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Impact Investing In Regenerative Agriculture

Impact Investing In Regenerative Agriculture

Eric White is a Principal at Cogent Consulting, a firm which helps social entrepreneurs and revenue-generating nonprofits raise social impact investments. Cogent also works with social impact investors to source investment opportunities and helps them build their portfolio strategy, including the incorporation of tools like Program Related Investments (PRIs). Eric feels that cash flowing and making money can coexist with goals of social impact as long as entrepreneurs “translate” the their message for different audiences, including using the language of business models and finance when seeking investment. Eric thinks there are investable opportunities in companies that provide support for regenerative agriculture systems and he has seen smaller, donation-supported loan funds combined with technical assistance in the $15,000-$50,000 range fill a market gap for small entrepreneurs as they scale up and seek larger sources of financing later.

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Farmers: Let’s Build A Brand!

Farmers: Let’s Build A Brand!

Over the last five to ten years, food consumers have been seeking more “premium” experiences from the food they purchase, including better connections with their food and understanding where it comes from. One way this has manifested itself is interest in CSAs and farmers’ markets, allowing people to support local businesses and connect directly with the people growing their food. However, most consumers still get most of their food from the grocery store, and it is difficult to scale farmers’ markets and CSAs to reach as many consumers as grocery stores do. Developing brands for agricultural products can help farmers produce products that earn them a premium and are meeting a real consumer demand. We want to encourage more partnerships between farmers and brand-oriented food entrepreneurs where it makes sense so that all consumers have access to tasty, fresh food.

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How Seal The Seasons Matches Mission With Scale

How Seal The Seasons Matches Mission With Scale

Patrick Mateer is the Founder and CEO of Seal The Seasons, a brand of produce frozen on a state-by-state or region-by-region basis that is then distributed to those same communities’ grocery stores. They began production in one of the partitions of a shared-use commissary kitchen facility where they installed an Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) production freezer. They began partnering with a co-packer in 2017 and almost doubled their gross margin contributions as a result, passing more money to their farmer suppliers. Patrick has seen customers respond to Seal The Seasons’ vibrant packaging and messaging in addition to price promotions, in-store features/displays, store circular placement, newspapers/traditional media and connecting via online media to the grocery’s eCommerce site. Though they thought they would need to raise $1 million to $2 million to finance their operation, now they estimate that they will need two or three times that amount due to increased consumer demand for their products and supporting their sales growth in turn. Pitching each investor based on their unique preferences and needs has been one of the most difficult things Patrick has had to learn as an entrepreneur.

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How You Know It’s The Right Time To Pivot

How You Know It’s The Right Time To Pivot

Decisions to pivot or change your food or farm business should based on your target consumer’s preferences, your product category’s growth (or decline) and other general market trends. If you put your customer and their preferences in the driver’s seat in this way, you can ensure decisions about when and where to pivot will be guided by where the key business opportunity lies, and not other things. Many traditional food and beverage companies have been slow to respond to changing consumer preferences around food innovation, clean ingredients and transparency, loosing market share and profits in the process. They are trying to make up for this lack of action by rapidly acquiring or incubating new brands. In essence, they are trying to pivot to a portfolio of products that aren’t just about price or convenience.

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How Top Note Tonics Pivoted Beverage Categories and Understood Their Market

How Top Note Tonics Pivoted Beverage Categories and Understood Their Market

Mary Pellettieri is the co-founder of Top Note Tonics, a company that makes complex and layered American craft mixers. Mary’s experience in sales, marketing, distribution and new product development/research and quality assurance, including at Goose Island and Miller/Coors, has allowed her to take calculated risks. Top Note has pivoted away from syrups towards niche ready-to-drink, already mixed sparkling tonics, using their foray into syrups to further understand the mixer category and build their brand. Mary reflected that having a good bank as a partner is important and that learning about money has been the most important and useful thing that she has picked up as an entrepreneur.

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Creativity Is Essential To Food Entrepreneurship

Creativity Is Essential To Food Entrepreneurship

Figuring out the best way to finance food businesses by optimizing their capital structure to reach minimum efficient scale is an undervalued creative exercise. But the myriad of challenges that confront entrepreneurs, from finding the right suppliers, co-packers, distributors, brokers or even the right target customer also demand creativity. We encourage established and aspiring food entrepreneurs to never take their creative hats off when solving a problem, no matter what that problem is.

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MobCraft Beer’s Creative Sourcing of Recipes and Financing

MobCraft Beer’s Creative Sourcing of Recipes and Financing

MobCraft beer is a brewery and taproom with a unique business model of crowdsourcing ideas for beer recipes from their customers. Their brewery/taproom in Milwaukee cost just over $2 million to build. When MobCraft first started to raise money to finance their facility, they looked for institutional capital at first without much success and then pursued equity crowdfunding. Knowing how much equity they needed vs. debt to finance their facility build out and equipment needs helped them pitch specific asks to both banks and investors. They took advantage of the SBA 7a program to raise the debt they needed, talking to multiple banks before securing bank financing. They also worked with the landlord of their facility to help finance the improvements to the space, which worked as equity when approaching the bank. They then strategically sold their distribution rights to help raise cash.

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2017 Year In Review

2017 Year In Review

2017 was a busy year in achieving our mission of making sophisticated financial technical assistance available to every growing food, beverage and value-added agriculture enterprise: 61 Consultants and Financial Professionals Trained. 11 Urban Farmers Attending our Urban Farming Is a Business Training and 12 Food Hub Managers Attended our Food Hub Financial Management Boot Camp. 9000+ Edible-Alpha™ Podcast Downloads of 23 podcasts episodes and 200 subscribers to our Edible-Alpha™ Insights newsletter. Countless other events and partnerships with the Nutrition Capital Network, FaB Wisconsin, Expo West and East, Georgetown’s Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI), and more…

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Growing Madison Sourdough Intentionally Through Vertical Integration

Growing Madison Sourdough Intentionally Through Vertical Integration

Dave Lohrentz is co-owner of Madison Sourdough, a bakery, café, patisserie and mill in Madison, WI specializing in sourdough breads. They have grown using a vertically integrated business model by adding a restaurant that highlights their baked goods and bakery. They have also added an artisanal grain mill to their production processes, sourcing much of the flour themselves from local producers. Dave has found it is difficult to get the local and unconventional grain supply chain to a robust enough point to have options for multiple actors in the chain. He advocates for entrepreneurs to use the lean startup model of trying things, talking to customers, learning from mistakes and pivoting quickly, rather than writing up elaborate business plans built on assumptions that may not be true and may change over time.

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