seen people be really successful? Like, what are your top top five things that people should should do when they launch a cottage food business?

David Crabill 31:27
Yeah, you know, that, I feel like that answer's changed a little bit since I started the podcast. As I've been doing the podcast and talking to these very successful founders, I've noticed some trends. And I'm trying to pull them up too because I wrote them down. As I kind of have discovered that there are some, some some things that really tie together these founders in in how they run their businesses. One thing I've noticed is a lot of the people who have been successful in their businesses have had industry experience prior to starting a cottage food business. You know, they've worked in a restaurant, or they've been a manager on the floor, or they've, they've been in the back of the kitchen, you know, doing work.

Sari 32:13
Yeah. I would agree with that. I've seen that too.

David Crabill 32:14
So that's something I've noticed. They, they know the tricks of the trade. That's, that's something another thing, probably the biggest thing is being consistent and showing up on a regular basis that I've heard so many of my founders say that, or my podcast founders, I should say. Being consistent showing up even when it's rainy, even when people don't expect you to be there. I've seen people take their businesses off, it doesn't happen in six months, but I've seen people grow their businesses in two years. My fourth episode, with Diana, she just talked about how she showed up the market every single weekend no matter what. And she missed family events to do it. And she got into a brick and mortar store in less than two years. So in fact, I think it was just over a year. So she just was really, really good about the consistency. I'm just looking at my list here. Telling your story. A lot of people who start the business are really good about sharing their story. And I think people like to follow a story. When you know, when you're buying a brand, you're not just buying the food item, you're really buying the person, the business, their story. And I've noticed at markets that some people are really good about sharing their stories, showing sharing why they started this business, like why it's important to them. When I was in the market a year ago as next to a sauerkraut vendor, not a cottage food business. But you know, when people walk up to his booth, he talks about how important sauerkraut was and why he ate it every single meal. And that I think is a big differentiator between, you know, maybe someone more introverted, like me, and extroverted, like him, like he was able to share his story continuously, and get people to really fall in love with this product.

Sari 34:11
Yeah, I love that. And the whole point of cottage food is that you're buying it I as a consumer and buying this product directly from the producer. And I can create, we create some trust and build that story together around like I'm learning about the producer and I'm trusting- if I even realize that they're making it out of a home kitchen, which I'm sure most many consumers don't even realize that- but but that's the point of it is that I can look that producer in the eye and and, you know, extend that trust that I believe that their product is safe and delicious and all of those things, right? It's that it's that relationship building.

David Crabill 34:54
Right. Yeah. And along those lines, another thing I wrote down was that so many of the people people I've talked to really have a love for people and talking to people. And they just they just love people. And I think especially at marketplaces, you can really tell which vendors love people and love talking and love engaging and creating that sense of community and relationship. And which ones kind of, you know, want to hide behind their, their table and booth and just let the product sell itself. So that's something I've noticed. And the final thing I wrote down is that, I'd say every pretty much every single person on the podcast, just loves to serve people. They love to serve others. And sometimes that that means they don't make as much money, but they just love to serve. That's been a huge takeaway from the podcast.

Sari 35:51
And for so many people, I mean, food is love, food is service. It's, you know, yeah, nourishing, and we're providing this sustenance for people. So I think a lot of people have that connection around service and love and food. So you also mentioned some other great ways to get started are, and I agree, like using your local connections as much as possible when you first get started. I mean, you are locally, I want to say locally sourced but you are, like, founded in your local community? And do you think that's the best place to start when you first start this business?

David Crabill 36:28
I do. And that's really just from my own, just observation of what's worked. I guess, I, I've seen a lot of people who they well people come to me and they think that they can just put their product online and then it will sell better there. Or that the online marketing is the technique or the tactic that's going to take them into being successful. And the reality is that a cottage food business is, it's a slow growth process. I mean, if you want it to be sustainable, if you want to build into something that's going to be significant, it takes some time. And it's not so much about the new technology, or the new whatever, you know, whatever Grubhub or trying to use some delivery service online, that's going to take your business forward. But it's really those local connections, reaching out to the people you know. I personally kind of launched my business from Next Door and selling to my neighbors. And just kind of leveraging those local connections and starting to build relationships and starting to communicate with people on a consistent basis and build a group of followers. And eventually, I feel like you hit an inflection point where it really starts to have a life of its own. But it does take quite a bit of effort to build it to that point and get it there.

Sari 37:59
Yeah, I love that. I mean, get creative, use your Facebook groups, use friends, family emails, you know, whatever you can do to reach out to your local community first. And get creative. I mean, there are interesting ways that you, you know, can you can connect with businesses to some extent in certain states. So even though you can't resell, but there are ways to still sell cottage food to local businesses, if they're for many states anyway, or if they're giving it away and not reselling it.

David Crabill 38:31
There's, there's certainly power and using your local connections. But I also one thing I do recommend is setting up a Facebook page right off the bat, and leveraging your Facebook connections. So sending people to your Facebook page, like your friends and asking them to like your page. And just kind of getting some interest going there. Because it's still leveraging the connections you already have but just that's one of the best and most effective online forums that I've seen.

Sari 39:06
Yeah, absolutely. And I don't think you necessarily need to start a website right away, I would actually just say start a Facebook page and keep up on it like, like, post once a week. I mean, I sometimes go to people's websites, or Facebook pages and you know, they haven't posted for six months. And I'm like, oh, as a consumer, I'd like to know, you know, are you still around? Are you, what's going on here? But I don't think you necessarily need to set up an e commerce website or put I think that's another sticking area where people can get stuck. What do you think about the website piece?

David Crabill 39:41
For sure. Yeah. And I've been a website developer for a long time. 10 years at least. So I kind of have a little bit more insight and then most into building client websites and seeing how they work. And I think one of the misconceptions out there is that you know, you can build a website and then people go to find it, and it's just gonna, things are gonna sell themselves on your website, and nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sari 40:07
Right. I just created. People will come!

David Crabill 40:08
Now there are,

Sari 40:09
People will come!

David Crabill 40:10
Yeah, they're way, way over a billion websites out there these days. And if you put up a website with, with nothing out, like if you just try to put up a website, it's going to get lost in the sea of other websites out there. So that's why I recommend a Facebook page, which you can kind of connect it to your friends, and then they could share it. And you know, some of them are going to see what you post and they can share that with their friends. And there's some organic growth there. Whereas a website is really like its own thing. The nice thing about websites so you control it, and it's, you know, all it's like your own thing. But at the same time, you have to be in full control of the marketing and everything. And things like search engine optimization, SEO, those kinds of things take quite a long time, I mean, I would give it at least a year or two, to develop and build up some kind of search engine rank so that when people are going to Google, they're more likely to find your business when they type, you know, cupcakes near me or something. So that that I totally agree with you on the website front, I don't recommend people start a website immediately. But that being said, it is really easy to start a website these days and free to do so. So I actually do recommend people do it earlier than they really need to, just because it's not very complicated to do. But it's also not a magic bullet by any means.

Sari 41:43
Right? Hundred percent. And you put out like over in the spring, early summer, you were putting out some awesome free content. And I know you have a mini course I guess that will be out by the time this airs. So but you've really focused on like email marketing as well. So can you talk a little bit about your, your course and some of the services that you're starting to offer?

David Crabill 42:07
So yeah, no, I have tried to kind of refocus my efforts on Forrager into providing solid good content for people who are trying to start their cottage food business because, you know, I've created this resource that educates people about the laws, but typically, that just leaves people with more questions. So that that is a really good starting point and just kind of familiarizing yourself with the legalities of starting a business. But that doesn't even come close to tapping into all things you should do with getting a business off the ground, the marketing things you should consider and all that. So yeah, and early, like when I kind of started to refocus on Forrager a bit over a year ago, I started focusing on my email list a lot more, which is just process of communicating consistently with the people who are on my email list. And I now send weekly emails with emails that are hopefully helpful. I try to try to make them as helpful as possible. And then also creating some good content for free in the podcast is one of those efforts. I did do a couple webinars earlier this year, which was kind of in response to the Coronavirus. I noticed that there were a lot of people who had questions and I, I was realizing that there was a really good email marketing strategy that people could leverage once they came back to their markets once the Coronavirus kind of settled down. And I honestly thought it would settle down sooner than it did and it's still going so I have no idea when it's gonna sell down at this point. But yeah, people are generally back in their markets at least. So that's part of the reason I did the webinar. And now I'm focusing on this mini course, which is just, I just kind of an answer to the most common question that I get, which is how do I get started? What do I need to focus on? So I'm creating this mini course that people will be able to sign up for it's totally free. People will be able to sign up for it and I'll deliver it via email over the course of a week or so. And yeah, that's kind of my current content focuses right now.

Sari 44:22
Well we'll make sure we'll put the link in the show notes. But thank you for creating so much content and answers for people. I'm, I know I sat in on one of your early webinars and May or June, something like that. And there was a ton of people on there. You were on YouTube, and

David Crabill 44:41
I know Yeah.

Sari 44:42
holy moly! I mean, it was in the hundreds. I was like wow, people are really wanting to hear about this, I think great job on that.

David Crabill 44:51
I was really pleased with that because I'd never done anything live before. Believe it or not, I I just I don't know. I'm definitely introverted and the concept of going live was a kind of an unnerving one for me, but I knew I had to do it. And I, I didn't even feel that prepared for that live but I was really pleased to see that a lot of people were looking for answers. And also, this is a couple months after the whole pandemic thing hit so they were definitely more people who are jumping in, and wine to learn than usual. But it was really cool to see that community interaction and I would like to, as soon as I get sort of the mini course locked in, I would like to get into doing some more webinars and and building that community engagement.

Sari 45:44
Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, there is no growth or success as an entrepreneur without doing uncomfortable things. So good job for modeling that for everyone.

David Crabill 45:56
I know you had a whole podcast episode I think about that.

Sari 45:59
Right? Like you're putting yourself out there. I mean, I remember when I did my first live Facebook Live, and I was terrified but now they come pretty easily. And you know, you've done some hard things and that's what being an entrepreneur is about right? Showing up at a market and that very first time with your jam, and I don't know what I'm doing right. But yeah.

David Crabill 46:22
You know, that's a good, that's kind of reminds us kind of a good lesson for anyone. It's lesson I've had to learn, which is, when I started Forrager I really wanted to hide behind the scenes, I kind of wanted to pull the strings behind the curtains and I just wanted Forrager to kind of do its own thing. I had no ambitions of being the face of Forrager, of being a spokesperson for the cottage food industry, any of that. There's, there's literally no desire. And I still have very limited desire in wanting to be the face of Foragger but in the process of building the business, I've learned that I really have to put myself out there. Because especially with an online business, people just aren't going to trust a website unless they can understand the person behind it. And, yeah, it's been a big process of growth for me, as an introvert, kind of learning how to put myself out there, and it's not comfortable all the time, for sure. But I found that the more people that can connect with me, and trust me, the more easily they can, can adopt what I'm sharing and and, you know, say, like, it allows them to feel in touch with what I'm putting out there and that helps them grow more quickly. So it's, it's yeah, it's not always the most fun thing to do. But I think it's valuable at the end of the day and that's kind of why I do it and I think that business, in general, for anyone, will take you places that you never envisioned, but it's worth it in the end.

Sari 46:33
Absolutely. Absolutely. Really well, just like we're asking people to share their story with customers so that they build trust, like, we have to do the same thing. So I love that, that you're trying new things. So to wrap up, I have been asking my guests, based on a quote from Michele Norris, that "Let's not strive for normal, let's strive for better". So how do you think we, as an industry, a cottage food industry, focusing on that will get better because of the pandemic?

David Crabill 48:41
Oh, I think it already has gotten better. And I think that we're gonna see it get even better next year. I mean, there are certainly a lot of industries out there that have not been that well affected by the pandemic, but the cottage food industry in particular, has grown substantially from what I can see. And not only have there been more people that have been interested in starting their food businesses from home, and that not only has there been more of a focus on local food because there have been some food supply issues during the pandemic. But also, it's kind of re, reinforced the need for there to be something like the cottage food industry, and there to be less limitations because when people were thrown out of their jobs, and when the economy kind of went crazy, a lot of people started to sell their homemade food, and some a lot of people started to sell illegally and there weren't laws in place, or sometimes even the allowance of selling online or virtually in some of these laws that would enable for that interaction in a legal way. So I think we're gonna see a lot of law changes. And, you know, I think the legislators have to be able to accept the fact that we're in the 21st century, it things are moving in the virtual realm and we have to be okay, letting people sell online, letting people ship and do things that some laws were not allowing prior to this. So in many different facets, I think that this pandemic is going to increase and boost and push the cottage food industry forward.

Sari 50:22
Love that. That's awesome. And people can go over to and get on your mailing list and then you'll keep us updated of all those law changes which I appreciate you sharing those and doing the research for us. So thank you.

David Crabill 50:37
Thanks so much Sari.

Sari 50:38
Well, it has been a pleasure to have you on and I hope people are who maybe weren't thinking about this or found us through a search that were thinking about starting a cottage food business that this has been insightful and given them confidence to just get started and go there's You and I both provide so many resources, I have a free masterclass on a farmers market master class that I'll put in the show notes, you have a ton of free resources so there's so much good stuff out there to really help people jumpstart this and get going.

David Crabill 51:12
Yeah, and it's better today than it ever has been, you know, when I started this back in 2011, or kind of more so 2013 there were a couple people who were supporting this industry. But now I feel like not just you or me, but also a lot of the people who have, even some of the people I've I've talked to on the podcast, have been creating resources to educate people in their own niche within the niche of the cottage industry. So yeah, there's there's so much so many more resources out there that are available to offer support for people. And as this industry gets even bigger, gets even more known. I think that people are able to have a better opportunity to start this business than at any other time.

Sari 52:04
Thank you everyone for joining us for this awesome conversation around cottage food. And until next time, have an amazing week.

Are you ready to start that delicious idea that you make in your home kitchen, or grow your existing package food business and take it to the next level? The most successful food business entrepreneurs have support, guidance, focus and accountability to help them make it happen quickly without wasting time or money. Plus, I think starting your packaged food business should actually be fun. Food Business Success is your secret ingredient to creating your food business dream. Please don't go this alone. Check out the private free Food Business Success Facebook group to connect with other foodprenuers, get your questions answered quickly, share your wins and receive special training and tools I only share inside the private community. Just search for Food Business Success on Facebook, or get the link in the show notes. Curious about how Food Business Success can help you? Head over to and fill out the application to see if you're a great fit for the program. Together let's make your food business dream a reality.


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