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Your Relationships With Your Customers Are Your Food Business’ Biggest Asset

Your Relationships With Your Customers Are Your Food Business’ Biggest Asset

In a marketplace with rapidly changing food preferences, restrictions, diets and ethical concerns around food production, one of your biggest challenges is figuring out how to deliver a product that solves enough problems for the right customers while building a strong relationship with them. Food entrepreneurship is a stressful endeavor, full of obstacles and roadblocks. No entrepreneur does it alone, and in addition to having a great team at the governance and management levels, the best food entrepreneurs develop deep enough relationships with their customers so that their customers become deeply invested in the company’s success.

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Specialized training to optimize growth, resilience for Wisconsin’s food and beverage businesses

Specialized training to optimize growth, resilience for Wisconsin’s food and beverage businesses

A pilot program to advance the state’s small food and beverage businesses is launching this month with support from a $100,000 federal grant. Financial management boot camps and customized consulting for food manufacturing companies and entrepreneurs will be provided by the Food Finance Institute (FFI) and the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC). Both programs are part of the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship.

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Ownership Differentiates Willy Street Co-op In A Changing Grocery Market

Ownership Differentiates Willy Street Co-op In A Changing Grocery Market

Willy Street Co-op is a set of cooperatively owned retail grocery stores in Madison, WI. Founded in 1974, they now have 35,000 member-owners and about 400 employees across three stores. This last fiscal year, the co-op generated about $52 million in sales, making them one of the largest grocery co-ops in the country. The grocery market has changed with changing consumer tastes and habits over the past several years, with everything from store size to product mix needing to adapt. Retail grocery co-ops have struggled at times to find their niche in a marketplace where local and organic/natural products are more widely available at traditional grocery stores and online. They have found that operating transparently and openly, emphasizing cooperative ownership and owner literacy, has provided a point of differentiation for Willy Street Co-op in the current marketplace.

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2018 Year In Review

2018 Year In Review

Our mission at the Food Finance Institute is to make sophisticated financial technical assistance available to every growing food, beverage and value-added agriculture enterprise. Like 2017, 2018 was a busy year in achieving that mission, and here is what we are proud to have accomplished this year: Our Network Of Trained Consultants Keeps Getting Bigger [...] Continue Reading
Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

Great Food Entrepreneurs Are Always Learning

We have found that the best entrepreneurs are constantly seeking new learning experiences. This includes getting constant feedback from their customers, to reaching out to potential mentors for advice, to attending industry events and tradeshows to network with and learn from their peers and industry veterans. Sometimes, learning means “un-learning” something these entrepreneurs thought was essential to their business when they launched, whether their packaging or messaging or even their original business model. In short, good food entrepreneurs learn to adapt and know that some of their original assumptions will be proven wrong as they validate their products in the market.

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This Food Hub Leverages A Diverse Food Shed For A Resilient Future

This Food Hub Leverages A Diverse Food Shed For A Resilient Future

Dorchester’s Farm Food Hub, a for-profit cooperative located in Prince County, Maryland serving the Chesapeake Bay food shed. The Hub aggregates and tries to ensure consistent supply of seafood and farm products (fruit, produce, livestock) and then redistributes to areas that are historically under-served via direct delivery of fresh and healthy food options. The Hub gives its customers lots of choice and flexibility, allowing people to chose what they purchase based on availability and their preferences. They started with 20 members in 2014 and are now up to nearly 500 consistent members in 2018. The average order size for their products is about $57 and 2 products. The Hub keeps consistent data on their customers’ preferences and has developed new products, like chicken plates and coleslaw, to both eliminate unnecessary waste in their operations and improve their bottom line through producing of value-added products and adding customers to existing delivery routes. The Hub has sought to further leverage their strategic advantages of seafood and aggregation services as their biggest points of differentiation in the marketplace.

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Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

Where Does My Food Brand Need To “Be”?

There are wide variety of tools and marketplaces to reach customers for today’s food brands. And, sometimes the ideal distribution path looks different than the entrepreneur intended when they started the business. The brands that survive today’s marketplace will be making decisions about distribution and channels of delivery with their customers’ expectations and preferences center stage.

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Food Entrepreneurship and Resilience: A Funky Fresh Take With Trueman McGee

Food Entrepreneurship and Resilience: A Funky Fresh Take With Trueman McGee

Funky Fresh Spring Rolls is a company that produces uniquely flavored, hand rolled spring rolls that are baked or grilled (not fried) with fresh and local ingredients. Originally, the founder had wanted Funky Fresh to go directly to grocery store retail in part to avoid the all-consuming nature of owning a restaurant. But, grocery stores have competitive margins and shelf space where it is difficult to get trial, potentially limiting his cash flow at the early stage of the business. The Funky Fresh team began selling at Farmers Markets, which in addition to providing early cash flow have functioned as market research, allowing them to talk directly to consumers about the price point and what flavors are most popular. Funky Fresh has also been selling at sporting events, festivals and through catering, but recently opened up a temporary retail location. The company has plans to distribute frozen versions of their product to grocery stores in 2019/2020 after opening a few more retail locations and a “Funky Fresh Fun Factory” to mass-produce rolls.

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Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

Building A Defensibly Unique Food Supply Chain

There are many ways to make your food company be defensibly unique. This can include building an innovative brand that speaks to consumers that weren’t being spoken to before and stands out in its category or categories. This could mean developing a proprietary technology or process that allows you to make truly unique products. This could mean sourcing unique ingredients from a known and understood supply chain. However, what if they supply chain didn’t already exist? Could you build a supply chain that is defensibly unique? Building markets and the supply chain relationships necessary to support them requires a long-term vision that aligns consumers, suppliers, funders and their brand. But, if it is properly built and capitalized, it can lead to a defensibly unique business model that allows that food company to be built to last.

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ReGrained, A Business Model For The Long Term And The Planet

ReGrained, A Business Model For The Long Term And The Planet

ReGrained is a national brand of bars and ready-to-eat snacks made from the high-protein and high-fiber flour of “spent” grains used in the beer brewing process. Their core bar product went through many iterations before being ready to scale, and since the bar category is crowded and competitive, it was a learning process to get trial and educate the consumer. ReGrained launched their product at scale in January 2018 and now are working with other businesses to help them produce/co-brand new products using their production facility and the expertise embedded in their proprietary process. They are building out a commercial scale facility that they call a “ReGrainery” in Berkeley, CA currently to process the flour for their bars and demonstrate the re-grained concept to the public. ReGrained was self-funded early on through a small start up investment and cash from product sales, though they have since raised funds via rewards-based crowdfunding, friends and family, angel investment, and equity-based crowdfunding, in addition to a new strategic partnership. The team at ReGrained is excited about their business model being defensibly unique in today’s marketplace and their business model’s long-term impact on the planet.

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