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Kids Shut Down for Illegal Cupcake Sales

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 17, 2010 11:56 AM

Every business, no matter how very small, must get the proper permits before beginning operations. An example: a couple of 13-year-olds who were turned in for their illegal cupcake sales. To make matters worse, they were turned in to officials by a local city councilman.

Chappaqua, New York, pre-teens Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff had a good thing going, selling cupcakes, Rice Crispy treats, cookies and brownies, reports The Journal News. That is, until New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called police after seeing their sweets stand at the local park.

The budding entrepreneurs were kids with a dream: DeMarchis and Graff along with two other schoolmates intended to sell enough treats to open a restaurant. A long shot, sure. But that is the the kind of business moxie that should be encouraged. However, licensing laws apply to everyone, no matter how cute, and the kids' illegal cupcake sales were shut down by an apologetic police officer.

Even if the proper business licenses and health department permits were not taken out by the young businessmen, having the police do the talking may not have been the best way to deal with the situation, reports The Journal News. "These are good kids who haven't once gone to the principal's office," said Laura Graff, Kevin's mother. "This was a very scary experience for them."

The permitting process even for cupcakes can be complicated. In a prior post, a Philadelphia entrepreneur known as the Cupcake Lady was so stymied by the permits required for the different business zones in Philly that she was also shut down by police -- and she used to be a lawyer. The kids in this instance needed not only health department permits, but the local Parks and Rec Department required an insurance certificate and a fee as well. Fees range from $150-$350 per hour and are decided on a case-by-case basis, Recreation and Parks Superintendent Robert Snyder told The Journal News.

What's a very young, very small business owner to do? Should there be a balance between licensing for a full-fledged storefront and a stand run by minors that the public can plainly see won't always meet every health code required of a large scale business? Maybe cities should consider a kind of kid-business permit that would apply to very small scale operations run by those under 16.

"I don't get too many offers for babysitting, and we live in a development, so shoveling snow is not an option either," said Andrew. "We were being entrepreneurs, but now I feel a little defeated."

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