Starting a Small Business in 6 Steps

Turn your garden or poultry side gig into a steady income and reap the benefits of conducting business aboveboard.

| October/November 2020

Photo by Morgan Houk

I know more dedicated homesteaders and holiday bakers turned entrepreneurs than I do folks who set out to open a thriving business from the get-go. But when you ask these unsuspecting professionals when that transformation happened, the answer is rarely straightforward.

So, how do you know when you’ve made the leap from amateur to professional, and what sort of business management tasks must you accomplish in order to set your new business up for success? There are some signs to watch for that will indicate your business is ready to move out of the informal economy and into the regulated one, and once you’ve determined you’re ready to take the leap, a few simple steps will get you started in the right direction.            

Signs Your Business Is Ready for the Formal Economy

There are plenty of reasons to turn your informal hobby into a legitimate small business. Here are just a few examples based on scenarios I’ve come across in my work as a bookkeeper with food and farming businesses. (Some of my real-life examples of an informal food-buying economy are against the law. Just about every food product — particularly those that are processed into something, such as a pie or a jar of pickles — is regulated by a state or federal agency. But the reality is, informal food-buying relationships take place all the time.)

When your hobby brings in a profit, it’s time to consider making it a legitimate business. Photo by Terry Wild Stock

The egg entrepreneur. Everyone loves the egg cooler at the end of your driveway. They know the chickens and love to chat with you, but this isn’t a legal way to buy or sell fresh eggs. When your backyard chicken flock starts supplying more eggs for cash than for neighborly goodwill, it’s probably time to bring your budding business aboveboard.

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