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Some Events for You Food Producers Out There

Hey folks, thought you all might be interested in some of the upcoming events being put on by Small Food Producers Network! Check these resources out:

ITAC Solutions Fair
Tuesday, June 4th from 1pm-5pm
at Pace University – 3 Spruce Street, in Manhattan

[FROM ITAC] The ITAC Solutions Fair is a half-day forum designed for NY manufacturing companies to meet directly with technology experts in one-on-one consultations to solve problems and support growth. Meet with experts from universities and Centers of Excellence across NYS who can address challenges in areas like: automation, packaging, materials science & engineering, intellectual property, sustainability, new product development, process improvement & supply chain. Furthermore, ITAC will have experts directly related to food science issues, including: representatives from Cornell Dept. of Food Science, Green Packaging guidance, and Automation experts.

Attendance to Solutions Fair is free to NYS manufacturing companies. For more information about the event, or to register online visit the ITAC website

Slow Money NYC: Finance for Food Workshop Facilitated by Elizabeth Ü
Monday, June 10th from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
At The Moderns – 900 Broadway, 2nd Floor in Manhattan

[FROM Slow Money NYC] Elizabeth Ü, author of the soon-to-be-released: Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business, will present the Finance for Food Workshop, outlining capital options available for sustainable food businesses — including pros, cons, criteria, and sources. In simple terms, Elizabeth Ü will provide valuable insights into the world of finance, including descriptions of various capital options available (including traditional debt and equity, government grant and loan programs, cutting-edge social finance options such as crowdfunding, and community-based alternatives). She will suggest guidelines for choosing capital options are most appropriate given size, stage, entity type, growth plans, mission, and values of an enterprise. This interactive session will afford participants at least an hour opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

Tickets are $15.00 in advance, $20 at the door. Please RSVP ASAP as space is limited! You can register for this event online HERE.

Council Member Stephen Levin’s Co-packing Survey for Brooklyn Food Manufacturers
[From Council Member Levin’s Office] Attention all food businesses! Council Member Stephen Levin (he represents Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Boerum Hill) is looking for feedback from Brooklyn food manufacturers about the need for co-packing here in NYC. We strongly recommend that you fill out this survey! This is your chance to affect public policy and bring more resources to the NYC food manufacturing community. If feedback is limited, it will be that much harder to convince the powers that be to invest in infrastructure that can support food production. The food community is at a critical mass, and we need to work together to make our voices heard!

You can fill out the survey at:


Lean Startup Principles

In preparation for our next meetup event, here are some links to useful resources to learn about lean startup basics and principles:

We’ll be finalizing details about the meetup and have that info posted soon.

More from Launching a Food Business on a Lean Budget Event

Here’s an excerpt from the opening remarks made by Alex Ginsberg, Founder of Lean Food Startup, at last week’s inaugural Lean Food Startup event hosted by Union Seminary:

First, some introductions are in order about who has helped organize this event:

Columbia Food Lab is a new group out of the business school dedicated to making Columbia the top school for food entrepreneurship, help students launch food businesses. Make sure to keep an eye out for our conference April 12, here at Union Seminary. We have early bird tickets available in the back after the panel.

Lean Food Startup NYC is a group on that you should go join. We are seeking to apply concepts from the Lean Startup movement in the tech world to the food world.

The Columbia Union-Kitchen is a joint venture between the Food Lab and Union Theological Seminary to create a kitchen space open for local entrepreneurs to develop and produce their products without investing in their own commercial space.
And now, on to the main course of the evening. We’re all here because we’re interested in helping increase the success rate of aspiring food entrepreneurs.

The Lean Startup movement has its roots in the tech world, where it advances practices that get startups to focus on only those actions that add value to customers, so that entrepreneurs don’t spend precious time and money building something that nobody really wants.

Constantly improve your understanding of what customers want through frequent experimentation is at the heart of how lean practices can help entrepreneurs eliminate waste. A key component is to make tweaks to your product, business model, sales pitch, marketing, and other business operations based on measurable feedback. Instead of building the perfect, all-encompassing product right away, lean advocates building the minimum viable version that can test the riskiest parts of your idea and business model.

One of the big premises of the Lean startup movement is that it’s easier and cheaper to experiment, learn and start up a company in the tech space than ever before. While much of the Lean philosophies seem to be applicable to food, it is unclear whether the premise that experimentation, learning and starting up is cheap and easy applies to the food industry.

I would argue that new business models such as food trucks and pop-ups, and resources such as incubator kitchens are making learning cheaper. But, do these lead to sustainable businesses? This panel (and the Lean Food Startup as a whole) is going to address some of these topics and this question as a whole.

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Highlights from Launching a Food Business on a Lean Budget

Hey folks, our friends over at Harlem Food Local did a great job with a writeup on our inaugural event, Launching a Food Business on Lean Budget back on February 27th. In it, the highlight 15 of their takeaways from the panelists, so if you didn’t get a chance to go, here are their crib notes 🙂 We encourage you to sign up for The Lean Food Startup NYC MeetUp Group and come to the next meeting scheduled for March 26th.

Interested in starting a food business? Here are the top 15 take-away tips from the panel that will help you navigate this insane startup business.

  1. Delusion is a Necessity. You must have uncompromising and unwavering belief in your product, your idea, and your mission. But, this delusion must be anchored by the slightest bit of reality, where you also have to realize that you are not going to have any idea what you are doing for most of the time.
  2. You must be intensely and extremely stubborn (coupled with the aforementioned ‘delusion’, they work very well together). Every time someone tells you’re wrong, tells you that your product stupid or that your packaging is ugly, and that you’re never going to succeed, you have to dig your heals in even more and stay committed.
  3. However much money you have for StartUp and Operating costs, chop that amount in half and use it as your actual budget. Don’t worry, the reserved half will get used too (on costs you never anticipated) but you’ll be under much less financial stress if you budget conservatively.
  4. Have a very honest conversation with yourself about how much money you have, what your costs will be, and when you need to start being profitable. Remove all of the delusion from this step. Really figure out if, with the tools and capital you have, your plan will turn into a winning equation. If you aren’t absolutely certain, take inventory of where you feel you could improve, and do that before you sink a ton of cash into discovering your hunch about it not working out was right.
  5. Plan for a ton of costs that you never anticipated because they are ‘unknown unknowns’ and they will materialize when you least expect them.
  6. Question and Negotiate EVERY expense. Go through each and every line item on your debit sheet and if you don’t know why you are spending that amount on a particular item, try to get it for cheaper. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be paying exactly what you are right now.
  7. Everyone is NOT your Target Market. Know who your market is and get to know them on a personal level. Stop pretending that your product is so amazing that every consumer in the world will want it, because they won’t.
  8. When designing your business model, keep scalability, agility, and adaptability in mind.
  9. If you are selling a packaged food item (specifically to a grocery chain, or a gourmet specialty store), make sure any and all of your potential clients taste your product in front of you. If you leave it up to them to taste it, they never will, and you won’t get a new customer.
  10. Creating different product lines, with different costs, and different margins is one of the best way to ensure profitability. BUT, don’t expect to launch multiple products simultaneously.
  11. Plan for profit margins of no less than 50% because it is very likely that margin will shrink.
  12. The best way to learn about the industry is to get yourself a mentor. Seek out a successful business that is like yours (but does not directly compete with you) and make friends with them.
  13. Don’t think that Kickstarter (or similar types of crowd fundraisers) will get you all of the cash you need. You will need alternate funding sources. Successful crowd fundraisers require an extremely developed and vast social networks with high visibility. If you don’t have a social network like that, don’t expect for Kickstarter to be the answer to your prayers.
  14. You will need an internet presence, but chances are, you aren’t a food industry professional that is also an expert web developer. Whether you decide on a site that will be dynamic or static, outsource what you can of it. You don’t need to learn how to be a web developer while building your business. It’ll save you a lot of time, effort, and frustration if you outsource the project to someone who can do it painlessly.
  15. By throwing your hat in the ‘entrepreneur’ ring, you are signing up to have an adventure. Bound to encounter a few of your lowest lows and your highest highs, remember to have fun the whole time, because it’s an adventure of your own creation.
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Our Next Meetup

Just a real quick update on a tentative next meet up for the Lean Food Startup NYC Meetup Group. We’ll be exploring the principles of lean startups and discussing whether and how they can be applied to food startups. Please join the Meetup group if you’re interested in attending! Hope to see some of you there

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Lean Food Startup, Columbia-Union Kitchen Event

Just a quick update on the Lean Food Startup panel sponsored in part by Columbia Food Lab and Columbia-Union Kitchen last night.

It was a very successful inaugural event, with about 80 attendees. Three panelists discussed the ins and outs of being a food entrepreneur, and trying to keep things lean. Our panelists were:

In addition to panel discussion and Q&A, attendees also got a chance to tour the kitchen at Union Seminary, which hosted the event last night. Columbia Food Lab and Union Seminary are working on converting the Seminary’s underused kitchen into a new kitchen incubator. The kitchen does need a thorough cleaning, and perhaps some equipment upgrades, but it does already have several solid pieces of capital equipment, and a ton of storage space. More news on this as it develops.

As we get the video we took edited, we’ll be posting some segments of the panel here. We’ll also have some more events planned for the Lean Food Startup NYC Meetup group. If you’ve got questions you’d like us to answer about food startups, comment here, and we’ll see if we can’t get you the info you need.

What is Lean Food Startup?

We conceived of Lean Food Startup as an extension of the Lean Startup movement. Traditionally, Lean Startup methodology has been deployed specifically within the tech startup environment. But we’re here to ask the question: can lean startup methods and principles be applied to the food startup world?

We’re here to test out whether the hypothesis that the Build-Measure-Learn loop that’s central to lean startups can be applied to food entrepreneurship. The goal is to see if food entrepreneurs could increase their success rates, prosper, and benefit from the application of these methods. Can daring and bold concepts in food be iterated upon in a way similar to how people build tech apps?

We’ll be exploring these questions in the coming weeks and months in conjunction with the development of the Columbia Food Lab, a physical culinary incubator. Stay tuned!

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