Food entrepreneurs enter the market daily it seems, with edgy designs and offerings paving us into the food future. On their heels is a new segment of the industry this Examiner calls ‘food entrepreneur services’. These are the incubators, accelerators, workshops, summits, certificate programs all purporting to help food entrepreneurs get what they need in order to succeed in the marketplace.
Some entrepreneurs for food entrepreneurs have been at it since before food was so trendy. This Examiner decided to sit down with a few to hear what they see happening in the marketplace.
Johanna Kolodny is a food-systems consultant headquartered in New York City.
Q: What led you into this work?
My parents are both self-employed so that has always been in me – to be independent. It was just a matter of finding the right time with enough skills, knowledge and connections and confidence to finally make that leap. It’s been a little over 2 years now since I ventured out on my own.
Q: The food business world has exploded. How do you keep up? Who are you reading or talking to?
The blogosphere and social media are pretty overwhelming. I don’t know if ‘saturated’ is necessarily the right word, but there is so much content to keep track off. I’m not necessarily the best at it. There are some listservs I’m on, COMFOOD, ASFS or I’ll read people’s posts on Facebook. Major newspapers, email lists for specific organizations. It’s a hodge-podge in terms of reading. To keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening, I find I’m best at in-person events, conferences, Community Tables, local and national events. You get content but also relationships out of it, which I think are essential… to everything, really.
Q: Where do you think food entrepreneur services are headed? Who’s stepping up successfully or with great promise?
That’s interesting… I see a lot out there for technology and for career changers –as well as some more hands-on production stuff. I had a client who participated in Food-X and I do think that these fully immersive ones (AccelFoods also)—business acumen, how to get money, product development –are on the rise. They’re useful because they’re comprehensive. It’s new, certainly they’re still working out kinks, but I’m optimistic. Nextdoorganics and FOOD-X are still really involved, so it’s a long- term relationship.
Q: What are you working on?
I have clients here [in New York] and in California and much of my work for them is around connecting wholesale buyers with sourcing, specifically philosophic and values-driven selecting, marketing and supply chain logistics. But I’m open. As an entrepreneur I believe you must always be open to the conversation. Have the conversation, even if you don’t see an immediate win. A lot of people don’t work that way. They hear a little bit about someone or something, and then immediately say ‘No’.
Q: Substance over noise, where do you see the biggest opportunity pockets in food right now?
That is a good question. Closest to home for me is distribution, given my work with Baldor. Despite overall booms in technology, food distribution technology is still so antiquated. It’s kind of amazing, actually. So I see opportunity there: creating better back end technology for the distributor’s use as well as in the realm of companies launching Amazon-like ordering platforms. It’s complex but in a good way as these sorts of systems empower the buyer with information and all the data at their fingertips. Having been a buyer myself, I find it quite revolutionary. And we’re only at the beginning.
You can find more about Johanna and get in touch at her Tumblr. Or, if you’re New York based, look for her at one of the many food-business focused events around town.