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Podcasts

Growing A Successful Retail Food Co-op By Meeting Your Member’s Needs

Growing A Successful Retail Food Co-op By Meeting Your Member’s Needs

DROPP Cooperative is a food hub that is a department the Great Basin Community Food Co-op that serves the Reno, Nevada area. Nicole and her sister (now the General Manager) started the retail co-op in 2005 with the grassroots support of their community. Great Basin Started the DROPP food hub informally as a way to get local products into their store. The hub now has about $500,000 in sales and aggregates both local and non-local food. Nicole advises that the best way for aspiring co-ops to be successful is by reaching out to your community and meeting your members’ needs. She also recommends focusing on your core priorities and honing that so you don’t get off track, building capacity and buy-in with a core group of people.

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The Farmer Education Continuum In The Colorado Mountains

The Farmer Education Continuum In The Colorado Mountains

The Old Fort at Hesperus’ team sees farming education as a continuum where different people are best served by discreet programs, depending on their interests and stage of development. Their sustainable agriculture program includes an educational garden internship, a farmer-in-training program, and market garden incubator. The incubator program provides educational classes, mentorship, access to land, water, infrastructure (irrigation, harvest sheds, cooler and root cellar), and marketing assistance to aspiring farmers who are either in business or ready to start their own farming business. Their Education Garden is a ½ acre production and demonstration garden devoted to giving Fort Lewis College interns an introduction to small-scale sustainable farming through about 120-150 hours of hands-on work. In addition, their Farmer-in-Training (FIT) program is a stepping-stone between an internship and owning an independent business selling produce.

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How Tribe 9 Foods Balances Economies Of Scale With A Changing Marketplace

How Tribe 9 Foods Balances Economies Of Scale With A Changing Marketplace

Tribe 9 Foods is the result of merging Yumbutter, RP’s Pasta and Ona Treats. The new company also secured growth capital to bring manufacturing in-house for all three brands, something that has allowed them to have control over batch timing, batch size and product quality. In addition, in-house production allows them the flexibility to try new things and have a co-packing line of business for their core product types (nut butters, pasta, bars). Yumbutter’s team brings experience in branding/marketing and RP’s team brings experience in innovative food manufacturing and food safety protocols, allowing them to combine flexibility with economies of scale while serving multiple types of customers with their co-packing service. Tribe 9 is always looking to be flexible and nimble, diversifying as the market changes and as everyone tries to figure out a more sustainable way to produce and distribute high quality food.

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Angela Mavridis Of TRIBALÍ Foods On Resonating With Your Tribe

Angela Mavridis Of TRIBALÍ Foods On Resonating With Your Tribe

TRIBALÍ foods is a national brand of freshly made, frozen grass-fed and grass-finished beef patties. TRIBALÍ’s products resonate with the “tribe” of people who are looking for convenient, easy ways to eat whole, nutrient dense and ethically raised foods. Their clean, simple packaging that communicates their organic, grass-fed and Paleo certifications stands out on the freezer shelf and helps communicate their brand’s promise to that tribe. TRIBALÍ has worked hard to find the right partners – like co-packers that understand their brand’s defensibly unique product quality – to help scale their brand. Angela Mavridis, TRIBALÍ’s founder and CEO reflects that the investor pitch process forces you to learn every single aspect of the business to anticipate questions about your competition, your brand’s potential in your category / current marketplace and about how you can deliver on your business model to meet the goals of your company and investors.

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How Union Kitchen’s Ecosystem Helps Build Profitable Food Businesses

How Union Kitchen’s Ecosystem Helps Build Profitable Food Businesses

Union Kitchen is a shared-use kitchen and food business accelerator in in Washington D.C. While having a shared-use kitchen eliminates the need for capital for kitchen equipment, there are many other things food businesses need to raise capital for, which why they have distribution and retail outlets as part of their model. Their vertically integrated business and infrastructure – the kitchen, distribution and retail outlets – pairs with its accelerator program, which includes technical assistance, mentorship, classes and other means to help its members be successful. They have worked with over 400 businesses that have hired over 1,000 people and of those 400, 80 have opened their own storefronts. The financial community is more willing to provide capital to their member businesses because their ecosystem has allowed their members to prove that their products have traction in the marketplace and their operations are solid.

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Value-Added Producer Grants With Jim Gage

Value-Added Producer Grants With Jim Gage

James D. Gage Consulting is a firm that helps value-added farms and other agriculture clients problem solve in critical business areas so that they can be financially viable. Jim’s firm works as a value-added business strategist and creates a client-consultant relationship with entrepreneurs before writing a Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) for their business so that he can both write a better grant and provide more meaningful follow-up technical assistance to help them implement the grant. VAPGs include both Planning Grants (maximum: $75,000) and Working Capital Grants (maximum: $250,000). While the VAPG grant can be complicated (for example, a 75 page application plus Business Plan and third-party Feasibility Study), it requires applicants to critically consider expansion of the customer base and the marketplace for products as well as demonstrate how they will have sufficient business structures, profit and cash flow to operate in the long-term. Adding value-added as part of a farm’s business strategy is one of the key financial means to help farms transition to the next generation.

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Rightsizing The Ship: A Farmer’s Tale of Scaling Down

Rightsizing The Ship: A Farmer’s Tale of Scaling Down

Rufus Haucke is the owner of Keewaydin Farms, a 200-acre diversified organic vegetable farm that also works aggregating local farmer’s produce in a distribution business. The business’ sales peaked in 2012 at over $800,000 with Rufus coordinating production from over 100 different producers (including his own farm) throughout the season. However, he discovered that the bigger the business got, the more money it lost and that his moving aggregation functions off of his farm caused his operation to be less efficient at that level of sales. Now he had a decision to make: expand rapidly, likely to $2 million – $3 million in sales, or contract. He chose to contract. This has meant he still owes many of those suppliers money, one of the most difficult things about his decision. But, he has remained in open and honest communication with those producers and has focused on rebuilding relationships with them while right sizing the business to achieve profitability.

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Scaling Innovative Food Products At The Right Time

Scaling Innovative Food Products At The Right Time

Shari Leidich, founder of Know Brainer, started down the path of being a serial entrepreneur when she found out she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She turned her love for healthy, sprouted raw whole foods that helped mitigate her MS into products under the brand Two Moms in the Raw (now Soul Sprout). Shortly after she left Two Moms in 2016, she began to experiment with incorporating grass-fed ghee and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil into consumer products like individual creamers. The ideal market for their individual creamer products has been online with Amazon and their own online store while their multi-serve product is more of a conventional grocery item. Shari reflected that she knows more about how to grow the business the 2nd time around. Now that the company is growth mode, they are seeking investment. But, they are ensuring their product has traction and their processes are tight before partnering with investors, and that has meant saying no to some potential opportunities, at least for the time being.

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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” 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 with loan amounts in the $15,000-$50,000 range – combined with technical assistance – fill a market gap for small entrepreneurs as they scale up and seek larger sources of financing later.

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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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