Food Finance Institute to help businesses become more resilient in COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

A program boosting the financial resilience and growth of the food, beverage and value-added agriculture sector has received a $370,000 federal grant to deepen its work in Wisconsin and across the country.

The Food Finance Institute (FFI) will offer financial resilience boot camps for 70 food hub managers, train 100 specialized business consultants and expand its digital resource library over the next three years. This new programming builds upon FFI’s foundational financial management boot camp and consultant training to create a “version 2.0” that introduces curriculum focused on turnarounds, business pivots, online sales and new and revised benchmarks. In addition, Mastermind Consultant group will be trained and leveraged to help businesses across the country.

 “Pivoting and adapting quickly will be critical for enterprises to survive,” FFI Founder and Director Tera Johnson said. “The pandemic has changed consumer behavior, disrupted supply chains and introduced a level of unpredictability we have not seen before. The right attention to rethinking business models, turnaround business management practices and financing and market opportunities like online sales can help businesses not only recover but position them well into the future.”

This effort will help food hub managers, Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network consultants, Extension agents across multiple states and other technical assistance providers respond to the upheaval caused by COVID-19. The curriculum will position entrepreneurs and consultants to be better prepared for future shocks at the local, regional or national level.

“FFI training positioned our group of collaborative companies to work more deliberately and confidently with financial viability as a central theme,” said Patti Miller of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network. “FFI has given us a common language and a common target to weave into our value-driven approach to growing the local food market channels and distribution infrastructure.”

In addition, the opportunity to deepen skill sets around areas such as securing social enterprise financing, evaluating processing opportunities and leveraging grants and public finance will be integral to building financial resiliency in food hubs across the nation.

FFI is part of the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship, which is providing a partial match to the nearly $370,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

FFI’s collaborative support model for small businesses and those who work with them was developed and optimized by Johnson over the past five years. The organization received a similar USDA grant in 2016 that laid the foundation for both this training approach and the Edible-Alpha® digital resource hub, which provides actionable insights, training and tools to help build and fund profitable food and beverage businesses.

About Food Finance Institute

The Food Finance Institute (FFI) leverages and supports a collaborative network of professionals focused on building and funding profitable businesses in the food, beverage and value-added agriculture sector. Through training, coaching, resources, tools and mentorship, FFI fulfills its mission of making sophisticated financial technical assistance available to growing enterprises. In addition, FFI is the home of the Edible-Alpha® brand. Edible-Alpha® is a digital resource hub that includes the Edible-Alpha® podcast and our insights newsletter. FFI is part of the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship.

Food Finance Institute announces Sarah Larson as permanent director 

Sarah Larson, who has been serving as the interim director of the Food Finance Institute (FFI) since 2021, has been hired to serve as FFI’s Director as of June 18. In this role, Larson will continue to advance FFI’s mission to make sophisticated financial technical assistance available for every growing food, value-added agriculture and food systems enterprise.