10 Steps to Becoming a Food Entrepreneur

Food. Yeah, it's kind of a big deal. It's a fundamental part of life -- we all eat! I love how food crosses all cultures and connects people. A place at the table brings us together to share a meal regardless of our background, beliefs, or language.

Now more than now ever, it's critical to change what we eat and how it's made. Food justice, food deserts, the environment, social impact, and health concerns make food an important topic. Food not only nurtures our bodies, but has the opportunity to make a difference beyond our plates.

People ask me all the time, how did you start your food business and get your products on the shelf? And often, they follow up with, "I have this idea... ". "I'm thinking about a career in food..." I'm thrilled so many people want to explore food entrepreneurship. It can be very rewarding.

I learned so much in my first year into the food industry and I'm continuing to learn each and every day. It takes time and patience to learn about food: for example, how food distributors operate and the differences between regional versus national distributors, their expectations in the type of partnership they are looking for, and how it impacts your marketing budget.

Start with why you want to start a food business. Knowing the why before you embark into any career transition is your first step. Startups require laser focused attention and 24 hours a day. There will be many highs, but there may be more challenges in the road that you'll have to learn to navigate. When you have a clear mission, it makes it possible to work through challenges.

10 Tips For Food Entrepreneurs

  1. Figure out WHY you want to become a food entrepreneur. What do you want to accomplish? It needs to be something you must do, not just want to do.

  • Learn about food regulations, permits, safety, labeling for your state.
  • Get certified to work with food. Become ServSafe Certified.
  • Test your recipes and use weighted measurements to ensure accuracy when you go beyond your home kitchen. Recipes change when you're making large quantities of food.
  • Hold focus groups and take every opportunity to get feedback from real people.
  • Meet with local store buyers to sample your products and get their feedback.
  • Find a commercial kitchen. Places like CropCircle or churches have kitchen spaces you can rent.
  • Figure out what your brand is about -- its personality, identity, voice and tone, and create brand identity guidelines and then stick to them.
  • Do your packaging design homework. Stalk the grocery aisles to see what's out there. I do a combination of store visits, checking out The Dieline, and spending time in nature to gather ideas.
  • Spend the time to find the right graphic and packaging designer and be willing to pay for services. It'll be worth it in the end.