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First Annual Event of 2017: Food Biz Day

We at Business Impact NW, Veteran’s Business Outreach Center, and the Washington Women’s Business Center had a spectacular time arranging and hosting Food Biz Day. In collaboration with our generous supporters, Verity Credit Union and BECU, we were able to organize an event that helped a lot of people, more than we had initially conceived. A lot of effort and time was put in to make it happen, but everything worked out so we are happy!

The purpose of Food Biz Day was to gather food business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and teach them the fundamentals of launching a food business, whether it’s a food truck, a brick and mortar restaurant, a food manufacturing company, whatnot and connect them with business consultants and industry experts and managers in order to help them get their businesses off the ground (or improve them). We care about creating awareness on the fact that there are resources available for local small business owners to subscribe to, that’s why we have events like Food Biz Day. They are for people seeking help in their journey because no one should have to do entrepreneurship—or life—alone. This is a very relevant and important lesson and it is one that speakers during the People in Industry Panel discussion had emphasized. The day had only begun and already, food entrepreneurs were repeatedly saying, “Help is available.” The People in Industry Panel members offered powerful advice that everyone enthusiastically took note of. Any individual could have sensed the energy and dedication to learn in the conference room. Here are some insights we were able to gather:

Nikki Guerrero (Owner of Hot Mama Salsa PDX): Being able to create a system where you work directly with a farmer and create a product and see people enjoying that product is pretty amazing and our mass production world and culture, I think, is kind of special.

Robyn Thompson (Owner of Kale Love): I do love problem solving. I do love the learning everyday. I do love that my daughter gets to see what I do as an entrepreneur.

Brian Myers (Executive Director of Everything Else at Uli’s Famous Sausage): He [Uli] loves making sausage. He loves it when customers say, “Your sausage reminds me of home.” He’s okay with not everybody loving what he does. The fact that there’s so many people who love what we do is what keeps us going. And it’s also the community relationships we have. All the fun events we get to do. All the fun partnerships that we make. That’s what keeps us going. We have chefs who move from restaurant to restaurant to restaurant, but they continue to buy our product because of the relationship we have built with them.

Heather Chitty (Owner of Madres Kitchen): Hire professional help. Get help.

Jessica Vidican-Neisius (Owner of Morning Glory Chai): Always keep learning. Always try to find more information. Read any book you can get your hand on—about leadership, about sales, about the basic nuts and bolts, about financials. If you can afford it, find a business coach. Find a core group of people who can be accountable to you. When you’re the boss, who’s holding your feet to the fire? Always plan, always look ahead. Without a plan, you’re just working, not working on.

Nikki Guerrero (Owner of Hot Mama Salsa PDX): Think hard and decide why you’re doing this and what your methods are and what you want to keep true to your business because it will define how you can grow and how your business will form. And remember whatever you think it costs to make your product, it really costs double that, so build that into your price from the very beginning.

Robyn Thompson (Owner of Kale Love): You don’t have to have it all figured out at the beginning. The love and the leap of faith make things happen.

Following the first panel of speakers were representatives from different lending institutions including Small Business Administration (SBA), Verity Credit Union, Ventures and Business Impact NW. As lenders they elucidated to the audience the significance of a thorough business plan when vying for a sum amount of loan from them or other credit unions or microfinance organizations. None of them can jump from step A to step C without effectively researching and planning for their businesses. That way when it’s time to present their business ideas, they can speak about them with knowledge and confidence. “This is my product and I’m an expert of it.”

There was not a shortage of nuggets of wisdom from our speakers that day. (Even we took home valuable lessons that we had heard from them.) And people jumped in when they had questions about them. The conversations that were seamlessly formed endured throughout the day. Everyone was ready to contribute to the dialogue.

During her keynote speech Denise Breyley, Local Forager at Whole Foods, spoke about business being a relationship. It does not grow by one’s own effort. It is nurtured by the many people who take the time to tend it and let it flourish organically. We love how not just Denise but other speakers of the day had touched on creating and fostering relationships that will spur one’s company’s forward.

Jay Lyman, Librarian at Seattle Public Library

(L-R) Julianna Duso, Director of Washington Women’s Business Center; Domonique Juleon, Director of Veteran’s Business Outreach Center; Denise Breyley, Local Forager at Whole Foods; Tara Stordahl, Coffee Coordinator at Whole Foods; Chris Tjersland, Partner Brand Development Manager at New Seasons Market; Andrew Smith-Jones, Inventory Manager at Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery

Maggi Molina, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Bunker Labs Seattle

Breakout sessions ensued afterwards. Several speakers were assigned in three different rooms where they delved into Market Research, Business Licenses, Alternative Food Businesses, Labor Laws, and Grocery Store Know-Hows. All the rooms was jam-packed by avid students.

The whole day event culminated with Food Marketplace. Vendors presented their delicious food products to everyone who was there. They brought samples so people can try them out and give feedback on them if necessary. There were a variety of goods everyone had a chance to taste for free: healthy baked cookies and brownies, delectable lava cakes, crispy kale chips, mouth-watering tamales, among others. It was a feast! Participants and non-participants of Food Biz Day were mingling with vendors and just enjoyed eating and talking—it was the best way to end a full day of learning!

We thank everyone who made time and attended our first event of the year!

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