Written by: Judson Kniffen, ICC’s Associate Director of Education
On June 21st, ICC’s New York campus held the latest installment of the BUSINESS BITES SERIES. This discussion, which focused on launching your food product, featured four panelists who have successfully taken food products from stove to store as entrepreneurs and food business owners, as well as grocery buyers and brand consultants.
So what do you actually need to know to take your idea from stove to store? Check out the secrets from our entrepreneurs below.
Write a Business Plan. It doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t even need to stick to it as your business evolves, but having a written business plan forces you to focus on your financials, and sets benchmarks to which you can measure your success. The Brooklyn Public Library has a competition that has helped some of our food entrepreneurs gain financial and marketing skills and focused their business, and ICC’s Food Business Fundamentals program is designed to help you build your business plan.
Packaging is Key. Your product needs to stand out from the competition – but not be so different that it’s unrecognizable. The packaging needs to sell itself. Go to a store and look at similar products on the shelf. How can yours be unique but also share the same shelf space? What shapes and colors will make it stand out? There are lots of stock packaging options that can be customized, which is an easy and affordable way to get started.
Get Feedback (And Listen to it!). Ask friends, coworkers, and strangers what they think of your product. They might see something you’ve overlooked or taste something you don’t. Have demos at shops and talk to your customers. The more face time you have with the public, the more successful your business will be. If someone gives you a valuable piece of advice, listen to it and ask yourself how you can incorporate it into your business.
The Department of Agriculture is Your Friend. Trying to find regulatory information on your food product? Looking for classes in food safety? Call the Department of Agriculture and speak to someone on the phone about your specific product and questions. The people who work at the DOA are knowledgeable and can be very helpful when you are looking for a quick answer. Get certified in food safety education. Their knowledge and resources are vast and are at your disposal.
Get Started Now! If the big picture is too daunting, making small, incremental steps will ultimately lead to many accomplishments.
Surround Yourself with Other Culinary Entrepreneurs. Listen to podcasts on your subject. The community momentum will help you keep going.
Be resilient! You’re going to hear a lot of “NOs” at every stage of your business, but it is important to persevere and remember why you started in the first place.
The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Food Business Fundamentals program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.