Fifty Resources for Food Makers
We’ve met over 100 new food entrepreneurs this year and proudly watched many of them launch original new ventures. It’s not surprising that starting a mission-driven food business is incredibly difficult (and exhausting and expensive…) but what often catches people off guard is how lonely it can be. Building a community of peers and sharing your experiences is a challenge when you’re baking, brewing or making in your home kitchen or at antisocial hours in a commercial space.
So for those of you who don’t yet have your network of peers or can’t always make it to our classroom, here’s a list of some of our favorite resources for makers. It also serves as a good reminder that there are plenty of others like you out there, fighting the good-food fight.
For those at the earliest stages of making the leap, here’s a great blog post on ‘How to Start a New Career in the Food Industry’. Parts One and Two list over 40 reading/listening resources and organizations.
One area that generates a great deal of confusion is permitting. Did you ever wish someone would go to the health department website, dig through the labyrinth of conflicting information, broken web pages, and email links that don’t work, and create a step by step guide on how to start a business? Luckily our neighbors at Forage Kitchen did this for us. They have some great tips on Deciding The Focus of Your Business and then a Step By Step Guide To Starting a Food Business in Oakland. Most of these requirements are replicated in other counties so it’s a useful resource for everyone.
Many of you will be starting to build your brand and your following on social media. If you don’t know where to start a useful tool many small businesses use is Hootsuite. Most people use it primarily to schedule social media posts, however their website also includes free easy Social Media Training. Other free (or almost free) marketing tools we love include: Canva, for elevating your design online or printed materials like menus & posters; Pexels or Pixabay for free stock images (although you should try to use your own whenever you can). Useful phone apps that can help improve your social media images include: Layout for creating instagram collages; Enhance for formatting images for each social media platform; or Snapseed for photo editing. Each of these are available on Android too. Those needing help with inexpensive logo design can try Toptal and we like Moo for beautiful business card printing.
For creating your business website, Squarespace is often cited as a simple ‘plug and play’ solution with beautiful templates and we know several non-techy types who have created their own sites on this platform. Want to try selling online through your website or social media? Shopify is a solution that integrates easily into your existing platforms.
If you’re ready to find a commercial kitchen there are a number around the Bay Area. As we’ve mentioned, Oakland’s Forage Kitchen comes with the added bonus of being our neighbor. Here are some others listed by Provender in 2016. A couple of existing makers we know have capacity to share in their kitchens – The Bread Project and Hidden Star.
For those not familiar with Provender, this is a great google group to join for local makers who want to buy/sell equipment, share resources, ask questions and generally help each other out. You need to request access and then be accepted. If you follow this link and then click “Apply for Membership” you should be able to fill out a quick questionnaire stating that you are indeed a food business owner and you will abide by the rules of the forum. And don’t forget to create a profile for your business on Barnraiser – a great way to spread the word about mission-driven makers. If you’re looking for some extra funds, Kiva loans is a platform some of our Alumni have used successfully.
Finally, for those of you with packaged products, we hear that Anresco does good work on shelf life testing. If you’re ready to sell your products into wholesale, check out FCI instructor and specialty food buyer Alli Ball’s favorite sell sheet examples.
We know this list is no substitute for sharing your experiences with other food makers live, but we hope it takes some of the grunt work out of finding your way on your entrepreneurial journey. And for those of you needing more support, please join us in our Oakland classroom for our business or industry courses. We’ll be announcing our 2018 course dates by November 30.