by Eric Forsch, Business Attraction Specialist
Last week I visited the new co-working space, Trailhead, in downtown Boise for the “How to Start a Food Company” event. While tech startups have been a focus of attention at Trailhead, this particular event’s panel offered advice (and delicious snacks) on a fast-growing and important sector in Idaho (and the US): Food Production. In particular, food production companies that are meeting consumers’ demands for more local and natural products.
The panel featured four food experts from the region which included Meg Carlson, President and CEO of Prosperity Organic Foods, Inc. (makers of Melt Organic), Janine Zacca Zenner, founder of Zacca Hummus, Josh Bevan, Director at University of Idaho Food Technology Center, and Kelly Parker, Director of Sales & Community Engagement at Create Common Good. This panel, which featured two successful food companies, was full of both helpful advice as well as obstacles to avoid.
One thing that stuck out immediately was the discussion about the challenges that come with starting a food business. Many of the themes from the TechStars event two days prior were talked about at this event including the importance of being “all in or nothing” regarding your startup. Getting into a startup food company, in other words, is not for the faint of heart.
The most important point the panelists made was the importance of brand. It is crucial, especially when there are so many other options in grocery stores, to know what your brand is and what makes it special, and then effectively conveying that message on your food packaging. While this can be an expensive cost for a startup business (around $10,000 depending on the amount of work), finding a friend who is good with design and Photoshop can be a more affordable route, especially if they like your food.
For those starting food businesses, the Idaho Food Technology Center and Create Common Good are great resources for entrepreneurs in the food industry. But even if you aren’t at the stage to use their workspaces, taking the time to talk to people in the industry can be priceless.