Small-batch food businesses are the next big thing, as more and more home cooks go pro. F&W honors these entrepreneurs and their DIY dreams.

By Maggie Mariolis and Kristin Donnelly
Updated March 31, 2015
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

In this Article:

Start Your Own Food Business: Chocolate Case Study

In just two years, the owners of Washington, DC’s Fleurir Chocolates went from selling adventurously flavored truffles at farmers’ markets to owning their own boutique in Georgetown. Here’s the story of their journey.

In the Beginning

After four years of culinary school and training with a chocolatier, Robert Ludlow launched Fleurir with his wife, Ashley Hubbard, in 2009. To test the waters, they set up a production kitchen on Ludlow’s parents’ property in Virginia, then drove three hours to sell the chocolates at markets in DC. Fleurir built a following, but sales plateaued. “If we wanted to become profitable, we needed our own shop,” said Hubbard. They opened in Georgetown last April and are now focused on finding kitchen space in DC to save on the $400 they spend on gas each month driving back and forth from Virginia. 3235 P St. NW;

Fleurir Chocolates Opens Its Books

$32 Worst sales day at a four-hour market
$800 Best sales day at a four-hour market
$2,775 Monthly rent and utilities for the shop
$20,000 The boutique’s renovation and decoration costs
$32,000 Total sales in 2009, all earned at markets
$39,000 Total sales in 2010, from markets and online
$87,000 Total projected sales for 2011 for the company

Boutique on a Budget

Fleurir Chocolates

© Christina Bernales

FREE Tree Sculpture Friend and artist Nicole Bourgea ( built wall art using tree branches.
$1,500 Point-of-sale software
$110 Per roll of Ferm Living’s “Wilderness” wallpaper
FREE Light Fixture The cone chandelier was a gift from a friend who helped design the shop.
$795 Vintage Workbench Coated in copper-based paint and then left to oxidize.

Start Your Own Food Business: DIY Disaster

With a bad case of artisan envy, writer Charles Antin attempts to launch his own food business.

DIY Disaster

© Kate Hazell

One weekend, after walking around yet another Brooklyn flea market with happy artisans selling everything from local soda to local taffy, my girlfriend, Kate, and I decided to start our own little business. We were decent home picklers, canners and brewers (as is practically required to live in the borough), but the market was cornered. Eventually we hit on something: gum. We ordered a “Make Your Own Chewing Gum” kit from Amazon, billed as “the chemistry lesson you can chew on.” It came with the sap of the Sapodilla tree, the real deal, even though it’s shipped from Central America, and therefore, perhaps, not so local. Also included: a bag of corn syrup. That didn’t seem artisanal enough, so we opted for Brooklyn honey, which tastes better because the bees have read David Foster Wallace. For flavor, we scoffed at the bag of “mint powder” and harvested sage grown in my roof garden. (At this point, some of you are thinking, “There is a Brooklyn Gum.” I know, and it’s made near Milan.) I melted the Sapodilla pellets with the honey, Kate minced the sage, we settled on a price point ($17 per pack). But soon, it became apparent that chewing our gum was like spreading honey and sage on a hot flip-flop and gnawing on it for a while. Turns out, becoming a Brooklyn artisan requires some real craft, which it seems I don’t have. But plenty of other Brooklynites do, and I plan to take advantage of local haggis, or whatever’s next.

Charles Antin is a wine specialist at Christie’s.

Start Your Own Food Business: Small-Batch Products

From the hundreds of new small-batch products we taste every year, these are some of our recent favorites.

Quinn Popcorn

© Seth Smoot

Quinn Popcorn

Organic microwave popcorn comes in flavors like maple-sea salt and Parmesan-rosemary. $5 for two 3.4-oz bags;

La-Dee-Dah Candy

© Seth Smoot

Whimsical Candy

The signature item from this small Chicago sweets company is the La-Dee-Dah, a chocolate-dipped nougat-and-caramel swirl. $6.50 for 2.25 oz;

Ajiri Tea

© Seth Smoot

Ajiri Tea

The profits from this strong Kenyan black tea, packaged in boxes that feature handmade banana leaf labels, go toward education in Kenya. $9 for 16 tea bags;

Big Spoon Roasters

© Seth Smoot

Big Spoon Roasters

These North Carolina nut butters are ground with local wildflower honey and nuts. $7 for an 8-oz jar;

Start Your Own Food Business: Artisanal Style

From Small to Big

Even national stores are selling handmade products created by artisans.

Artisanal Style - Ceramic Jar

Courtesy of Terrain

Charlotte Storrs

The UK-based potter sells this stone cutlery holder to garden shop Terrain, owned by Urban Outfitters. $128;

Artisanal Style - Sycamore Cutting Board

Courtesy of Lostine


Anthropologie picked up a new line of rustic home items, like this two-tone sycamore cutting board, from Philadelphia designer Robert True Ogden. From $128;

From Big to Small

Designers are catching the DIY bug and quitting corporate jobs to go out on their own.

Artisanal Style - Spears Place Mat

Courtesy of Suki Cheema

Suki Cheema

The former Diane von Furstenberg designer makes aprons, place mats and embroidered runners. From $20;

Artisanal Style - Maple Syrup

© Nell Dodge for 603 Here and There

603 Here & There

Nell Dodge left Chilewich to sell small-production items, like New Hampshire maple syrup in a growler. $32 per liter;

Start Your Own Food Business: Help for the Budding Good Entrepreneur

Midwest Roots

Good at food but bad at business? Kyle Schott’s firm helps food start-ups with everything from marketing and packaging to distributing. She’ll even go on the road and do demos at local markets.

Good Food Jobs

Similar to for the artisan food world, this site features job listings for gastro-jobs around the country, from tiny Vermont farms to NYC’s Murray’s Cheese shop.

DIY Business Association

A new company that connects and educates indie entrepreneurs. Design*Sponge’s Grace Bonney and Etsy’s Danielle Maveal spoke at its first conference in Brooklyn in 2011, and the association is hosting events around the country in 2012.

Food Craft Institute

The founders of Oakland, California’s massively popular Eat Real Festival are launching a new school with courses in marketing and production, designed for the aspiring food entrepreneur.

New Artisan Finds

Web Curators

Online marketplace used to be a free-for-all. Now it highlights a short selection of artisan foods each month.

Bicoastal Biz

L.A.’s Broome St. General Store specializes in items made in NYC, like Morris Kitchen Ginger Syrup 323-570-0405.

Stylish Market

In Chicago, food and fashion come together T Dose, a monthly market with fantastic vintage clothing and artisan vendors.


Start Your Own Business: Handmade Vanilla

Start Your Own Food Business: Do-It-Yourself Recipes

Coconut Brownie Bars
Credit: © Sang An
Vanilla Raised Doughnuts
Black Pepper Jerky
Credit: © Tina Rupp