How to Start Selling Food Online

Your 11-step guide to starting a food business.

Kristen Pizzo
Local Sellers Insights from Airmart
7 min readDec 27, 2022


Your signature dish is requested for every BBQ, potluck, and gathering. The pastries you bake are always the star of the holiday dessert table. “I would pay you for this!” friends and family exclaim when they taste your homemade food. And they mean it. So why not start a home food business? After all, you already have customers.

Thousands of home chefs and bakers have built thriving food businesses on the Airmart e-commerce platform with relatively low start-up costs. What are you waiting for?

This 11-step guide will show you how to start selling homemade food online.

Pick your products

Decide what you want to offer. What do you do best? What do you enjoy making? What do people love?

Here are some examples from Airmart shops:

SD Cheese Boards creates beautiful charcuterie boards for every occasion.

Mom’s Sticky Rice’s main focus is of course, their signature Taiwanese sticky rice.

Madelicious Indonesian Street Cuisine & Chili Sauce currently offers 2 main entrees along with a selection of homemade chili sauces.

Here are a few food business ideas to inspire you:

  • Tiffin service: Offer homemade meals for busy families and professionals who don’t have time to cook. Tiffin services are frequently requested on the Nextdoor social media app. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word for a meal, but tiffin services can include any type of cuisine.
  • Themed cookie boxes: Bake an assortment of decorated sugar cookies or gourmet flavored cookies for any and all occasions. Many neighborhood bakers use local Facebook groups to connect with customers looking for bespoke cookie boxes.
  • Party trays: Serve your specialty by the dozen (tamales, empanadas, samosas, beef patties, etc.) for events and holidays. You’ll be busy with orders all year round.

Define your brand

How are you different from every other cupcake baker or dumpling chef in town? What gaps do you fill in your local food scene? What is unique about your products or your backstory?

Maybe you use a family recipe that has been passed down through generations, or you make a cuisine that is hard to find in your area. Or perhaps you are the first to make a vegan version of whatever you sell. Knowing what sets you apart is key to making a competitive, sustainable food business.

Our Airmart merchants are branding rockstars:

Anton SV Patisserie took a page out of the international crepe cake sensation, Lady M Confections’ book. This Airmart bakery makes one thing and one thing only: beautiful crepe cakes in various flavors. By consistently delivering an elegant cake unboxing and tasting experience, Anton SV Patisserie has established itself as a Yelp favorite.

start a food business cottage bakery

Sweet Sips uses the slogan “Better than Boba” to sell bottled jelly drinks to the boba-obsessed Bay Area. Owner Cara joined the local ube trend and won 2nd place at San Jose’s UBE FEST for her vibrant purple ube jelly drink. The sweet beverages consistently sell out at Bay Area markets and events.

start a boba business

Make it legal

It is perfectly legal to sell food from home if you follow the rules for cottage food businesses. Many cottage food businesses can be operated from unlicensed, home kitchens. There may be restrictions on what food you can sell from home, but some states have more relaxed requirements.


In Texas, you can own a cottage food business as long as your gross annual income from the business is $50k or less. Cottage food business owners must complete safe food handling training, hand-deliver any products sold online, and label foods with the following:

  • Name and address of the cottage food production operation
  • The common or usual name of the product
  • Any major food allergens the item contains, such as eggs, nuts, soy, peanuts, milk or wheat
  • And the statement: “This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department.”


Cottage food operations in California have a higher income limit of $75k annually but are limited to selling food without cream, custard, or meat fillings. This is because these ingredients can potentially grow bacteria. You can find the full list of approved foods for cottage food operations in California here.


Florida has some of the least restrictive cottage food laws. The income limit for cottage food operations in Florida is $250k annually, and cottage chefs and bakers are allowed to sell any of the following:

  • Loaf breads, rolls, biscuits
  • Cakes, pastries and cookies
  • Candies and confections
  • Honey
  • Jams, jellies and preserves
  • Fruit pies and dried fruits
  • Dry herbs, seasonings and mixtures
  • Homemade pasta
  • Cereals, trail mixes and granola
  • Coated or uncoated nuts
  • Vinegar and flavored vinegars
  • Popcorn and popcorn balls

Choose suppliers

Ingredients are everything. Connect with local farms and other food businesses to find quality ingredients for your food business. Customers love knowing that everything you make is truly local.

If you are located in California, Washington, New York, or Florida, you can use Airmart to find various local farms that can supply the best produce for your dishes. Here are some of our standout farm merchants:

Farm To Your Tables (CA)

Stony Point Farms (CA)

Sweet Girl Farms (CA)

Tropical Fresh Fruits (FL)

Set prices

Your prices should be based on the cost of ingredients, your time, and your talent. Check out these Airmart shops to see how our merchants price their food:

At Basque Burnt Cheesecake, 6 inch specialty cheesecakes sell for $39-$55 depending on the flavor.

Pia’s Thai Kitchen sells individually packaged meals like curry and pad thai for $12.95-$18.95, with most items on the lower end of the price range.

The single-serve meat pies at the Aussie Tuckshop are all around $8 each.

Come up with a name

Make your food business name memorable. Choose something that reflects your brand, your business story, and you. Ask for feedback on your business name ideas to help narrow down your choices.

Airmart sellers Christna and Yohanes named their restaurant D’grobak(pronounced “the growbuck”) after grobak, which are the pushcarts street food vendors use in Indonesia.

Choose pickup, delivery, and/or shipping

Decide how your customers will receive their food orders. Will they meet you at a centralized location for pickup? Will you or a delivery service drop the food off at their door? Or will you pack and ship the food to customers all across the U.S.?

Cottage food businesses are required to personally give each item to customers, so pickup keeps it simple. Pickup is the preferred fulfillment method for many of our Airmart merchants. The Airmart platform allows you to easily schedule pickups for every order.

If you would like to hand-deliver items to each customer, Airmart provides a route planning tool to help you choose the most efficient delivery route for your orders.

Photograph your food

You can’t sell food without quality photos. If you’re tech-savvy and creative, snap some photos of your products with an iPhone or digital camera and some good lighting. If you aren’t confident in your camera skills, hire a local food photographer or make a trade (offer your products to a photographer for one of their photo shoots).

Take a look at these stunning food photos from Airmart merchants:

D’Grobak Indonesian Bakso:

Indonesian food business

Basque Burnt Cheesecake:

basque burnt cheesecake bakery business

Baby Bear Baker Co. Korean Fatcarons:

sell macarons online

Set up an online shop for pre-orders

There’s no sense in preparing a bunch of food and waiting for customers to buy it. Take pre-orders so you know how much food you will need to make each week. Airmart’s free online shop tool makes collecting pre-orders easy and organized.

home chef business

Only buy what you need

Cut costs and food waste by only buying enough ingredients for the pre-orders you receive. However, for items that freeze well or have a long shelf life, like butter and vanilla extract, buying in bulk might be the most economical solution.

Spread the word

Now it’s time to start marketing your food business. Tell your friends and family, post on Instagram, link your store in relevant Facebook groups, share your business with your neighbors on Nextdoor, and make TikTok and Pinterest videos of your cooking/baking process.

You can also spread the word by dropping off business cards at local coffee shops and office buildings, hosting pop-up events, selling at farmer’s markets and night markets, and encouraging customer referrals.

Airmart can help with marketing by promoting your shop in newsletters and blogs, on Instagram, and through our network of Bay Area foodie influencers.