432 N. Lake Street Madison, WI 53706  608-890-0780

Podcasts

Grow Your Food Brand On Amazon, If You Constantly Optimize

Grow Your Food Brand On Amazon, If You Constantly Optimize

The Amazon platform provides a means for small and emerging brands to find an audience and generate sales if they dedicate time and resources to ensure discoverability on the platform by constantly optimizing product pages with the right keywords and features once the user is on the page, in addition to paying for keyword-based advertising. Many food and beverage brands have found that they need to sell variety packs or other bundles to get their products to the $10 – $20 price point that is optimal for both what consumers are looking to pay while balancing achieving profitability on each unit that is not possible with selling individual products for less than $10. While there are some perishable products available through Amazon Fresh or Amazon Prime Now, the brands that have the most traction today in selling through Amazon tend to have shelf-stable products.

Listen to Audio
How A Bank Can Strengthen Farming Communities Through Innovative Lending

How A Bank Can Strengthen Farming Communities Through Innovative Lending

Ephrata National Bank in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a $1 billion community bank with 25% of their portfolio funding agricultural entrepreneurs. The bank’s staff have found that changing the price the farmers receive via new business models or premium offerings through things like organic production or value-added processing helps farmers deal with high land prices and avoid commodity agriculture’s low return on assets. Lending is a “high-contact sport” and relationships with lenders can help food businesses solve key business problems. Partnerships with government programs from the FSA, SBA and USDA that encourage food and farm lending are essential to make many of these lending relationships work. But, there is a lack of technical assistance nationally to help more lenders understand (and underwrite) cross-disciplinary business models (ex. a farming operation with a cheese plant that resembles food manufacturing). There is also a lack of training on how entrepreneurs and lenders can leverage all of the different sources of capital and programs available to entrepreneurs to make more deals happen.

Listen to Audio
How This Hard Cider Business Is Learning From “The Struggle”

How This Hard Cider Business Is Learning From “The Struggle”

Brix Cider is a hard cider company in southern Wisconsin with about 1,000 trees, many of which were hand-grafted from local cultivated and wild apple varieties. After initially home brewing for many years, the hard cider company eventually connected with a local winery that had extra production capacity and began producing in small batches and self-distributing throughout southern Wisconsin. Their ultimate goal is to open a cider tasting room (increasing margins and cash flow); however, there have been many elements preventing them from getting their own facility. Through this struggle to find the right space, they have learned business problem solving skills and financial literacy. The combination of pragmatism and passion they have demonstrated has allowed them to work through and overcome “The Struggle” as they look to growing their business in the future.

Listen to Audio
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

The Great Basin Community Food Co-op serves the Reno, Nevada area. The co-op started as a private buying club and was initially located in the back of a punk record store, but continued to grow their sales and members. In 2008, they opened to the public in downtown Reno with 500 feet of retail space, eventually hitting $1 million in sales in one year. In 2012 they moved to another 3-story location of about 3,000 square feet (on the main floor) even closer to downtown. In 2017, the store had about $4.5 million in sales after rapid growth in previous years. The best way for aspiring co-ops to be successful is by reaching out to their community and meeting their members’ needs. In addition, co-ops should focus on their honing their core priorities so that so they don’t get off track, building capacity and buy-in with a core group of people.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio
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.

Listen to Audio