Small Scale Business Resources in Portland
Feel free to check out our free videos & info below.
Contact us to learn more about local resources for start-up and small scale food businesses.
Checklist for Temporary Events
Create a business plan
Contact your local micro-enterprise program for assistance. There are many good programs out there, from Micro Mercantes to Portland Community College’s Getting Your Recipe to Market. Contact us to learn more.
Register your business
Register online on the State of Oregon Business Registration website. You may also have to register your business with you local city or town government as well.
Find a kitchen to cook in.
We can help you find a kitchen that is the right fit for you, either ours or another one in the community. Please contact us.
We recommend that you obtain an insurance policy that covers $1,000,000 in liability to rent a commissary kitchen and to sell food to the public. The lower end is around $40/month. Contact your current insurance company for a bid, but also shop around.
Get a Food Handlers Card
You will need to obtain a Food Handler’s Card through your local County Health Department or an approved vendor. We recommend that you can take Multnomah County's food handlers test online. The card be used anywhere in the state. If you have questions, please contact your local County Health Department.
Choose an event or market
Here are a few tools to help you chose a market:
- List of farmers markets in the Portland Metro
- Grid to compare farmers markets
- One Day Events in Portland
Apply for a Temporary Restaurant License
You need to apply to for a Temporary Restaurant License before your event by faxing or dropping off an application. Where is the license application? First, figure out which county you are selling in. Then, visit that county's environmental health department website or call them for the application. There are two types of licenses
- One day Event License
- Operational Plan and Seasonal 30-90 License.
Fill out a One Day Event License if you are selling at an event that is a one-time event (ex. Jazz Festival). Fill out an Operational Plan and Seasonal 30-90 License if you are selling at a farmers market or another market every week for a few months or more. Submit the application before the deadline, with the fee. Call to make sure they received your application. On your first day at the event, the inspector will inspect your booth and, if you pass, he or she will give you your license. Once you have your license, remember to send a copy of your license to the event or market coordinator.
- How to get insurance and common licenses you will need.
- Multnomah County Temporary Restaurant License Applications
- Washington County Temporary Restaurant License Applications
- Temporary Booth Diagram
Do you have a stove?
If you use charcoal, there is no license required, but we do have some recommendations for using a charcoal stoves.
Apply to the market or event
Most applications for markets are on www.managemymarket.com. If an application isn't there, call the market manager. Generally, you will need to fill out an application, send a copy of your food handlers card and insurance to the market manager, and have your food tested by a jury. For your menu, keep it simple (3-5 items), unique from other vendors, and source at least 25% of your ingredients locally. Choose food that is still tastes great if reheated, that transports well and that can be served quickly at the market. Use compostable or reusable serving ware and include delicious descriptions of your food. Below is some helpful info to keep in mind as you apply:
- Sustainability at Work Certification Application
- Places to purchase affordable local and organic ingredients.
- 5 tips for lowering food costs in a sustainable kitchen
Set up your booth fees or mail your event fee
You and your market or event coordinator will need to agree on how you will pay your booth fees. Sometimes if you pay part or all of your booth fees before the event , the event will give you a discount. For events, you generally mail in a check. Most farmers markets prefer that you pay through automatic withdrawals from your account. Sometimes, setting this up requires that you fill out and mail a form to your market manager before your first day at the market.
Set up your tokens system
When people forget cash at an event or market, they will use their credit card to purchase tokens. They can then use those tokens to purchase food and other items in the event. However, not all tokens are alike. Check with your market manager to see what tokens you can accept and how you will receive money for the tokens you do collect.
- Explanation of farmers market tokens.
- Also, consider using a Square on your phone. It will allow you to accept credit card payments through your phone.
There are lots of places to buy inexpensive equipment. A few ideas:
What type of equipment do you need? For most farmers markets you will need the following (this is not a comprehensive list, you may need other items as well):
- Your food (funny, but a vendor we knew forgot this one once!)
- Food handlers card
- Four 20 pound tent weights
- Tarp for the ground, if you will be on grass
- Small folding table or tall stool
- 5 gallon bucket with warm water and free flowing tap
- 3-4 rolls of paper towels
- Bungee cord to place a roll of paper towels on
- Hand soap
- Large bucket for dirty hand washing water5 gallon waste or compost receptacle with lid
- Packet of chlorine testing strips
- 1 gallon empty bucket for chlorine mixture
- Box of non-Latex plastic gloves
- Bucket for dirty utensils
- Rubber mat under your stove
- Small ware that you need, ex. pots, pans, utensils
- Copy of your propane tank license
- Fire extinguisher
- 2 large folding tables
- 3-4 coolers with ice
- Thermometer ( from 0 to 220 degrees F. with sensitive point)
- 2 beautiful (plastic) table cloths
- Compostable or reusable utensils for customers
- Cold drinks in pretty jars with ice and taps
- Marketing materials
- 6 or more condiment bottles or condiment tray with ice
- Lots of change in a locked box
- Notebook and pen to write down orders
- Bucket for dirty customer utensils and dishes
- Garbage bin for customers
- Tie for your hair, hair nets, beard nets
Attend vendor orientation
Most farmers markets hold a mandatory training for their vendors. It’s a good time to learn more about your market and to meet your fellow vendors.
Put up a profile on the internet
Engage your customers every day, not just on market day. For example, start a facebook page and post about your food, stories about your business, your favorite customer and more.
Create marketing materials
Good ideas: a menu, a sign, flyers or business cards, and labels that stand on their own that identify your products for customers to see. Chalkboard or a professionally printed sign is better than a whiteboard or paper.
Get help on your first day
If you are a part of Micro Mercantes, a staff member can be there to assist you your first market or event day. You will likely need help from 1 to 3 other volunteers or employees. On your first day, take extra people, get up really early to give yourself lots of time and set up slowly and carefully.
- Multnomah County Catering License (0-15 Restaurant License)
- Should I be a caterer? (Spanish)
- Interviews with Catering Clients
- Top ways to get more catering orders
- How to cater a formal event
- Organizing a buffet at a catered event
- What should you charge for service?
- Sample catering proposal
- Example catering menu
- Example of cancellation and refund policy
You will be assigned an inspector that will guide you through the process. To find out who your inspector is, call their main number at 503-986-4720. If you need someone who speaks Spanish, ask for Monica Graso. The inspector will talk on the phone or by email with you to prepare you for your first meeting. This can include documenting your ingredient sourcing, food preparation and packaging process and finalizing the label on your package. Once he or she feels you are ready, they will meet you in the kitchen you will be cooking in. If everything goes well (your application is complete, you pay the fee by check and the kitchen meets ODA requirements), the inspector will send you a temporary license by email. A formal copy of your license will come by mail. Need help? There are two great programs out there for new wholesale chefs, the Portland Community College's Getting your Recipe to Market Program and the Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center.
- Oregon Department of Agriculture Power Point presentation: Wholesale & Home Kitchens
- How to start selling your product to stores in the Portland Metro Area.
Mobile Unit or Food Cart
A good place to start is reading Multnomah County's Mobile Cart Playbook. Once you are ready to apply, fill out an application for a license and pay a fee at your local county Environmental Health Department. The application is generally online or you can pick it up at their office. It usually asks for a layout of equipment in your cart and questions about how you will source ingredients and prepare your food. If you have questions, call the department and ask for their 'inspector of the day' and/or their food cart inspector.