How To Start A Cooking Class Business

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If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.

Starting your own cooking class business requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.

If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own cooking class business, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.

We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your cooking class business effectively.

avg revenue (monthly)
$100K
starting costs
$19.4K
best tools
Shopify, crisp, Yelp

💡 Introduction To The Cooking Class Business

How To Name Your Cooking Class Business

It's important to find a catchy name for your cooking class business so that you can stand out in your space.

Here are some general tips to consider when naming your cooking class business

  • Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
  • Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
  • Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
  • As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!

Why is naming your cooking class business so important?

The name of your business will forever play a role in:

  • Your customers first impression
  • Your businesses identity
  • The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
  • If you're memorable or not

It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your cooking class business.

You can search domain availability here:

Find a domain starting at $0.88

powered by Namecheap

Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.

It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.

As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.

Here's some inspiration for naming your cooking class business:

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Read our full guide on naming your cooking class business ➜

Is the cooking class business for you?

There are quite a few factors to consider when starting a cooking class business.

Let's look at the pros and cons of starting your cooking class:

Pros:

  • Flexibility One of the biggest advantages of starting a cooking class business is that you can either offer part-time or full-time services. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own. Or, if you prefer to manage the books and instead delegate the kitchen work to someone else, you can build and manage your own team to do so.
  • Ability to start your business from home: It's not necessary to have an office space to get your business started! You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
  • Rewarding work: If you're someone that truly enjoys the art of food + bringing joy to people's lives through food, starting a cooking class business can be really fun and rewarding.

Cons:

  • Food prep + delivery logistics can be challenging: If you plan to source local, fresh, organic ingredients, you need to stay on top of the inventory process.
  • High overhead costs: You will need to anticipate high overhead costs in order to acquire the right supplies + food to get your cooking class business off the ground.
  • Crowded space: There is a lot of competition when it comes to cooking class, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and demand in your area.

Players

Big Players

Small Players

Revenue Expectations

We've interviewed several different founders in the cooking class business and asked them how much $ they're making today.

Hipcooks

  • $1.2M/year in revenue
  • Sells hands-on cooking classes
  • Solo founder
  • 8 employees

Search Interest

Let's take a look at the search trends for cooking class over the last year:

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Startup Costs

If you are planning to start a cooking class business, the costs are relatively low. This of course, depends on if you decide to start the business on your own or bring on a big team at first.

We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a cooking class business and outline the costs you should expect for each:

  • The estimated minimum starting cost = $3,050
  • The estimated maximum starting cost = $35,800
Startup ExpensesThese numbers are based off the average expenses incurred when starting a cooking class business. Min Startup CostsDefined as an cooking class business you have started and plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs. Max Startup CostsDefined as an cooking class business you have started with one other team member. You decided to rent out an office space to set up the business.
RentThis refers to the office space you decide to work in. Depending on the cost of living, this number could vary. $0 $2,500
Licenses and Business FormationThis refers to setting up your business license and establishing any legal contracts. $250 $1,000
Equipment and TechnologyThis includes (but is not limited to) any expenses such as: laptops, cameras, office supplies and technology platforms $500 $5,000
Advertising/PromotionThis includes (but not limited to): paid ads, public relations, networking events etc. $200 $2,000
Website and Email HostingCosts to host website, domain names and email $100 $300
Kitchen AppliancesThis includes but is not limited to: pots, pans, containers, oven/stove, fridge, freezer. You may have the option to lease or purchase these items, in which case the cost can vary. $2,000 $25,000
Total Starting Costs $3,050 (min) $35,800 (max)

Raising Money

Since the startup costs to start cooking class business range between $3,050 - $35,800, there are ways you can raise money to cover these costs.

Here are a few ways you can secure additional funding:

Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your cooking class business.

Why?

Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.

For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.

You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
  • Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
  • Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
  • Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
  • Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
  • Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
  • Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
  • Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
  • Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.

Learn more about how to write a business plan here

When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.

The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.

These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.

  • LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
  • S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
  • C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.

Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.

Learn more about securing the right permits and licenses ➜

Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need

There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.

Here are some factors you may want to consider:

  • Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
  • Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
  • Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
  • Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
  • Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.

Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.

How To Price Your Cooking Class

One of the most challenging and critical pieces to starting your cooking class business is determining how much to charge for your cooking class

When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.

Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.

On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.

When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.

Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:

Understand your customer

It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:

  • Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
  • Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
  • Level of price sensitivity with your customer

All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.

Understand your costs

When pricing your cooking class, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your cooking class so you can factor in a profit.

The actual cost of your cooking class may include things like:

  • The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
  • Shipping + overhead fees
  • Rent
  • Operating costs to run your business

You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.

Create revenue goals

When determining the price of your cooking class, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your cooking class business to make.

This process is simpler than you may think:

  1. Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
  2. Create a revenue goal based off of your break-even cost
  3. Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
  4. Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell

This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.

Evaluate your competition

The last piece in determining how to price your cooking class is by simply looking at your competition.

The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your cooking class fits best in the marketplace.

All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your cooking class, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.

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Traditional Launch Strategies (that work):

There are various different ways you can launch your cooking class business successfully.

Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your cooking class business:

  • Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
  • Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
  • Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
  • Live sales to get customers excited
  • Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.

Cameron Manesh, founder of Cameron's Seafood was able to land in the New York Times just by sending a cold email:

I started calling all the large newspapers pitching their food critics, their startup business writers and even pitched the angle of immigrant-run companies.

My first hit was with the New York Times. "I googled “New York Times Food" and learned Florence Fabricant was their critic. I then googled “Florence Fabricant email” and asked her to sample our food.”

I read she is a stern critic so we were worried but to our surprise she loved the food and when the article came out we did close to $40,000 in sales in three days and could barely handle the volume. That was an intense week but made it happen.

To read the exact email we sent to get in the NY Times, check out the full story ➡️ here

To contact the press, I recommend:

  • Targeting macro press (i.e. USA Today).
  • Google indirect competitors or vertical companies (ie. Hello Fresh) to see who wrote their articles
  • Google the writers contact info and send an email introducing company
  • Offer samples, be personal, discuss your food, follow up!

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Cameron Manesh, on starting Cameron's Seafood ($300,000/month) full story ➜

Build A Website

Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).

  1. Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
  2. Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
  3. Make sure you choose the right theme and design
  4. Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)

To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.

Web Design

Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.

Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.

One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.

If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.

Traditional Launch Strategies (that work):

There are various different ways you can launch your cooking class business successfully.

Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your cooking class business:

  • Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
  • Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
  • Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
  • Live sales to get customers excited
  • Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.

Lisa Aumiller, founder of HousePaws launched her business with zero marketing dollars. Here's how:

Our company was founded on personal connection and we make sure that everyone we hire knows that personal connection with our clients and their pets is where it’s at.

Initially, we had no marketing budget, so the rule was we could only invest in our community.

I visited places where people congregate: gyms, hairdressers, cafes, delis, etc. I told everyone about what I was doing. I attended any community event I could go to and set up an “Ask the Vet” table.

To this day we still only engage in community marketing. We go to events, parades, host educational lectures, and we do fun things like doggy swim parties. We love our customers and want to connect with them on that personal level.

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Lisa Aumiller, on starting housepaws ($580,000/month) full story ➜

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Grow Your Email List

The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.

One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.

This could also be anything from:

  • Ebook
  • Fascinating case study
  • Video series
  • Free week of the product
  • Discount on the product

Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.

Improve Your Email Marketing

Different types of emails

Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:

  • Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
  • Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
  • Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
  • Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
  • Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!

Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!

Monika Reti, founder of Hipcooks states that the #1 way to attract and retain customers is by giving consistent and high-quality content:

In the cooking world, you’ve got to constantly keep fresh, be on-trend (and trend-set!): we’re on it with our vibrant Recipe Blog. We post free content each week to create an active, engaged community.

We also post colorful content on Facebook (for each location), Instagram, & Pinterest. Potential new customers will “eat with their eyes,” so it’s gotta look good!

We use Activecampaign to create Hipcooks Newsletters, delivered 3 to 4 times per month. (I personally dislike my inbox being clogged with promotions each day, so I try to keep our content fresh and lively, limited to when we have something interesting to say.)

There are about 35K active subscribers, so when we announce new classes via our Newsletters, we’ll often get a nice response. Offering flash deals via newsletters is a nice way to reward those active subscribers, and fill occasional empty slots in a class.

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Monika Reti, on starting Hipcooks ($100,000/month) full story ➜

Authenticity

As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.

Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.

Be Authentic

Example from Monika Reti, founder of Hipcooks

Hipcooks is different from other cooking schools: we give confidence and inspiration to home cooks through our communal approach (we don’t divide people into teams).

We don’t use recipes or measuring implements. We make cooking stress-free and make sure that all leave inspired and confident they can make delicious food.

Each class ends enjoying great food, sipping wine, and making new friends around a large communal dining table.

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Monika Reti, on starting Hipcooks ($100,000/month) full story ➜

Host A Social Media Giveaway

People love free stuff and love competition. Giveaways and contests are a great way to create awareness for your brand, grow your email list, and eventually convert leads into customers.

If your goal is to gather email addresses, make sure the entry criteria is to "enter your email." You can do this by leading customers to your landing page where they can then enter their email to be in the giveaway.

One of the most important aspects of promoting a successful giveaway is having an amazing prize. The better the prize, the more engagement you'll get.

This doesn't necessarily mean choosing an iPad or an expensive/trendy watch, but instead a prize that is actually relevant to your brand/target audience.

Build A Facebook Community

Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.

There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group

Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:

  • Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
  • Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
  • Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
  • Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
  • Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.

Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:

Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.

I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.

You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.

We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.

Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.

We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.

Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.

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Mike Doehla, on starting Stronger U ($500,000/month) full story ➜

Improve your SEO

SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.

One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."

Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your cooking class business.

Publish Great Content

Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.

There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.

So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"

  • Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
  • Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
  • Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
  • Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
  • Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).

Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.

If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.

Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.

Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:

  • Trello
  • Airtable
  • If you prefer to keep it simple, your average spreadsheet is just as useful!

Backlinks

Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.

Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.

Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.

For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.

Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:

  • Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
  • Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
  • Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
  • Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
  • Leverage existing business relationships

Learn more about the fundamentals of SEO ➜ here

Monika with Hipcooks discusses how solid Yelp and Google reviews lead to the business ranking #1 on Google search:

Top Google Placement

We deliver a great quality product each time we teach a class. I call it “pennies in the piggy bank:” one by one, each customer contributes to a solid, dedicated customer base.

Number one Google ranking (or at least the top 5 Google ranking) is important, so we keep our Google business pages full of updated content. Our Google and Yelp Reviews are solid.

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Monika Reti, on starting Hipcooks ($100,000/month) full story ➜

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Provide Great Customer Service

Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.

Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.

Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.

Lousia with Funky Fat Foods states just how important their customer service is:

We’re consumer-focused and take care of our customers as quickly and correctly as possible.

I believe what is also working for us, is our customer service and the relationships we have created with them.

Even today we see huge support from Instagram, as you can talk directly to your (potential) customers all over the world. Basically, just ask them what kind of content they’re interested in, and always reply to their questions.

We’ve recently started sharing our struggles and learnings via IG stories and see a growth in our engagement. We try to stay in as much contact with our followers as possible and strive to create good and engaging content through social media. As a result, we have been steadily growing our follower base organically.

We also run contests on Instagram in collaboration with other brands and send our bars to micro-influencers, which really help to increase awareness of the brand but there is still a lot of room to grow in this area.

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Louisa Mesquita Bakker, on starting Funky Fat Foods ($20,000/month) full story ➜

Diversify Your Product Line

Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.

It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.

Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product

  • Meeting the needs of your customers
  • Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
  • Resistance to downturns/trends fading
  • Create new revenue streams

Preparing To Scale Up

Example from Hipcooks Cooking Classes

With 7 profitable owner-operated locations and 15 years in the business, I’m (finally) ready to scale up!

What we're looking to do:

  • Open a Hipcooks in every big city in the US (and even internationally)
  • Streamline and get ready to franchise
  • Finish our second and third cookbook
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Monika Reti, on starting Hipcooks ($100,000/month) full story ➜

Resources

We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your cooking class business.

Tools

Books

Web Resources

Videos

Case Studies

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Starter Story,   Founder of Starter Story

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