All I Want to Do Is Make Cookies


Most small businessmen have enough problems improving their product, marketing and meeting payroll. When Uncle Sam and his state and local cousins get involved, life and business invariably get harder. Common sense regulation benefits everyone. But there is a level of regulation that benefits no one – except bureaucrats. In this video, Joseph Semprevivo, founder and CEO of Joseph’s Lite Cookies, gives his not-so-sugar-coated account of how the government too often hinders much more than it helps.

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I own a small business with seven employees. We make cookies—but not just any cookies. We make sugar-free cookies that diabetics can eat. Actually, they’re so tasty, anyone can enjoy them. That was the inspiration that motivated me to start this business.

You see, I am a diabetic myself. I have been one my whole life.

If you think running a cookie company is fun and games, think again. I work a hundred hours a week—which isn’t unusual for small business owners. I make a nice living, but I’m not in it for the money. I love what I do.

I’d better. My margins are very tight—around 1%. That means I have to sell a million dollars’ worth of cookies to make $10,000. Every penny counts—literally. That’s why I get so frustrated with government regulations.

Now, let me be clear: some regulations are necessary—especially, for obvious reasons, in the food industry. But “necessary” and “excessive” are two entirely different things. Excessive, UN-necessary regulations soak up valuable hours of my time and my money for no good purpose.

That 100 hours I work per week? I estimate 36 of them are spent on compliance issues alone. This keeps me away from activities that would help me grow my business—like sales and product development.

And that keeps me away from hiring more people.

My employees are like family to me. It’s that way with most small businesses. But it’s a struggle every single day.

I could be more productive and feel a lot less anxiety if I didn’t have to fight my own government; or, should I say, governments—federal, state and local. I get the roads and the bridges and the national defense, but I don’t get why they have to be involved in every tiny aspect of my business, sometimes competing with each other as to who can make my life more difficult.

For example, as a bakery, I’m under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). I also have to deal with the state health agency.

They all have different rules. If these rules contradict one another, it’s not their problem; it’s mine.

A few years ago, the FDA inspector showed up for one of his random inspections. He noticed the door to the area in which we bake our cookies swung out as you walked in. He told me that was a code violation. The doors have to swing in. I had 30 days to fix it or I’d be fined thousands of dollars.

I should note we have an air curtain between both rooms so no food particles can get in or out of the baking area. I pointed this out. The inspector was unmoved.

A few months later, the inspector from the Ag Department shows up for one of his random inspections. He notices that the door swings in. Yes, I tell him. It does. It’s an FDA regulation.

No, he tells me, it has to swing out. Fix it within 30 days, he says, or you’ll be fined.

I started keeping two sets of doors: one that swings in for the FDA, and one that swings out for the Ag Department.

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