Last February, Gov. Mike Beebe signed off on something called the cottage food law, which allowed home bakers, jammers and candy makers to legally sell their products in Arkansas for the very first time. Until then, the state’s Department of Health restricted the sale of items that were not produced in a commercially-licensed kitchen, which, unless they decided to sell items illegally, forced many of those dessertiers to make items that could only be given to their families and friends.
The law was enacted primarily in response to those wishing to sell items at the more than 75 farmers’ markets held across the state. The law now allows for homemade “value added items” to be sold, which opens the door for the farmers’ markets to sell more than just fruits and vegetables that are fresh from the garden. Those vendors may now use their produce to make candy, fruit butter, jams, jellies and baked goods.
The cottage food law also literally opened the door for those selling items directly out of their homes. Pamela Overstreet is one Jonesboro resident who is profiting from the recent legislation. The stay-at-home mom of four has loved cooking and baking since she was a young girl, and now she can make and sell her goods from her own kitchen.
“I learned to cook alongside my dad,” said Overstreet. “When my parents divorced, my dad had to learn to cook, and so I learned right along with him. I love cooking. It is a passion. I was baking anyway, so I thought I might as well do something with it.”
At the urging of friends and family, Overstreet began to look at the possibility of selling her desserts. She first began making calls and researching what it would take for her to open an at-home business.
“I asked friends and people I knew who were selling cakes and such, and they said they were doing it under the radar — that the law didn’t allow you to sell things made at home — but I didn’t want to do it that way, so I started researching to see if there was a way to do it legally,” she said. “I found out after calls to the health department and city offices that the new cottage law had just recently been passed.”
Under the law, a certain number of items, such as bakery products without cream cheese frosting, candy, cookies, jams and jellies, can be sold without a permit. Overstreet, however, was required to get a permit because many of her items, such as cheesecakes and cakes with cream cheese icing, require a permit to sell.
Overstreet began the process by getting approved by the health department as a maker of sweets and confections. She then moved to the city planner’s office and the collector’s office to receive her business license. She also had to register for her state and federal tax identification numbers.
“There were a lot of steps to the process, and it was difficult because I had to do all the research myself,” said Overstreet. “There was no one to walk me through the process. That is one reason why I agreed to do this story. I know there are others out there like me who would like to do this as a home business, but they don’t know where to start. This is something people can do if they have a desire to do it.”
Overstreet is required to label all of her products with her name, address, the name of the product, the ingredients and state in 10-point type “This product is homemade.” Overstreet says she takes it one step further and labels all items containing nuts.
“I know many people have nut allergies, especially items that go to schools or kids parties, so I also use a sticker that says ‘contains nuts,’” she said.
In August, Overstreet was officially licensed as Pamela Anne’s: Delivering Desserts from Down Home to Decadent, and she quickly began marketing her business by taking samples to local businesses, radio stations, banks and hospitals. She also sold items at Valley View School’s fall festival.
“Most of my business comes through referrals, and I like it that way,” said Overstreet. “When others pass along my contact information, I know it’s because they liked what I made for them.”
Whatever she’s doing, it seems to be working; business for Pamela Anne’s has exceeded Overstreet’s expectations.
“It has been a lot busier than I thought,” said Overstreet. “I expected to not be making a profit through March, but by the middle of October, I was making a profit.”
In fact, business has been so good that she has been able to buy a new dishwasher and install a double oven in her kitchen.
Some of Overstreet’s most popular items so far have been red velvet cake, cupcakes, cheesecake, carrot cake, Italian cream cake, triple mocha cupcakes and peanut butter mocha cake. All of Pamela Anne’s cake flavors can also be made into cupcakes and can have a center filling. A full list of items can be viewed on Overstreet’s website, pamelaannesdesserts.vpweb.com. The baker extraordinaire said she can also do a wide variety of custom orders outside of what is listed on her website.
All of Pamela Anne’s creations are made from scratch, and she strives to provide items that give a “decadent and homemade taste that you would get from grandma’s house.” Overstreet said she knows most of the recipes she uses by heart, learned from tried-and-true recipes made by ladies she grew up knowing in church. When she does try a new recipe, her children enjoy being her taste testers.
“They love when I decide to try a new recipe,” she said. “They are more than willing to be test dummies first, and sometimes I try a recipe over and over until it comes out and presents exactly the way I want it to.”
Every order is appropriately packaged and delivered free of charge within the city of Jonesboro.
“I believe you eat first with your eyes, and the way something is packaged goes a long way,” said Overstreet.
For other towns in the surrounding area, Overstreet can deliver for a $10 charge. She requests 48 hours notice but can often do rush orders for a nominal fee, as well. To help make the holidays less stressful, Pamela Anne’s is offering a 15-percent discount on all orders to new customers and a 5-percent discount on all subsequent orders through Jan. 2. For more information, contact Pamela Anne’s at 926-9776 or email@example.com.