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Author Archive

Advisors and Feedback Are Essential to Food Business Success

Advisors and Feedback Are Essential to Food Business Success

Most successful entrepreneurs have a network of support behind them, like an advisory team, board of directors and funders. These individuals provide mentorship and guidance that is invaluable for that company’s success, augmenting what the entrepreneur and management team bring to the fold. The company’s customers, whether individuals or wholesale buyers, can also provide invaluable feedback and partnerships that yield fruit.

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SBA 504 Loans with Diane Byler of WBD

SBA 504 Loans with Diane Byler of WBD

An SBA 504 loan is a special product that can only be offered by a Certified Development Company (CDC) like WBD in partnership with a local lender. The 504 loan is designed to help small businesses grow and create jobs by financing fixed assets like real estate and equipment. Qualified borrowers receive long terms (20 years for real estate, 10 years for equipment); low, fixed rates and lower down payments (10%). The 504 cannot be used to do working capital but can be used in refinancing other loans under certain circumstances as well as for the “soft costs” associated with the project like appraisal, contingency, attorney fees, engineering, title, bank fees and inspection.

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True “Disruption” of Food Is Difficult

True “Disruption” of Food Is Difficult

Consumer tastes, preferences and expectations around food are changing. People are demanding more healthy food while also sometimes making the foray into purchasing food items online, mostly non-perishable, potentially hollowing out the center of grocery stores. While there is a place for technology to enhance customers’ relationships with food, true “disruption” of the fundamental dynamics of the customer relationship is likely a difficult goal to realize.

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Food Hubs with Tara Roberts-Turner of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative

Food Hubs with Tara Roberts-Turner of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative

This Hub realized it needed to reach at least $3.3 million in sales to break even, and the Hub broke even on a net income basis in 2016 despite the poor prices for produce. To maintain their margins, they built the Hub’s capacity through adequate staffing while also only spending on essentials and taking advantage of their uniquely cheap warehouse space of $800 per month for a 10,000 square foot facility. They also maintain their margins by having their warehouse serve only cooling and aggregation/distribution functions, rather than other forms of value-added processing that would require them to sell millions more dollars of produce every year to cover the added staff, warehouse and quality assurance capacity needed.

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Farm Credit With Paul Dietmann of Badgerland Financial (Now Compeer)

Farm Credit With Paul Dietmann of Badgerland Financial (Now Compeer)

The Farm Credit system consists of a farmer owned, farmer led co-ops which primarily lend to farmers and any agriculture producers anywhere in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, including manufacturing companies if majority owned by farmers. The book Fearless Farm Finances is a a farmer-friendly reference guide for all things financial relating to farming enterprises.

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Black Earth Meats Evolves Into Conscious Carnivore

Black Earth Meats Evolves Into Conscious Carnivore

Bartlett Durand of Conscious Carnivore, a whole animal butcher shop in Madison, WI talks about how Black Earth Meats (Black Earth, Wisconsin) evolved into Conscious Carnivore. The craft of cutting meat takes a long time to learn, and because Black Earth Meats operated at a human scale that honored the humans and the animals, his employees and animals were happy. However, the town of Black Earth eventually forced Black Earth Meats to shut down its operations. Conscious Carnivore remains open and thriving, educating people about where their meat comes from and how to cook it.

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Biological Farming and Human Scale Meat

Biological Farming and Human Scale Meat

Bartlett Durand worked with his father-in-law Gary Zimmer on Otter Creek farm, working with a local cheese maker to make a delicious, truly seasonal cheddar cheese. Bartlett saw huge demand for local/organic meats in his work with Otter Creek. However, there wasn’t consistent throughput and quality to properly serve consumers and restaurants. Rather than scaling up to compete with large-scale industrialized meat processors or launching a direct to consumer farm of his own to meet this demand, Bartlett began aggregating meat from existing local farms under the brand Black Earth Meats.

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A Food Business Model Journey with Leanne Cordisco of the Chocolaterian Café

A Food Business Model Journey with Leanne Cordisco of the Chocolaterian Café

Leanne Cordisco of the Chocolaterian Café talks about her path as an entrepreneur and what led her to her current food business model. She started out making a toffee with Belgian chocolate, French sea salt, and Wisconsin cream for wholesale via a local distributor. She realized that she was on a path to becoming a national brand, but didn’t want to raise the equity and other funds to cover the at least $1 million of upfront costs. She opened Chocolaterian as another revenue stream and more immediate source of cash flow. Now, this retail concept of a 3rd space with wine and chocolate is now her main business model.

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