How to Start a Spice Business
Spices are extremely popular, especially as the gourmet food trend continues to expand across the nation. The spice market is predicted to reach $16 billion by 2019, so the demand for quality and freshness will only continue to go up.
Learn how to start your own Spice Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a spice business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Spice Business
- Form your Spice Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Spice Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Spice Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Spice Business
- Get Spice Business Insurance
- Define your Spice Business Brand
- Create your Spice Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your spice business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
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 will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Spice Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a spice business?
Costs to get started can be relatively low, depending on the types of spices you buy. For example, saffron is incredibly rare, and costs hundreds of dollars an ounce. Many people get into the business by starting at home, which involves the cost of ordering the actual spice plus any equipment you may use. A regular spice grinder may cost as little as $25. If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of places that sell spices online and in bulk. If you’re planning to open a storefront, then you’ll need to take into account the rental space, as well as business permits (fees vary by location.)
What are the ongoing expenses for a spice business?
A spice business continually needs fresh product, so one of your largest ongoing expenses will be buying new spices to stock your shelves. Other common ongoing expenses include:
Who is the target market?
If you’re planning to sell to customers directly, you’re looking for home cooks or even local restaurants who need a regular supplier. People with good palates will recognize the value of quality spices, and they’ll be willing to pay for freshness.
How does a spice business make money?
Spice businesses make money by charging customers a premium for each bottle or weight of spices sold.
How much can you charge customers?
One single vanilla bean can be sold for over $2, while a pound of saffron is $10,000. People are willing to pay for spices that last, though you'll also want to do research about how much each spice costs in local supermarkets or specialty stores. These prices will give you a base, so you can determine your own profit margin. If your product is vastly better than others, don't be afraid to up the prices though.
How much profit can a spice business make?
The spice business is billions of dollar each year, so there is definitely profit to be made in this industry. Selling 100 bottles a week at a farmers market at a $2 profit margin will bring in enough for a steady side business. Once you build up the clientele, you can make well into the 6 figures.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Spices are generally bought by people who enjoy gourmet foods. You may wish to sell accessories (e.g., grinders, aprons) or other specialty foods.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your spice business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
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.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
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
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a spice business. 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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A spice business is generally run out of a storefront. 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 spice 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 spice business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Spice Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Spice Business.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a spice business
Most spice owners distribute rather than opening up a storefront. You can start by selling to your family and friends, or by going to local farmer’s markets to give people free samples of food featuring your special blends. You’ll also need to find distributors and showing off your skill. The more serious you are about quality and flavor, the more likely it is you’ll start opening doors to bigger markets. Owners may want to think of starting their own website as well, to give people a way to research and learn more about the products.
How to keep customers coming back
The best way to attract customers is to give them something they can’t find in the store. The more consistent you are with the products you sell, the more likely it is people will trust you for their next meal.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
People who understand how spices flavor food will do well in this business. Each spice has its own characteristics, and reacts differently to storage and the passage of time. Without fully understanding the details, it's easy to make mistakes. But it’s equally important to understand how to work with different types of people. The spice business is largely built on relationships with the growers, distributors, and customers, so entrepreneurs should have a grasp on the art of compromise and negotiation.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a spice business?
Spice business owners may do the following tasks in a day:
- Spice blending/grinding
- Network with distributors
- Grow spices
- Schedule sales
- Product optimization
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful spice business?
Ingenuity, passion, and sensibility will all help. You need to know how to work with distributors, and how to find the growers. Passion will drive your knowledge of freshness and shelf life, which will in turn help you make better decisions for your business.
Spice merchants will tell you that trust is a huge factor when it comes to success. You'll need to put your trust into those who produce the spices because you won't be there to actively watch their process. As the popularity of spices continues to grow, it's the relationships that ensure a mutually beneficial (and profitable) business.
What is the growth potential for a spice business?
A spice business can have unlimited growth potential by finding the right clientele. There is definitely a need for those who thoroughly know and understand the nature of spices. Customers are always looking for the next great blend for the grilling season, and creating a popular flavor can get customers hooked quickly.
This is also a smart business idea in terms of longevity. If the economy takes a turn, people will start to cook more at home. In fact, home cooks and chefs may start to rely more on quality spices when they're looking to cut back on their budget. Spices can transform cheaper vegetables and meats into delicious and cohesive meals.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a spice business?
Spice owners will tell you that this business is built on relationships. The growers are typically located in Asia, though spices come from all over the world. Only recently have herbs started to be more widely grown in the US, so now may be a good time to experiment if you’re interested in producing rather than just selling spices. If you’re planning to blend your own spices, you’ll need to know what's on the market now and how you can make your product different. You’ll also need to know what foods each spice or blend pairs best with, so you can give helpful tips to you customers.
Spices have a very limited shelf life, so it’s necessary to understand how to give all customers the best in flavor. It can be difficult to stand next to the major spice brands, but small spice owners get the edge because they sell a fresher product. Typically owners make money off the popular spices, as opposed to the fancier ones (e.g., saffron.) In wintertime, cinnamon is a big seller, while in the summer, grilling spices like cumin go the distance.
How and when to build a team
You won’t necessarily need a team unless you plan to have a storefront and need employees to man the cash register. Any workers you hire should understand the flavor profiles and combinations, so they can assist customers with common questions.