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Kitchen Space

August 16, 2012

The Woman Behind Washington’s Cottage Food Law

Never underestimate the power of a motivated woman – especially when that woman is motivated by the health of her child!  Felicia Hill of FH Cakes was the one-woman force behind helping get a Cottage Food Bill – a law which enables small food businesses to legally operate out of a home kitchen – passed in Washington State.  I had a chance to talk with her to learn more about how this stay-at-home mom helped change legislation that will impact hundreds if not thousands of small food entrepreneurs.

How did you get involved with helping bring a Cottage Food Law into being in Washington State?

I contacted my local Senator (Craig Pridemore), asked him if he would be interested in sponsoring a bill…He said it was too late to get the info on it to be introduced that year, but he would work with me in the future. Call it women intuition or just luck, I looked to see what bills had been introduced for the year and found SB5748 had been introduced the day prior to my call! I called the sponsoring senator immediately to get involved.

Why was it important for you to see this bill pass in Washington?

It was important for me because I am a stay-at-home-mom. I wanted to be able to care for my children and run my business from home.

Can you briefly explain the path the bill had to take before it was signed by the Governor?

The bill had several committee hearings and then had to be passed through both the Senate and House Floors.

How long did this process take – more or less – start to finish?

First public hearing was February 14th 2011, Governor signed it into Law on May 5th 2011.

Along the way you created a website and Facebook page dedicated to the WA Cottage Food Bill where you helped keep fans up-to-date and solicit support.  Why did you decide to put the time and energy into doing this?

I have had countless emails and phone calls asking me questions about this law. Having the Facebook page and website helps answer questions and puts people in touch with others around the state. It is important for everyone to be talking about this Law, as there are still so many people that are unaware of it!

It actually took about a year from when the Governor signed the bill into effect to when the Department of Agriculture started to do inspections of home kitchens.  Why did the process take so long to get going?  Were you ever frustrated given all the time you’d already dedicated to getting the bill passed?

The process took as long as it did because the Dept of Agriculture (which oversees Cottage Food Businesses in Washington state) had to implement the Ruling, they had no funding for this program…so unfortunately it was put on the back burner for a bit. I did become frustrated at times..but it was important for me to stay positive, I knew in the end we would have our permits sooner or later!

You were the first person to receive a Cottage Food Permit in WA state.  How did the actual permit application process go for you?

I was used as the “Guinea Pig”…I have been working with the Dept of Ag since September 2011 on implementing the Ruling so I was completely familiar with the inspection process and what I would need to have in my home. They fast tracked my application so that we could get things moving quickly with the general population of the state. Everything went very smoothly.

You actually got to go to the Capital to receive your Cottage Food Permit – can you tell us about that experience?

It was a great honor to meet Dan Newhouse, the Director for the Dept of Ag. All my hard work, time and energy I have put into making all of this happen really paid off that day. It was nice to be recognized for all my work by all these top officials and to be working side by side with them as a regular citizen…it was an experience I will never forget!

Can you tell us a little bit about your own business?

My son was Diagnosed at 1yr of age with a life threatening Peanut Allergy, for his 2nd Birthday I was unable to find him a Bakery Style cake that was safe for him to eat. This was unacceptable to me, I took a Basic Cake Decorating Class at Michaels Crafts to learn how to make cakes for him myself. Friends and Family soon caught on to this little hobby I had and encouraged me to turn it into a business. Here I am 4 years later with a thriving business as the only Vancouver WA area baker that offers Peanut-Free cakes. I also offer options for Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Soy free. I love the design process of creating custom cakes, my specialty is in Celebration Cakes. My best work is done with carving cakes into 3-D images.

What are your thoughts on what this bill, now that it’s finally in place, will mean for small food entrepreneurs in Washington?

The bill is already passed into Law, now that it is a Law I see an entire new door of possibilities have opened for the Small Food Entrepreneurs. There are many people like myself that will now be able to turn their hobbies into small business without having to invest a bunch of money to verify whether the business will be successful. Most people like to purchase directly from the manufacturer..it is important that we continue to keep it local and support or own communities!

Any words of advice for anyone who wants to try to get a Cottage Food Bill enacted in their state?

Do not give up…you may be only one person, but you can make a difference…I did!

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