Even though I’m studying business, I am obsessed with baking cupcakes for my friends. Some have also said they would pay me for my food? Should I start a bakery or restaurant after graduation - and turn my foodie passion into a business?
Don’t feel alone! Many successful food businesses actually started while the owners were still in college.
In 2003, Seth Berkowitz, then a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, had a problem craving cookies during late-night study sessions that went way beyond retail and delivery hours. As a way to feed his appetite and combat study stress, he began to bake in his dorm room for himself and other students. Word spread and his business – Insomnia Cookies - was born.
Rip Pruisken, a Dutch student at Brown University, noticed that his favorite stroopwafels that he brought from home were quickly snatched up by friends. In 2008 he began experimenting with a waffle iron to perfect his recipe, found a kitchen, and with newfound popularity, expanded into licensing and packaging. Rip Van Wafels is now a booming business, distributed at grocery stores across the nation.
Why Wait Until Graduation?
Don’t want to wait until graduation? Get started right away. Use your fellow students and the college community as a ‘beta-test’ while you earn a little extra cash on the side.
If you enjoy cooking, you could also start a business. Make late-night snacks to sell to other students. Offer to cater to special events. Join with other students to create a holiday bazaar for home-made gifts of food.
Want to go next level? Approach local cafes, food trucks, or stores to consign your products. Try selling your wares at a local farmers market on the weekends.
Document your side-hustle with pictures and keep records: your entrepreneurial spirit could serve as a good foundation for future business proposals and financial backers.
Make Your Studies Work For You
Even though a good side-earner can be a good primer during your remaining college years, don’t ditch your business classes yet! Your studies will be essential in the success of your food-based business. In fact, many such companies fail because of a lack of planning.
You can do double duty by combining these topics with your academic projects -- here are a few ideas of how to do that below.
Customer Trends + Market Research
Explore and analyze customer trends in your area, especially around your ideal business plan. What are average prices, trends, and tastes? What can you do that is different, unique, or better?
How will you get funding for your business? Are there specialized programs for food entrepreneurs available? What about alumni options, local business incubators, or even Kickstarter?
Research local, state, and federal regulations on food safety and handling. Many budding food entrepreneurs collaborate with governmental agencies on food solutions – you might have a grant or patent in the works!
Consider sustainability and food-waste issues, a hot topic in the modern food industry. For example, many restaurant-investment groups now favor proposals that simultaneously address ecological and environmental solutions.
Discover how technology can make running your new business a breeze. Innovations in restaurant POS can benefit your business. Many mobile systems do much more than look modern – they increase efficiency and streamline ordering, workflows, and accounting within a cloud-based platform.
Build your business plan as you sharpen your skills while still at school. With some planning, research, and on-the-ground experience, you can explore your passion and get ahead of your future competition. Bon Appetit!