If you’ve ever made cheese at home and shared it with your friends and family, the likelihood is that – if it was good – they told you you could sell it. Maybe that got you thinking. Could you really run your own cheesemaking business? And if you could, is cheesemaking profitable?
Cheesemaking is one of those old-time crafts that seem to be dwindling nowadays. The good news in that otherwise sad scenario, however, is that there is a demanding market for quality homemade or homestead made cheeses. And it’s not just in the countryside. While farm shops and markets would be a perfect location to sell your cheese, there are a number of artisanal food stores springing up in cities that are keen to bring the best of traditional country living into their stores for their urban customers to enjoy as well.
If you’ve been thinking about turning your cheesemaking passion into a business, you’ve come to the right place!
- Do I need a cheesemaking business plan?
- What is the most profitable cheese?
- Is cheesemaking profitable on your farm? How do you do it?
Do I need a cheesemaking business plan?
Nowadays, business gurus advocate the just do it and just get on with it approach to business. There’s a lot of value to this because it stops people from procrastinating over things that ultimately stop them from creating their dream business. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have a business plan for making your cheesemaking profitable, though.
Even if you only write a simple plan, merely having a cheesemaking business plan will assist you to stay on track when the inevitable entrepreneurial anxieties arise. Running a business of any type and size is hard work, and that is especially the case when you’ve got a homestead to manage as well.
Here are some things to include in your cheesemaking business plan:
Executive summaries in a business plan give an overview of your business to a potential investor, but they are helpful for other reasons too. In your summary, think about how you would explain your business to a stranger. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ that you can explain to someone very quickly and simply. Put this at the start of your business plan, but write it at the end of your business plan writing process once you’ve finished all the other sections.
This is the section where you describe exactly how you want people to see your company. Think about the type of brand that you want, and the type of voice that your company communications will have. Do you want to come across as a very serious and traditional cheesemaking company that produces the staples that everyone enjoys? Or do you want to come across as a modern and fun company that takes a little bit of an unusual approach to its product development? Do you want people to think you’ve been doing this for years? Or do you want people to see the excitement of a new business and new recipes they can try? Having this description nailed will impact everything from how you design your packaging to how you explain your cheesemaking company to other people, so it’s critical that you think through this carefully.
Product range description
You don’t have to go into the exact details of what every product will be like, but you do have to have a good idea about what kinds of products you want to offer. As any cheesemaker knows, there are literally thousands and thousands of cheesemaking recipes available, and you can’t possibly make all of them. That means you need to decide on a range that is both appealing to your customers and easy for you to streamline in production.
In the beginning, you might choose to stick to one or two types of cheese so that you can optimize your processes and scale your business. If you start by doing many different types of cheeses, you might confuse your audience as well as making it more difficult for you to actually produce the stuff in the first place. In this section, try to identify the products that you’re most excited about making and put together some descriptions for what they look like, what they will taste like, and how they will appeal to your customer.
This is probably one of the most important parts of your business plan because if you don’t know who your target market is, you literally don’t know who you’re trying to sell to. Fancy artisanal cheeses with exotic ingredients may sound great, but they definitely will not appeal to everyone. Think about the locations where you want to sell your cheese and then think about the people that actually go there. Is your local farmers market full of young couples who want to experiment with their food? Or is it full of older families who might just be looking for something more traditional that they’ve used in their family recipes for generations?
Take the time to create a buyer persona that details everything about your ideal customer. Of course, you will sell to a broader range of customers then your ideal one, but it’s a very good exercise in thinking through who you want to sell to and how you might be able to market your products to reach them.
Sales and marketing plan
This section could be tough because there are so many different ways to sell and market a product nowadays. What is critical here is that you at least put a baseline down of activities that will contribute to your sales and marketing efforts. Do your research and find out what kind of sales and marketing you are most comfortable with. For example, if you don’t like talking to people, you might want to concentrate on an online business. If you love meeting people in person, you might want to skip the online store and instead get yourself out there to local markets and stores that might want to stock your product. Inevitably, your sales and marketing strategies will change as your business grows, but this is a great way to get started.
Financial analysis and planning to make cheesemaking profitable
Again, this section is critical. This is when you need to really dig down into the financials of your business and work out whether cheesemaking is profitable for you. You need to take into account all of your costs, how much cheese you could actually make for that upfront investment, and then how much you could actually sell it for in the end (check out our article on profitable herb growing for ideas!). It sounds simplistic, but there are hidden costs everywhere and you need to account for things like your time that are much harder to put a price on. There is loads of information online about doing financial analysis for business plans, so make sure that you do your research and cover all your bases before you make any big financial commitments to the business.
Once you’ve got your business plan finalized, keep it somewhere that you can regularly refer back to it and update it. Writing a cheesemaking business plan shouldn’t be a one-time task. You should write it and then make sure to adjust it as necessary as your cheesemaking business grows.
What is the most profitable cheese?
If you search online forums about cheese making, you’ll see this question pop up everywhere. You’ll also see that people don’t really have a very good answer to this. The problem, of course, is that there are so many factors that go into the profitability of a business that you cannot really pin it down to one cheese. That being said, there are certain types of cheeses that are relatively easy to make with pretty common base ingredients that, when combined with a little bit of imagination, can command much higher prices and thus make you more money.
Here are some ideas for sprucing up your cheeses to make them more profitable:
1: Add unique ingredients
Once you’ve got the base of any cheese mastered, you can simply add a more exotic ingredient to it to make it more appealing to your customers. If you are thinking about adding jalapenos to cheddar, mixing in cranberries with Stilton, or sprinkling truffle throughout gouda, your thinking is along the right lines. The base cheeses themselves are not expensive to make, but by adding one more interesting and luxury ingredient, you’re able to command much higher prices that far outweigh what you paid for that extra special ingredient.
2: Go the extra mile on packaging
This one might sound obvious, but from the number of artisanal cheeses we’ve seen wrapped up in plastic and poorly labeled, it seems it may not be obvious to every cheesemaker. There is absolutely no point spending hours and hours crafting the perfect cheese recipe only to present that cheese to your customer in a sub-par way. It doesn’t take much to carefully wrap blocks of cheese in waxed paper and have a nice label designed to stick on the top. Remember that every time you put a product out into the world, you are marketing your business in the most powerful way possible because the consumers are directly engaging with the products you’re trying to sell. You can make any cheese more profitable in practice by presenting it in a way that makes it look more luxurious to your consumers.
3: Deliberately make less of the cheese that people compliment the most
This one takes a little bit of bravery, but if you find that you have one particular product that outsells the rest, or that people compliment you on one particular cheese the most, you might consider doing a shorter run of it. In this instance, you would use less raw material (ingredients), but be able to command a higher price simply because there won’t be as much supply. This is, of course, basic supply and demand economics.
Are people complimenting you on that garlic herb cheese you made last month? Well, over the next few months, why don’t you try making half as much of it, but doubling your price? You may just find that it creates enough buzz about your product that people will come to your stall as the first stop on their farmers market tour just to see if you’ve got any of it in stock. If you do, they’ll be pleased to pay the extra cost just because they managed to get it before anyone else. If you don’t, your customers are likely to look at what else you have in stock and attribute the same level of quality and desirability to those products as well, which in turn increases their profitability.
You’ve got to be bold and trust in your quality to do this, but if you can pull it off, you significantly reduce your production costs and significantly increase your sales revenue, and that is the key to ensuring a highly profitable cheesemaking business.
Is cheesemaking profitable on your farm? How do you do it?
If you’ve got tips or tricks to share about how to make cheesemaking profitable, we’d love to hear from you! Please let us know in the comments.