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Category Archive: Food Business

  1. 4 food business start-up myths and how to avoid them

    4 Food Myths FB Ad Lineage

    If you’ve attended a food truck rally, farmers market or local food hall recently you’ll have noticed that small-scale food businesses are firing on all cylinders these days.  Customers are hungry for thought provoking and novel food concepts and savvy foodpreneurs are capitalizing on this trend.

    Maybe you’ve been doing some dream hatching of you own, imagining what it would be like to bring your own unique culinary concept to market and share your food passion with the world.

    There has never been a better time to start a food business than RIGHT NOW.

    If you’ve ever thought that “Hey I could do this….and probably better” but you haven’t tied on the apron and gotten started, what’s holding you back?

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    • You know you can make a damn tasty product, but you doubt your ability to put all the pieces of the business side together.
    • You love the idea of creating a truly authentic and unique culinary concept, but you hate the idea of having to be “salesy”.
    • You’ve got a foolproof concept in mind . . . however, you’re not sure how to market your product and get it in front of your customers or onto store shelves.

    Start-up food businesses are usually begun as a side-hustle, and since the hours outside the 9-to-5 are so limited there is not a SECOND to waste on activities that aren’t directly linked to profit.  But where to start?  The list of To Do’s seems endlessly long and many would be foodpreneurs get stuck in analysis paralysis.

    So….to help demystify the process of starting your food business I’m going to debunk a couple myths about the process and give you a roadmap toward a successful launch of you concept.

    We’ve all seen others do it successfully and with the right training I’m here to tell you that you can too.

    <<Click here to get my cheat sheet of 4 rookie food start up mistakes and how to avoid them>>

    Myth #1:  I need to make my product in a commercial kitchen or commissary kitchen. 

    While producing you food product through a commercial kitchen will probably become a necessity as your grow your business, thankfully for certain concepts it’s not absolutely mandatory at the get-go.

    In recent years many states have approved Cottage Food policies that enable applicable food start-ups to start producing their food products at home without needing to be in a licensed kitchen.

    These policies let foodreneurs get up and selling without many of the required permits, certifications and inspections associated with more established food businesses.

    Cottage laws vary from state to state, but there are some common restrictions worth mentioning.  First of all, approved food under the regulation are usually non-hazardous foods like baked goods, jams/jellies, granola, dry pasta, honey, etc.  Here is a list of some of the typical approved and prohibited cottage foods.

    Cottage Food Regulation Approved Foods

    David Crabill at Forrager.com has provided some dynamite resources for Cottage Food operations and if you think starting a home-based cottage food business is the path for you, check out his website.

     

    Myth #2:  I don’t need to work in a commercial kitchen or commissary kitchen. 

    This one goes hand in hand with Myth #1 and it’s because cottage food regulations have some significant drawbacks. Beyond restricting food type, cottage foods are generally approved for sale direct to consumer only and can’t be sold to grocery stores, restaurants or online.  Not being able to get your product on store shelves is reason enough for some folks to bypass operating under the cottage food regulations and sign up with a commercial kitchen instead.

    Plus look back at Myth #1, the list of approved foods allowed under the cottage food policies is pretty narrow and I bet your local farmers markets are full of foodprenuers already making and selling these food types. The little bit of extra effort to get licensed to use a commercial kitchen can pay dividends in freeing you up to pursue your culinary dreams without restriction.

    I haven’t even mentioned the gross sales cap on Cottage Food businesses. If you start your business from home and are met with success and growth right off the bat you could sail right past your state’s sales cap. Florida, for instance, has a gross sales cap of $15,000. Even as a hobbiest it’s easy to hit this cap since it’s based on gross sales, not net sales or profit. There are no caps for businesses working from commercial kitchens and for some food concepts it might just be the best place to start.

    <<In the bonus PDF – I’ll explain what licensing and permits you’ll need to get your concept legal and ready for your first sale.>>

    Myth #3: You’re happiest when you are cooking and starting a food business would be the perfect way to profit from your passion.

    I so wish this wasn’t a myth, but far too often the things that bring us joy quickly turned sour when they become the means to a financial end.

    Jessica, our chef-in-residence at East End, calls this the Food Network myth. Each day of your food business is like an episode of a highbrow cooking show. Everything neatly in its place, the fridge and cabinets perfectly stocked and all your ingredients pre-measured…..oh and all the dishes cleaned through the magic of television.

    The reality is that while most people enjoy making a Thanksgiving meal for their whole family to enjoy the thought of having to do it EVERY DAY is a scene from Groundhog day. As a food start-up if you don’t feel this monotony at some point in your early days you will be one of the exceptional few.

    Honestly, most of your time getting your culinary concept off the cutting boards will be spent sourcing ingredients, packaging, labeling, accounting, negotiating, cleaning….and more cleaning while the part you love, the making, gets relegated to a tiny 10% of your work week.

    Believe me friends, I take no pleasure in debunking this myth, but it is vital that you go into starting a food business with a bit of grit and fortitude.

    Now….it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it! Keep in mind, launching your culinary concept means you are piloting your own ship. Finding success under you own efforts is far more satisfying than doing so under someone else’s employ and direction.

    A food venture can be, and should be, deeply fulfilling and profitable, even fun, but it takes forethought and business acumen to run a successful food start-up. Knowing this and setting healthy expectations is vital. Taking time to do some foundational planning will put you miles ahead of others who start their concepts on a whim.

    Remember we’re here to help and in the 4 Rookie Mistakes PDF we talk specifically about when to, and how to, hire your first employee which will keep you focused on your strengths and let’s someone else pick up the rest.

     

    Myth #4: I’ll find a couple farmers markets to sell at and be off to the races

    Let me start by saying the resurgence of farmers markets in the last decade is proof-positive that consumers want local, fresh and artisan products over store bought commodities. This bodes well for aspiring foodprenuers for sure!

    Chances are good that attending your local farmers market is part of your inspiration to stake your claim in the food industry.

    The rub is that the explosive growth of farmers markets has been met with a panoply of new market ready food businesses and you’ll find most established markets at, or close to capacity.

    Point being, getting the green light to set up at your local farmers market might be more challenging than you anticipate. If there is an established vendor in your food category the chances of the market manager giving you a shot are next to nil.

    There is hope however and I’ve seen many upstart foodpreneurs break into markets I thought were closed up tighter than Fort Knox. Here is how they did it.

    1. Try to put a new spin on an existing category: Can you be “local”, “organic”, “hand-made”, “gluten-free”, etc. where the established brand is not. Sometimes the market manager just needs a valid argument for letting you in so as to not piss off their established vendor. Make it easy for them. Figure out just how different your concept really is from what they already have and pitch them.

    2.  Start by setting up at any place that will let you. Outside a popular coffee shop that doesn’t sell your type of product, at your local church or club, one off festivals and civic events. These pop-ups will help you hone your craft and build your audience. It also gives you time to get your visual merchandizing and branding down.

    3.  Be willing to drive out of the city and serve some of the outer lying or brand new markets that are eager to have new merchants join their ranks. In many cases you’ll be doing them a favor and in turn they’ll be willing to put in a good word testimonial for your when you try to break into a more established market in the city core.

    Think about getting into your first major farmers market like trying to get a date with someone you really admire. You’ve heard the term that in dating and marriage someone is usually a reacher and someone a settler. We can admit that as a start-up you are the reacher. So…the goal with your pop-ups is to build some stories of success, a track record of social media posts full of the smiling faces of happy customers and some testimonials from the business owners who testify that your presence at their shop or market brought in more business.

    Your goal in the first few months should be to close the “reacher/settler” gap as much as possible. As a market manager my ideal tenant has an existing customer base, even if it’s just a few hundred fans on social media and on their e-mail list. This gives me confidence that they will at least be bringing something to the picnic and not just sucking at the umbilical chord of our established customer base.

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    Last thing to mention about getting a farmers markets: Even if you are a cottage food business many markets will require that you be licensed and a carry insurance regardless of your business status. I break this down in the bonus materials so check that out if you want to keep the research road trip rolling.

    The goal of this and other posts is to help you sidestep the countless pitfalls that make starting a food business a disaster and instead lead you toward foodpreneur success.

    I’ve been working in this industry for more than a decade and I’ve seen MANY mistakes along the way. The bonus list of rookie mistakes I’ve created will serve like a food business success GPS system helping you avoid the pitfalls many others have fallen. Click here to get it now!

     

     

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  2. The Process with FarmGal Flowers

    THE PROCESS WITH (1)

    Eileen Tongson of FarmGal Flowers has taken her love of gardening and turned it into a profitable business. In an almost serendipity way, she found herself planted at East End Market growing flowers and teaching classes to everyone looking to improve their green thumb. We sat down with Eileen and asked her how growing at East End has shaped her business and found out what we can expect from FarmGal Flowers in the future!

     

    Can you tell us a little bit about the face behind FarmGal Flowers and where the idea came from to start your own business? I come from a family of gardeners. No one did it professionally (until now!) but we all have a love and appreciation for growing flowers and vegetables. I actually have a Master’s degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. But even as a graduate student in Baltimore, I spent my spare time taking walks to admire the peonies along the way and cultivated plants in my apartment. I moved to the west coast with my husband and fell in love with all of the flowers I was surrounded by in the San Francisco area. I began studying floral design at the City College of San Francisco and volunteering at Filoli Gardens. I have taken numerous classes since then and most recently have had the opportunities to learn from Erin Benzakein, Jennie Love, Mandy O’Shea and Debra Prinzing. I returned to the Orlando area, where I grew up, in 2008 and completed the University of Florida IFAS Master Gardener Program. I began growing almost all of our family’s vegetables. One day, I threw some flower seeds into one of our raised beds. The most amazing flowers grew! I cut them and had an epiphany:  “I could grow my own flowers and design with them!” I decided to learn more about flower farming specifically so I set off to Floret Flower Farm in Mt Vernon, WA last year. When I returned, a conversation with John Rife turned into the beginning of FarmGal Flowers and our collaboration with the East End Market.

     

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    What kind of things have you learned from the process? Where to start? I have learned to work and collaborate with other East End business owners and our local community. I admit I have been a bit of a control freak in the past but the sense of community at East End is immeasurable. It has been extremely rewarding to work with other business owners and local organizations. The vendors at East End are artists and passionate about their products. Collaborating with them has made my flowers even better and provided me with opportunities I had not dreamed of.  Not to mention, I have so many new friends too!

     

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    What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your startup? Compared to other jobs I have had in the past, owning your own business is all encompassing.  I find myself always thinking about what I’ve done, what I’m currently doing, and what I need to do in the future. It has been a challenge “turning off” work during my downtime.  I continue to work on this and I’ve come to realize that taking time off leaves me refreshed and ready to face new challenges.  And most often, there are new blooms ready to greet me in the garden when I return – that is always encouraging!

     

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    Do you have any advice for anyone looking to turn their passion for growing flowers into a profitable business? We live in Zone 9b (USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map) in the Orlando area. This presents many challenges to local gardeners especially those more familiar with the traditional growing season. We actually have two growing seasons here. I would recommend learning the basics about farming. This includes altering recommended planting schedules to accommodate 9b, learning about common pests and how to manage them organically, and most importantly, identifying which flowers grow best here. These essentials will lay the groundwork for fresh, beautiful locally grown flowers!

     

    We love all of the beautiful flowers growing in the garden, the sunflowers seemed to be especially popular with the market-goers this season. Besides the garden here at East End Market, do you grow flowers anywhere else for FarmGal Flowers? Aside from East End Market, I also grow at the Winter Park Urban Farm. These two locations have allowed me to learn from my first season of growing for FarmGal Flowers before I move on to a larger space (which we are currently looking for!).

     

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    Any plans on future classes or what we can expect growing in the garden next? Yes, we hope to provide more floral design classes (hand-tied bouquets, centerpieces, flower crowns, etc.) at East End.  I’ve also had recent inquiries for Girls’ Night Outs and playgroups. I’d love to continue to collaborate with other East End vendors on classes like these or do demonstrations.  Customers have also been asking me about growing cut flowers in their home gardens so that’s a potential topic too.

    As I mentioned earlier, growing in the summer is challenging in 9b but FarmGal Flowers will focus on flowers that can tolerate the heat and moisture. These include various varieties of sunflowers, zinnias, amaranth, gomphrena, cosmos and celosia – lots of color!

     

    “FarmGal Flowers shares East End Market’s values of living locally and sustainably.  We organically grow seasonal cut and edible flowers to enhance the beauty of our community and the food we eat. Flowers are not only attractive and fragrant, they draw important pollinators essential to vegetable production in the market garden and beneficial insects that deter pests. You will find our flowers in fresh bouquets and food at the market – all grown with passion, hard work, and love.”

     

     

  3. The Process with Farm-Haus

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    In our newest blog series, The Process, we ask local entrepreneurs what it takes to run a successful business and what kind of advice they have for people looking to start something themselves. This week, we knew we had to sit down with the creative folks behind Farm-Haus, Orlando’s up-and-coming home-cooked takeout delivery service. The success of their business is easily seen in the amount of nights that they sell out of meals. One thing is clear, Orlando is demanding healthy, fast-food and Farm-Haus is here to deliver. Literally.

    Who are the faces behind Farm-Haus? Farm-Haus was started by a husband-and-wife team, Brittany and Patrick Lyne, who have such a love for community—specifically Orlando—and a passion for real, wholesome good food. Our backgrounds vary, yet are interestingly very complimentary for our business. Brittany has a background in Communications with a focus on PR, Marketing & Social Media, and previously owned her own freelance communications consulting business prior to launching Farm-Haus. Patrick’s background is in business management, with a focus on the food industry, which he has done for majority of his career. After taking a detour through financial services & business development for a local creative firm, Farm-Haus is what led him back to his true calling: food.

    Where did the idea come from to start your own business? I think there are so many things that helped to lay the foundation of what would ultimately amount to us starting our own business. However, the main things were that 1) Patrick and I both have always had a love for food. In fact, when we were dating in college, we used to go to restaurants and act like we were critics, and would critique every little detail of whichever place we went to and talk about what we would do instead. It was like a little game that we would play. 2) Both Patrick & I have always considered ourselves entrepreneurial. However, it wasn’t until I launched my own consulting business that the realization that we didn’t have to follow the path that most of us think we have to follow (go to college, get a job, work your way up, etc.) became a reality. It was incredibly freeing and played a huge role in us deciding to start Farm-Haus—something no one else in Orlando (or anyone at all to our knowledge at that point) was doing.

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    How would you define what you do? We provide incredible, healthy, responsibly sourced, slow-fast food dinners to our customers, Monday through Thursday. Our goal is to be the new takeout option for busy individuals and families who could use the extra time, but are mindful enough about what they eat and where it’s coming from to not want to use traditional takeout methods. We list out all of our ingredients on our website. To us, Farm-Haus is the closest thing that our customers can get to a home cooked meal, without all the work for them.

    We love all of the smells that come from the kitchen while you’re here. How has East End’s incubator kitchen been a fundamental component to Farm-Haus’s process of expansion? East End’s incubator kitchen has given us a way to continue building our concept and serving our customers without having to build out our own space before we’re ready to. It allows us to build relationships with other food entrepreneurs that we can lean on and learn from as we continue to grow, as well as leverage the environment that we’re in to be in the center of a growing, budding food scene here in Orlando.

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    What kind of things have you learned from the process? One thing that we have learned is that there is no road map out there for starting a business, especially one like ours. A lot of it is trial and error, however, that is also one of the best things about being a business owner. I personally have grown more and have learned more in the past year of being a business owner than I have at any other point in my life—something that is extremely gratifying. However, with starting a business comes a lot of late nights, working seven days a week, and not a lot of sleep because you’re always thinking about what needs to be done. In addition, you cannot be afraid of failure. You have to be relentlessly persistent and resilient and always moving forward without fear of what might happen, or else you will never get to where you want to be.

    What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your startup? The biggest challenge that we’ve faced is knowing what we need to do to move forward, but not knowing what the outcome will be. This is true for every large decision that is made for our company. However, without those huge decisions, we would not be where we are now, nor would be heading in the direction that we are. The key is to learn to be comfortable in uncertainty.

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    Do you have any advice for anyone looking to turn their passion for food into a reality? You have to be very realistic about the potential of your company. This includes how profitable it can be, the market for it, and how long it’s going to take to get it up and going (i.e. how long before you get paid!). A really funny story that Patrick and I tell is about how we sold his car in order to start Farm-Haus—probably not the most logical thing to do when starting a delivery company! However, we knew what we had to do, and were very realistic about how much capital it would take to do it. In that regard, sometimes you have to be a little crazy and just have blind faith (again, not being afraid of failure) when it comes to getting to where you want to be.

    Any plans on future meals or events, and if so, we can keep a secret…YES! We have so many awesome plans for the future. We have a lot of exciting announcements that we’ll be making over the course of the next month (i.e. growing our team, guest chef appearances, expansion, rolling out a new, highly-localized menu, and a community dinner at East End to officially introduce Farm-Haus to Orlando—our “debutante ball” if you will!

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  4. Starting a Specialty Food Business with author Stephen F. Hall

    East End Foodpreneurs

    Check out this interview I recorded with the most excellent Stephen F. Hall, the author of Sell Your Specialty Food: Market, Distribute, and Profit from Your Kitchen Creation.

    With our Bringing It To Market class coming up this Saturday I thought it would be cool to get your entrepreneurial muscles in shape for our course by chatting with a real pro.  With over 30 years of experience, Stephen has seen it all.  His SpecialtyFoodResource.com and Food Entrepreneur Magazine are such a great resource for food startups.

    Intersted in getting a copy of the revised edition – head over to their Kickstarter page and show them some love.