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Wisconsin accelerator grows into national Fellows Program for food and farm businesses

A popular Wisconsin accelerator for food and beverage businesses has expanded six-fold and gone national.

The Food Finance Institute (FFI) has grown the Wisconsin FaBcap Accelerator into a national Fellows Program, bringing its tailored training and customized coaching model to 60 businesses across the food and farm entrepreneurial landscape.

Four cohorts of 15 will be grouped by specialty: two for food/beverage businesses, one for value-added agriculture, and one for processing/supporting technology businesses.

The first food/beverage cohort kicked off in January with 15 businesses from across the country: Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Banzo (Madison, Wis.), Bonnie’s Balls, LLC (Madison, Wis.), Crumbles Confectionary (Milwaukee), DARI LLC, dba MOO’V (Clinton, Wis.), Doudlah Farms Organics (Evansville, Wis.), Drinkin’ Buds Hemp (Sheboygan, Wis.), Greek Treasures LLC dba Helios Kitchens (Williams Bay, Wis.), Keene Garlic (Madison, Wis.), Kul Beverages, LLC dba KUL MOCKS (River Falls, Wis.), Mama Bev’s Bakery, LLC (Hales Corners, Wis.), Oaterra (Larkspur, Calif.), Pete’s Pops (Milwaukee), The Pink Bakery (Milwaukee) and SAE Unlimited, LLC (Burlington, Wis.).

The value-added agriculture and processing/supporting technology cohorts are accepting applications until Jan. 30.

In addition, topic-focused workshops created for the Edible-Alpha Learning Center are being branded as the MVP Series; they are core Fellows curriculum components available to all entrepreneurs.

“Through our new model, in one year, we will touch more businesses than in the last five years combined,” said Sarah Larson, interim FFI director. “That means more businesses primed to excel, raise money and contribute to their local economies and communities. That’s a testament to the expertise and training we have built at FFI over the last eight years.”

The Fellows Program starts with a modified version of FFI’s foundational financial management boot camp. Then it transitions to weekly programming, which includes coaching calls and cohort meetings. Cohort meetings leverage FFI industry partner expertise, including TAG Finance and Accounting (outsourcing), Consolidated Construction Company (building projects), Eurofins (food safety), Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren and Ogden Glazer + Schaefer (law), and Kitchen Table Consultants (financials). It culminates with a public celebration set for June 16, 2022.

The accelerator, made possible with financial support from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), and developed in collaboration with FaB Wisconsin, has steadily grown its reputation and impact on the Wisconsin economy.

As of June 2021, the program graduated five classes of 10 businesses annually. These 50 Wisconsin-based food and beverage product, ingredient and technology companies have attracted $864,250 in grant funding; $7,579,781 in debt funding; and $9,935,024 in equity funding, with their annual sales totaling $36,772,563.

“The food and beverage industry continues to be primed for growth – really, it’s the trend of the trends. The impact I’ve seen on Wisconsin food businesses has been astounding,” said Brad Rostowfske, program manager. “Our Fellows Program capitalizes on this and provides entrepreneurs the industry coaching they need to grow, the peer support they need to not feel alone and the insights they need to respond to the future of where markets are going. I am excited to see the impact we will have beyond Wisconsin.”

Christine Ameigh, 2020-21 FaBcap Accelerator graduate and owner of Slide Gourmet Potato Chips, is thankful for the training, connections and insight she received. “The accelerator program has been the best experience of my career,” she said.

“We look forward to continuing the partnership with FFI as they help educate and assist our entrepreneurs in the food industry,” said Ed Javier, WEDC Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Director. “The results of this program continue to exceed goals, and we are excited to hear about the next cohorts.”

FFI has trained more than 600 people from more than 500 organizations across the country through financial management boot camps, the Accelerator and companion MVP Workshop Series and business consultant training. In addition, FFI has provided technical assistance and coaching to more than 230 businesses.

To apply for the program, go to https://foodfinanceinstitute.org/grow-your-food-business/ffi-fellows-program/.

About Food Finance Institute and Edible-Alpha ®

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® Learning Center 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. www.foodfinanceinstitute.org | www.edible-alpha.org

Food Finance Institute founder Tera Johnson hands over leadership to Sarah Larson

MADISON – Tera Johnson, who founded the Food Finance Institute (FFI) in 2014 to make sophisticated financial technical assistance available for every growing food, value-added agriculture and food systems enterprise, is leaving her position. Sarah Larson, FFI’s program manager, will take over as interim director starting Sept. 1.