When I owned a cheese store in San Francisco in the 1980’s I felt like we were in the middle of a food revolution—there was so much energy around “back to the land”, natural gourmet food, vegetarianism, food buying clubs and food cooperatives. We are now in the midst of another food revolution. This time it’s a food and technology revolution. There is a resurgence of small food businesses that are focused on craft, sustainability and supporting their communities, and at the same time the internet is completely changing the way food is being distributed and sold.
cupcake from Black Jet Bakery
There are many new internet tools to support small businesses and many are being created specifically for food businesses. This includes a search engine for food industry jobs (Good Food Jobs), a new entrepreneurial education and online community for mentoring food start-ups (Local Food Lab), an online wholesale service (Buyer’s Best Friend), and a new portal to market and distribute food products directly to consumers (Good Eggs). It is an exciting time to be starting and running a food business!
soup from Mama Tong
Many of my students at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center (graduates of the 14-week Business Planning Class) are taking advantage of these tools. b. street waffles, Black Jet Bakery, Double Dutch Sweets, Leslie Kay Bakery, Mama Tong, Ruby’s Oats, and Sow Juice, as well as two of my clients, Starter Bakery and Suite Foods, are all Good Eggs producers.
For new food businesses, this type of publicity and connection to potential customers is invaluable. Access to markets is key for any small or micro business. Setting up an online store or trying to get into a local retail outlet can be a daunting or competitive proposition.
juice from Sow Juice
But if you can prove there is a market, satisfy the marketplace with good services, and build a following through these new online platforms, you just might prove your business model, make it into the mainstream, and develop a sustainable business.
These new internet tools are making it easier for small food businesses to get support, find community and connect with the markets they need to be successful. May they take root and flourish!