How to Build a Strong Pinterest Profile for Your Food Business

Your food business needs to be on Pinterest. If you’re like most business owners, you probably think Pinterest and social media as a whole is a waste of time. Well it’s not.

If you don’t already know, Pinterest is the newest social site to hit the mainstream and it can be addictive. Most of the users are women, so if your product or service is marketed to women, you need to be on Pinterest now.

Before you get overwhelmed with yet another social media darling, take a few minutes to build yourself a strong Pinterest profile and a strategy for the best way to use it for your food business.

#1 Separate Your Personal Pinterest from Your Business Pinterest

You can have more than one Pinterest account. Simply send yourself an invitation so you can have a personal account and a business one. Do this as soon as possible because it takes a while for the team at Pinterest to send you the invite.

#2 Create a Username That Prospects and Customers Will Recognize

People will search for you on Pinterest. If you already have a Facebook and/or Twitter business profile try to keep them consistent with your Pinterest profile. If you can’t get the exact name try adding “biz” to the end of the name. This will create continuity and make it easier for people to find you on any given site.

#3 Add an Image of Your Logo

Include an image of your logo if it is something people will recognize right away once they land on your Pinterest page. If you don’t have a logo you can create an image of the business name, use the header from your website, or even use a picture of your flagship product. If you’re a service provider or if there is a face to your business (like Martha or Rachel), upload a picture of that person. Just make sure that whatever you use, it is consistent through all social media websites.

#4 Your About Paragraph

Add a short description in your “About” page. Instead of listing your bio or a bunch of website addresses, keep it short and emphasize the benefits of your product or business. For example, if your food business is dedicated to gourmet party appetizers your bio might be as simple as “Gourmet appetizers delivered right to your door.” Or “The easy way to serve hand-crafted appetizers at your next party…in 20 minutes or less.”

#5 Add Follow Buttons

When you’re creating your profile you have the option to add:

· Your website

· Your Twitter profile

· Your Facebook profile

They’ll show up as buttons under your picture on your profile page. Fellow pinners can then click on any button and be taken to the respective site. Bonus: When you “pin” something you can click the Twitter button to tweet it or click the Facebook button and post your pin to Facebook in seconds!

As you’re creating boards for your food business, try to capitalize on a few branding tactics. For example, add keywords to your board’s names. For example, a few keywords to use in the food business can be: “gourmet food”, “quick and easy recipes” and “food gifts”.

Be sure to use related keywords for your specific business in the titles of your boards and also in the description section of what you pin and you will build a strong Pinterest profile in no time.

How to Introduce Your Gourmet Food Business

It is most likely that you often invite your friends and relatives to keep sampling your best dishes because you love gourmet foods. People who love cooking so much are always doing this, but the best way to expose your dishes to people is by opening a food business.

To introduce as many people to your gourmet food business as much as possible, just invite as many of them as you can on the day you start producing the food and let them taste your cooking free of charge. You need not implore them to come and buy, but just tell them to feel free to serve themselves. That is how you will end up with loyal customers.

You could also go as a volunteer at a school function or a place like that where your cooking will be sampled by all. If you take time to make as many varieties as possible for such occasions, you will soon find parents and staff, asking about your dishes.

This will start landing you some invitations to serve at smaller functions, house warming or birthday parties. That is a good way to start acquiring a small customer base.

Another step to take is to attend as many house parties as possible and be sure to carry one of your favorite gourmet food items. As they begin to praise your dishes, you will be signing on customers without them knowing it.

Of course many people will begin to notice you and your kindness. It will win you many friends and as the social circle continues to widen, so will your list of future customers. You might also find that a few people will begin to buy from you.

If you care to join some community activities; like volunteer work in a church, school or social center, it will give you a good opportunity to meet more people and let them sample your food.

At first it will be expensive on you as you try to charge moderately for the food, but you must keep it up. To do this, you will need to do your shopping economically and serve just small portions which will not drain more of your money. Remember when one day the business starts to grow; will be a good time to recover your costs.

Carry with you some of your best dishes as you go to different functions, and your list of gourmet food items will continue to grow on people’s pallets. Soon they will start looking for you to sell to them.

Finding the Right Kitchen Space for Your Specialty Food Business

While regulations vary by state, most states have traditionally not allowed you to manufacture food products in your home kitchen if you intend to sell them. In the past year or two, however, several states have enacted “Cottage Food” laws, whereby start up food producers CAN prepare certain foods in their homes without the usual licensing. Each state has its own guidelines regarding what kind of foods are allowed or prohibited, what the labeling requirements are, where these food products can be sold and more. These laws also cap gross sales, so once your sales go above that amount, you become subject to all the usual regulations.

Your best bet is to do an online search on “cottage food laws” for more information about the specific rules and laws in your particular state.

Some states with or without cottage food laws may still require your home kitchen meet commercial grade kitchen standards and pass a health department inspection. No one wants to find dog hair in their food! (In fact, every cottage food state prohibits pets from being in the home.) And even if you are allowed to use a home kitchen, you might still choose to find a commercial kitchen because it’s just more efficient. Once I moved to a kitchen that had the full size commercial ovens, planetary mixer and tons of counter space, there was no going back! It was so much easier and quicker to produce in that environment.

Ideas

So where do you look for commercial kitchen space? You have a lot of options. When you’re looking, keep an open mind and be willing to be creative. There’s really no reason for you to invest in creating your own commercial kitchen space at the start up phase (costs can easily reach $50,000 in no time!) unless you know for sure you have significant production contracts in hand that will justify the large capital outlay necessary.

One choice is to rent space in a kitchen that is already licensed for commercial preparation. Many food entrepreneurs have started out using space in a restaurant, working there during the hours the restaurant is closed. Check out restaurants that are open only for breakfast and lunch; maybe you can use their space in the evenings. Talk to area caterers about using their kitchens too. Depending on what kind of catering they do, they may have the equipment you need. Many caterers aren’t very busy in their kitchens early in the week, so you could be in there on a Monday or Tuesday.

Some areas of the country have incubator kitchens for early-stage food businesses. These facilities offer shared rental opportunities and are fully equipped and licensed. Sometimes these facilities are connected to a university. In other cases, this type of kitchen may cater to a specific type of food business, vegetarian or baking or canning only, for example. One place to look for these types of kitchens is www.CulinaryIncubator.com. If you’re making jam, beans, salsa or the like, you could find a local cannery or canning facility. This page has a list of canning kitchens: http://pickyourown.org/canneries.htm that may be a good start for you.

Co-op kitchens are commercial kitchens that are set up for a variety of food producers and allow you to rent time and space in their facility. One example of such a facility is the Production Kitchen in West Palm Beach. Look online for this kind of arrangement in your area.

Do you have a Moose, Elk, Knights of Columbus or Shriners lodge in your town? Believe it not, this was the place I used in the very beginning of my business’ life. I knew some of the Shriners from the Chamber of Commerce and they were happy to help me get started. They charged a minimal hourly rate and I used their kitchen on Mondays. The men who were members kind of adopted me as their own “cookie lady” and loved coming through the kitchen to see what was going on when I was working there.

When it was time to move on, I ended up in a local church kitchen. Religious houses, like churches or synagogues, are great options because they aren’t usually in use during the week. And you might be surprised at how well-appointed these facilities are. I was! Not having had reason to be in one for years, I was thrilled to find three full-size commercial gas ovens, full-size baking pans, five or six cooling racks, a 35-gallon Hobart mixer, measuring spoons and cups, and an incredible amount of counter and refrigeration at my disposal. Like I mentioned earlier, there was no turning back to something smaller after that.

As a note, you don’t necessarily have to be a member of the congregation to use their kitchen.

Keep in mind that regardless of where you decide to produce your food product, even though that facility will (presumably) have proper licensing and insurance, you will still need some of your own licensing (at the least a city and/or county business license) and liability insurance.

Payment

Some facilities, like the co-op kitchens, will have set prices for their use. Others, like the restaurants and churches, may not have ever participated in such an arrangement before, so you’ll have some flexibility in working with them to establish something that works for both of you. Make sure you know what kind of budget you have to spend on this. The very first place I used, before the Shriners, I negotiated an amount that turned out to be way too high (I wasn’t selling nearly enough product to cover my rent there), and I had very limited access to it. Fortunately I didn’t have a long-term agreement and I was able to get away after just a few months and move to the Shriners’ facility with much more favorable terms. When I started working at the church kitchen, payment was made as donations to the church because non-profit organizations cannot legally rent out kitchen space for a for-profit businesses.

Persistence

As with anything worth having or finding, you may encounter several rejections or dead ends as you search for the perfect place to produce your food product. I can’t recall exactly how many facilities I called. I left messages that weren’t returned and started hopeful conversations with countless people who never followed through. Be prepared for this journey and know that the right situation IS out there for you. Keep on searching and calling and you will meet with success!