Nice article, thanks! We'd also suggest looking at Food+Tech Connect as well as the Local Food Startup Challenge - http://challenge.buckybox.com
Take it from the entrepreneurs behind BabyCakes Bakery or Coolhaus Ice Cream, launching a food business is no easy task. But, if it’s your dream, you should go for it—and you should know that you don’t have to face the journey alone. In fact, there are tons of resources out there to help aspiring food-trepreneurs turn their dreams into reality.
Whether you need cooking space, social support, or a little financial boost, chances are, there’s a program for you. Take a look at a few of my favorites to get you started.
Location: Palo Alto and New York City
This innovative food start-up accelerator is passionate about helping sustainable food and farm entrepreneurs connect with consumers (and about helping consumers connect with the origins of their food). If you’re accepted into the program, you’ll get six weeks of intensive training that will help you grow your seed of an idea into a finished product. And along the way, you’ll learn the nitty-gritty details of running a business, like securing funding and marketing your company.
Additionally, Local Food Lab provides you with an insta-network of mentors and peers with expertise in everything from venture capital to social media. One of these channels of support is Food Lab News—the local foodie version of Y Combinator’s Hacker News—where you can ask questions, get feedback, and share news and resources.
Location: New England, Chicago, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania
Sam Adams (yes, the beer company) is trying to bridge the gap between entrepreneurial dreams and reality: It’s partnered with nonprofit micro-lender Accion to offer loans and business coaching to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to focus on food, beverage, and good old hospitality.
Whether or not you’re looking for a loan, definitely check out Sam Adams’ educational support programs. You can attend traditional seminars focused on things like financial literacy or attend speed-coaching events, where you can get crash-course training, ask specific questions about hurdles you’re facing, and get quick feedback on what you’ve done so far.
Location: Oakland, CA
Want to bring your recipes to life? Commercial kitchens are often prohibitively expensive for budding business owners, so check out community cooking spaces instead. They let you rent kitchen space at affordable rates only when you need it—by the day, week, or hour.
La Placita, a public building operated by Rising Sun Entrepreneurs, is one of many community kitchens throughout the country. In addition to space rentals, La Placita offers mentoring and support to business owners (even beyond the Bay Area). For instance, if you want to open a food truck, check out the Mobile Vendor Program, a series of quick courses to help you navigate the maze of red tape involved. Free bi-monthly workshops will walk you through licensing and permit issues and help you reap the delicious rewards of launching your food truck as quickly as possible.
Location: Throughout the U.S.
Walking around Whole Foods, it’s easy to see how the company supports smaller, artisan food producers—by stocking their products! But it also helps vendors out behind the scenes, with a program designed to help small businesses that produce high-quality, sustainable, local products secure low-interest loans. It’s a win-win: You can buy the equipment or stock you need to grow your business, and Whole Foods strengthens its ties to local food producers. So far, Whole Foods has doled out over $8 million, helping entrepreneurs from farmers to soap-makers.
Launching your own food business may feel like a lofty goal, but just start looking around. No matter where you’re located, there are some great resources out there to help you get started.