How to Start a Cider Mill Business

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Our guide on starting a cider mill business covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of a cider mill business owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start a cider mill business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your cider mill business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your cider mill business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

A cider mill refers to the physical location where apples are pressed into cider. It may be located on the same grounds as the apple orchard, but it doesn’t have to be. Apples are traditionally turned into non-alcoholic cider, but hard ciders and even apple wines may be made at cider mills.

Who is this business right for?

People who appreciate all that goes into a quality apple cider. They need to be willing to tinker with recipes to achieve the best possible flavors.

What happens during a typical day at a cider mill business?

Staff at a cider mill will spend the majority of their time sorting through, loading, and transforming apples into juice. However, there will also need to be time devoted to equipment maintenance, marketing agendas, and new initiatives to further the business.

What is the target market?

Most people drink cider in some form or another, so the market is fairly open. Cider goes great with a number of different foods or just on its own, making it one of the easier products to sell.

How does a cider mill business make money?

Cider mills typically sell their cider to supermarkets, grocery stores, and restaurants and bars, though they can also sell directly to consumers via their website or a small stand at a farmers market. They may also host paid tours through the mill and sell additional cider to those who stop by.

What is the growth potential for a cider mill business?

Growth potential can be excellent for someone willing to go the extra mile to make a quality product. Despite the saturation and variety of ciders today, there’s still room to grow — especially for those who can satisfy underserved markets.  

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful cider mill business?

Owners should have some idea of how distribution works when it comes to opening up their mill. It’s not always easy to get store owners or bars to stock your product, so having some type of relationship or understanding of the logistics can help. Organization will be key to both manufacturing and zeroing in on the demographics will appreciate different products the most. Cider mill owners should also know how cider is made, and how recipes can be altered to fit the demands of the public.

What are the costs involved in opening a cider mill business?

The costs involved to open a cider mill business can be relatively low, especially if you’re trying this out as a hobby first. A used five-gallon press is only $100, and you may not need much more than this to make a cider! But for those looking to do things on a larger scale, they’ll likely need to spend several thousand dollars for their equipment, plus the costs of the land and space, advertising efforts, salaries for the staff, and insurance for the business.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a cider mill business?

Pressing cider is pretty easy to do once you know the mechanics of how it works. But just because it’s easy to make doesn’t mean it’s easy to perfect. Cider mill owners have to be willing to put some effort into their product if they want to turn a profit. Sampling what’s available in stores and learning more about the competition is one of the best ways to start. You may also want to begin production in a garage or similar space before branching out. Once you know the demand and the way your product is received, it should be easier to make a name for yourself.

And like any business, owners need to find an angle they can use to appeal to the skeptical. Many people have one brand and they stick with it, or they think they don't like cider to begin with. For example, some people won’t drink cider because they think it's too sweet, or because they don’t need the extra calories in their life. In that case, you’d want to create a well-developed cider that was able to offer quality flavor with the sugar or excess calories — a tall order for anyone!

But while this will take owners some serious hard work, it's this kind of flexibility and dedication that should make your business much more appealing to fellow business owners who want to offer a quality product to their customers. Once you have the distribution you need, you should be able to sustain your business for many years to come.

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a cider mill business

You can start off by selling to friends or family members, or you can start making friends with distributors right away. Those who are going to open large-scale cider mills should consider holding a free party where they give out samples or let people take part in the pressing process. There are also online ads that you can use to entice people to try your product. Paid ads are often the best way to drum up business quickly.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Customers want a quality product that they can tell their friends about. Ciders need to be consistent in terms of taste, and they should also be relatively easy to find and order. Consider handing out branded coasters to bars to encourage people to learn more about your cider. This is an extra expense, but it may be exactly what you need to drum up genuine interest.

How and when to build a team

You can start selling and distributing small batches of cider without any help at all. But if you open something larger, you’ll need people who can run the press, assist with packaging, and help design new marketing campaigns. Employees don’t necessarily need first-hand experience with cider mills, but it will help for them to have general knowledge of the pressing and distribution process.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a Cider Mill. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Certificate of Occupancy

A Cider Mill business is generally run out of a storefront or at the mill. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a Cider Mill business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Cider Mill business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Food Regulations

When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections

There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Hard apple ciders can be sold for $10 or more in a restaurant or bar, while a normal apple cider would be around $1 for eight ounces. Sparkling cider sells for about $3 for 25 ounces or so.

What are the ongoing expenses for a cider mill business?

Ongoing expenses include equipment maintenance, staff salaries, commercial insurance and the cost of the actual ingredients.

How much profit can a cider mill business make?

Considering apples can be purchased or grown for pennies, selling a single bottle for $3 can make for a profitable business. Assuming a 40% profit margin, you’d need to sell 1,000 bottles per week to make $1,200 in profits at that price.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Having your own orchard on the premises can be a great way to increase your profits. You can hold family friendly activities, such as apple picking or bobbing. Or consider opening up a small bar in your cider mill if you serve hard beverages.  Depending on your location, you can potentially rent out the space for special events, such as weddings or retirement parties. There are plenty of neighborhoods where a full-service cider mill can really thrive.

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