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Author Archive

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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The Customer Is Always Right (Or, At Least They Are The Ones Who Pay You)

The Customer Is Always Right (Or, At Least They Are The Ones Who Pay You)

Food businesses should align their products and branding with their target consumers and should use market research to understand what the marketplace is asking for. Acquiring and keeping customers is what drives successful businesses and customers’ preferences must be met in order to have a financially viable business. Customers may not always seem to make the “right” choices from every food business owner’s perspective. However, at the end of the day, customers are how you get paid.

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Jonny Hunter Of Underground Food Collective On Thinking Bigger in the Food System

Jonny Hunter Of Underground Food Collective On Thinking Bigger in the Food System

Jonny Hunter, one of the founders of the Underground Food Collective, talks about the Collective’s growing as a series of horizontally integrated businesses. Their business model works because of infrastructure like a centralized production facility behind them to support their interrelated retail and manufacturing/processing businesses in an efficient manner across multiple product lines (meat, baking, pasta, fermented products) and multiple retail outlets (restaurants, events, butcher shops). He wishes that values around local and sustainable food could be used to create systems that have scalable efficiencies that are affordable to consumers and advocates for working together to build and sustain the infrastructure that would support processing and other means to scale up the local food system.

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Focus And Discipline Are Key To Food Business Success

Focus And Discipline Are Key To Food Business Success

Focus is hard to come by nowadays. In physical grocery stores, food consumers have so many choices in nearly every category, and food and beverage entrepreneurs trying to reach consumers have to consider that the general food consumer is overwhelmed by their choices and ultimately has very little time to interact with unfamiliar food and beverage brands. Focus is what gives food business owners clarity about their strategy and about the tactics needed to carry it out. When we work with food and beverage clients, we use tools like the business model canvas to provide focus and clarity to their business model and the strategic implications of choosing a particular business model path or going after a particular target customer.

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A Steady, Slow Growth Path For Quince and Apple’s Niche Domination

A Steady, Slow Growth Path For Quince and Apple’s Niche Domination

Matt and Clare Stoner Fehsenfeld are the married duo behind Quince and Apple, a national brand of small-batch, well-balanced preserves that are often paired with cheese and charcuterie. When they started their business, they realized that because they have a labor-intensive, artisanal product, their best strategy was not to compete on quantity or price. Instead, they chose to compete by dominating an emerging niche (pairing their products with specialty cheeses) while telling the defensibly unique story of their brand’s artisanal processes.

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