Do you have an idea for a food business? Are you ready to scale up and reach a wider audience? Maker to Market might be the right move for you.
Run in partnership with nonprofit food hub The Good Acre, Maker to Market provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to scale their businesses and eventually serve Lakewinds Food Co-op’s retail markets. Each year, three to five makers are chosen to participate in the accelerator program. Through the course of the program, each maker receives a variety of benefits, including access to The Good Acre’s commercial kitchen and food storage facilities, mentorship from professionals and industry experts, marketing support and retail insight from the Lakewinds Food Co-op team, and shelf placement at all three Lakewinds Food Co-op stores.
As a 2018 Maker to Market member, Therese Moore of 3 Bear Oats praises the program’s rigor and support. “I learned what I didn’t know,” she explains. She’d made her savory oatmeal bowls for friends and family and served up helpings at farmers markets, but she’d never trained as a professional chef and had never run her own business before. “
I saw Maker to Market as a graduate program,” she says, “for me as an individual and to get my product out there.”
Maker to Market prefers applicants who work with locally sourced, organic produce. Rhys Williams, executive director of The Good Acre, explains that’s the best way to increase opportunities for their existing network of sustainable farmers. Establishing and cementing those relationships is key to “keeping more of our dollars circulating in the local economy,” adds Dale Woodbeck, general manger of Lakewinds.
Both Moore and Jen’s Jars founder Jennifer Alexander, another member of the 2018 cohort, loved forming relationships with the farmers who grow the foods they use in their products. Not only that, both makers say the feedback they received on streamlining their production processes was revelatory.
Since going through Maker to Market, Alexander’s “production has scaled at least threefold if not more than that,” she says. “I went from producing 16-jar batches [of soups], because I was limited by how much I could lift, to making 60-jar batches in a 20-gallon steam kettle.”
For both, the ultimate benefit of the program was confidence and a sense of purpose. Moore and Alexander started their businesses during periods of transition in their lives, and Maker to Market offered a chance to focus and build on their newfound ventures. When asked what’s next for 3 Bear Oats, Moore says scaling up and going regional are definitely in the game plan, but she wants “to continue to go slowly to enjoy the process.” As for Alexander, her time working closely with The Good Acre unearthed a new passion for farm-to-school initiatives. “It’s so cool to be in the center of food hub that’s enacting change in our food system right now,” she says.
Moore encourages curious folks to apply to the program: “It provides the support that allows a producer like myself to become more confident in a world that they may not be that familiar with.”
Applications for the 2019 Maker to Market program are being accepted now through Friday, February 15—so get them in! Visit makertomarketmn.com for more information. Winners will be announced in April, following taste tests and evaluation by a panel of leading Twin Cities foodies.