6 Steps to Starting your Food Business

Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your food business for awhile. Maybe you’re still new to the process and want to learn what it takes to be successful. We will guide you through the six steps to starting your food business:

  1. Define your Why

  2. Set a Winning Strategy

  3. Pick a Product

  4. Make your Food Business Legal (Company Formation + Licensing)

  5. Fund your Food Business

  6. Get your First Sale



#1. Define your Why

You need to know why you are starting a food business. Passion is where everything starts. You are going to have to work insanely hard to build your business. There are going to be long nights, ups and downs, and everything in between. “At the most basic level, that’s the whole reason to start a business. You see an opportunity to make the world a better place by making a great product and something that makes you proud,” Michael Haft, Co-Founder of Compass Coffee shared with us as he talked about his passion for coffee and community.

The first step in all of this is defining what you are passionate about.

What are you passionate about?

#2. Set your Strategy

Once you know what you are passionate about, you need to know how you are going to share that passion with your customers. There are many different ways to do this: restaurants, food trucks, meal delivery services, packaged products, etc.

We believe consumer packaged good (CPG) is the way to go. Increasingly, consumers are demanding new, innovative, and transparent food products while incumbents are struggling to meet the shifting demands. This has resulted in significant acquisitions over the past few years, including Blue Buffalo for $8Bn, Bair for $1.7Bn, RxBar for $600M, Tate’s for $500M, and Core for $525M and is further amplified by the sector’s rapid growth, projected to reach over $14 trillion by 2025 (McKinsey & Company). There is a huge opportunity for passionate entrepreneurs to build serious businesses in the consumer packaged goods (CPGs) industry. 

Read more about why we are so excited about CPG as the way to build your successful food business.

#3. Pick a Product

On average, there are 30,000 consumer products introduced each year in the United States alone.  For perspective, that’s over 80 new products introduced every day! So why are we still so confident about launching a consumer packaged good (CPG) in the food space?

We believe successful food businesses separate themselves by creating a product that reflects the entrepreneur’s passion and what people want. Take M’Panadas as examples:

As a full-time professional and mother of 3, Margarita, founder of M’Panadas, felt pressed to use her time and resources as effectively as possible to keep things running smoothly.  This meant finding healthy, quality meals for her family that didn’t take hours to prepare. Using her passion for her Colombian heritage and experience working in her father’s restaurants, Margarita launched a line of empanadas.  Three years later, M’Panadas is a national brand with a factory in Rockville, Maryland.

Read more about how to make a product people want to buy.

#4. Make Your Food Business Legal

You are ready to take the jump and legally set up your business. How exciting! There are two parts to launch a legal food business:

#5. Fund Your Business

All startup businesses need funding to get off the ground. As a reference point, on average, Union Kitchen Accelerator Members launch packaged products in four months for less than $15,000. Here are five types of funding options to check out:

Read more about types of funding available and investment structures for food businesses.

#6. Get Your First Sale

Your next big step is establishing sales through a retailer. Retailers provide you with consistent access to consumers. Read more about the five things you need for your first sale.

Ready to Start your Food Business?

Reach out to us at apply@unionkitchen.com or fill out an application here.



Union Kitchen is a food business accelerator in Washington, DC. Since opening in 2012, Union Kitchen has worked with over 500 local food businesses, helping them to launch locally, grow regionally, and scale nationally. These businesses include many DC favorites, from Compass Coffee and Snacklins to Eat Pizza and M'Panadas.