New bill would make it easier for home cooks to sell low-risk foods

BOSTON — The pandemic is turning expectations of how we work upside down.

More people are interested in working from home or being their own boss. And in some cases, both of the above.

A new bill filed on Beacon Hill would make it easier for cooks and bakers to prepare and sell their creations from their own kitchens.

That includes Liron Pergament-Gal who is something like Needham’s Willie Wonka.

She runs her gourmet chocolate company out of her home.

It’s a radical departure from her previous job as a software engineer specializing in cybersecurity.

Making chocolate has always been a hobby for Pergament-Gal. “Last year when the pandemic started, I found myself spending a lot more time at home and I was making chocolates thru out all this time.”

But her output exceeded what her family could eat so she started to give the surplus away. “It just grew organically, word of mouth.”

Now Choc Allure is her full-time job.

Pergament-Gal was able to test-drive her concept from home because she lives in Needham which is one of the communities in the state that allows home cooks to sell their products, so-called “Cottage Foods”.

“The existence of the cottage law really allowed me to start this business,” Pergament-Gal explained.

Examples of other common cottage foods are cookies, bread, pickles, and spice mixes.

“Home cooks, unfortunately, face a lot of excessive barriers and procedures in order to sell their low-risk food products,” State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville said.

She’s filed a bill to make cottage food laws standard across the state. “The biggest thing that we’ll do is remove the health permitting process... because at the moment they are regulated the same way as restaurants, catering operations, as well as food trucks.”

Lisa Mackin of South Boston is also selling food from her home.

Every cupcake she makes in her kitchen is a little work of art that resembles a flower. She puts a collection of them together to create a colorful, and sweet, bouquet.

“During COVID, I was in the kitchen baking, experimenting, and on Instagram a lot. I saw a woman in the UK making these bouquets out of cupcakes and I thought that it looked like a fun project.”

After a career in e-commerce and design, Mackin is now making Boston Baked Blooms her full-time job. “I’m creating a pretty good livelihood right now and I am happy.”

Mark Josephson, co-founder and CEO of Castiron, a website that helps food artisans launch businesses, said it’s 100% possible for folks to start a successful business today selling food. “It’s more possible now than ever before with the advent of social media, and the internet and e-commerce, and the ability to reach customers.”

Josephson offered these tips to budding entrepreneurs. “First, is to make sure you’re being safe. Understand your cottage food laws, your food handling requirements.”

He advises clients to start small. “Create your products. Test them. Sell them to friends, family, people in your neighborhood to get feedback.”

Finally, he says to really understand pricing. “This is where a lot of folks make mistakes.”

But if you get it right, the two women we spoke with say it’s one way to really make life sweeter.

“Its people find a passion and realizing that you don’t have to fall into that conventional lifestyle that we’ve fallen into,” added Mackin.

The sponsors of the bill feel it could really help women and people of color because these two groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

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