We hosted one workshop of a five-part “Feeding Growth – Scaling Your Progressive Food Business” series. The series is based on local up-and-coming and seasoned entrepreneurs in the sustainable food space gathering to discuss everything from branding, to sales, to ethical sourcing.
At our workshop, a panel – including our president and founder Ian Walker, Gail Mountain (founder of Indigo Natural Products), Iskandar Ahmed (CEO of Choices Markets), and Mike Rowlands (Principal at Junxion) as the mediator – shared their wisdom on building natural food companies. Here are key pieces of advice they shared
- Get a Mentor. Every entrepreneur needs a business or personal mentor. Someone to bounce ideas off of who is wiser than you
- Stay focused and don’t chase the money. When you’re building your brand, stay focused on the “why.” Don’t get distracted by the “shiny” tempting early payoff. If that’s not your strategy don’t go for it.
- Know why you’re in this and what you stand for. As much as you can, make a position statement right off the bat about what your business is about – is it about being a foodie, carrying out a social mission, or perhaps changing the system.
- Know how your product is different. Know your competition. Realistically, there’s only so much space on the retail shelf. If your product gets listed on the shelf, something else has to come off the shelf to put you up there. Is your product really good enough to take something off? Think about where you fit in and what you would replace. Know your competition.
- Make great relationships with your local retailers. You’ll keep getting listed if you keep showing up. Let them know the face behind the product and invest in that relationship. When you visit a store to present your product make sure they taste it in front of you.
- Take a good look at your pricing structure and plan for the future. Many entrepreneurs don’t take a salary. But make sure you account for paying yourself, labour, overhead, distributor margin, trade marketing costs, etc. Build these costs in right from the beginning. You may not need to spend them right away but the margin will be there later when you need it when you actually go out to sell. Look at it as if you are in the big times. Look down the road.
- Hire good people as soon as you can. You’re not an island. It pays off when you build your team and don’t rely just on your own skills to do everything. Look for experts to collaborate with.
Thank you to everyone who came out! See more and other speakers at: feedinggrowth.com