Americans love chocolate, whether it's milk, dark or white. If making chocolate appeals to you as a business, remember that it's just as important to follow the law as to follow your recipe. You will need a variety of licenses, but the exact legal requirements will vary depending on where you're based and how you operate your business.
Before you can establish what licensing you'll need, you have to establish how your business is going to sell chocolate. Possible business models include opening a store with a kitchen in back; baking at home; selling to private individuals or to vendors; opening a food truck; or doing business by mail-order. Massachusetts, for example, has different rules for food-based businesses that supply vendors and those that sell directly to the public.
The exact licenses you require depend not only on your business format but the location. Many local governments require that every business take out a business license. A few do not, and others require it only of certain kinds of businesses. Making chocolate at home may exempt you from licensing, but it's also possible you'll have to take out an extra license for a home business. To make sure everything's legal, talk to city hall or your county government. You can also ask your local Chamber of Commerce for advice or visit the Small Business Administration's licensing webpage.
Wherever you decide to make your chocolates -- a rented kitchen, your home, a food truck -- it will have to pass a health inspection for you to receive a permit. Your state government has rules on keeping your cooking area clean, the set-up and equipment in the kitchen and -- if you're serving chocolate on the premises -- food-service standards. In the latter case, many states require you and your staff take training courses in cleanliness and food service for your business to obtain a license.
In addition to licensing requirements, you must make sure that your chocolate kitchen has acceptable zoning. Even if you're working from home, some zoning districts ban home businesses, so do some homeowners associations. You also have to establish a standard recipe for your chocolate, so that you can provide labeling and other information about ingredients. To operate legally, you'll have to take out an employer identification number from the IRS, and register to collect state sales taxes.