Good Food Business Accelerator’s Third Year Off to Strong Start

by Chelsea Callahan and Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed

Nine competitively selected Fellows are participating in the third year of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator, and they represent a wide range of exciting entrepreneurial ventures: from unique pies and clean meals to tea-infused energy bites and indigenous wild rice cereal, and from locally sourced juices and sparkling fruit tonics to pickled produce and sippable soups.

These businesses are on the cutting edge of Good Food and will grow with help from the Accelerator. The six-month program, which began in early November, includes an intensive business development curriculum, mentorship by industry leaders, and connections to a network of Good Food investors and financiers.

Members of this year’s Accelerator cohort will pitch to investors at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference on March 16. Some of the businesses will also participate in the Good Food Festival & Conference (March 16-18) as exhibitors or as vendors at the Good Food Court.

FamilyFarmed's Good Food Business Accelerator launched its third cohort of entrepreneurial Fellows in early November. The members, from left to right: (Front Row) Jordan Buckner of Skyline Kitchen Inc.; Michele Gazzolo and Beth Denton of Fruitline LLC; Alison Velazquez of Skinny Souping; Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies; Mitch Wasserman of Full Belly Foods. (Back Row) Megan Klein of MadeHere; Daniel Sikorski of The Eating Well; Issac Lozano of Skyline Kitchen Inc.; Colin Tomkins-Bergh of Simply Native; and Art Jackson of Pleasant House Bakery. Photo by 1871:Gregory Rothstein.

FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator launched its third cohort of entrepreneurial Fellows in early November. The members, from left to right: (Front Row) Jordan Buckner of Skyline Kitchen Inc.; Michele Gazzolo and Beth Denton of Fruitbelt LLC; Alison Velazquez of Skinny Souping; Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies; Mitch Wasserman of Full Belly Foods. (Back Row) Megan Klein of MadeHere; Daniel Sikorski of The Eating Well; Issac Lozano of Skyline Kitchen Inc.; Colin Tomkins-Bergh of Simply Native; and Art Jackson of Pleasant House Bakery. Photo by 1871:Gregory Rothstein.

These businesses, all in Illinois unless noted, are (in alphabetical order):

  • Fruitbelt LLC (Sawyer, Michigan):  produces sparkling tart fruit tonics infused with native botanicals and made with the highest fruit content (25%) of any sparkling fruit drink.
  • Full Belly Foods, Inc. (Chicago): produces a unique line of one dozen all-natural artisan pickles and pickled vegetables.
  • Justice of the Pies (Chicago): a bakery that specializes in sweet and savory pies, quiches and tarts, and as the company scales up, it plans to focus its mission on hiring individuals who may have difficulty obtaining employment.
  • MadeHere (Bedford Park): makes salad dressings and other value-added products using produce from the FarmedHere indoor farm at the same location.
  • Pleasant House Pies and Breads (Chicago): offers a British-inspired, locally sourced menu, with savory meat and vegetarian Royal Pies as the centerpiece.
  • Simply Native Foods (River Falls, Wisconsin): produces quick-cooking hot breakfast cereals, using indigenous crops such as wild rice with super fruits and roasted kernels.
  • Skinny Souping (Chicago): provides preservative-free health-driven soups that serves as a meal or functional beverage.
  • Skyline Kitchen Inc. (Chicago): produces TeaSquares, a tea-infused energy snack made with small-batch organic tea, pepitas and puffed millet, along with other energy-rich ingredients; its mission is to fuel economic development in urban centers.
  • The Eating Well (Chicago): makes Paleo, vegan and gluten-free meals and snacks, including four varieties of gluten-free, vegan vegetable burgers.

For more information on these businesses and profiles of the Fellows, click here.

Family Farmed President Jim Slama welcomed the new Fellows in the Good Food Business Accelerator Nov. 7 during an orientation held at the 1871 business incubator.

Family Farmed President Jim Slama welcomed the new Fellows in the Good Food Business Accelerator Nov. 7 during an orientation held at the 1871 business incubator.

“The third cohort of the Good Food Business Accelerator will build upon the successes of the first two,” said FamilyFarmed founder and president Jim Slama, who noted that $25 million in deals have been stimulated by the Accelerator and the organization’s annual Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference over the past four years.

“At the same time, we are constantly improving the program’s offerings. And we are always on the lookout for Fellows who want to give back to their communities while they are building their businesses and meeting the growing consumer demand for Good Food,” Slama added. Half of the businesses in the third cohort are woman-owned and/or minority-owned and a third have defined social missions.

The Accelerator is based at 1871, Chicago’s center for business incubation and innovation, and extends the long-running efforts by FamilyFarmed — a Chicago-based nonprofit — to expand both supply of and demand for Good Food. The Fellows’ businesses are located in and service the Chicago foodshed and follow Good Food principles, defined by FamilyFarmed as food produced as locally as possible using sustainable, humane and fair practices.

The Good Food Business Accelerator is part of FamilyFarmed’s efforts over two decades to expand this fast-growing sector, which also include its annual Good Food Festival & Conference and Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, held each March at Chicago’s UIC Forum. For more information, click here.

FamilyFarmed plans to broaden the scope of the Accelerator program with an Incubator Without Walls (IWOW). This project will provide shorter-term technical assistance to businesses that have more narrowly defined issues or which cannot devote the time to the six-month Good Food Business Accelerator.

Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest natural foods supermarket chain, and UNFI, the nation’s leading distributor of natural and organic food, are strategic partners on the GBFA project. Lead funding for the GFBA comes from Chase Bank and Food:Land:Opportunity – Localizing the Chicago Foodshed, an initiative of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust that seeks to strengthen the resiliency of the region by increasing the supply of local and sustainable food. Other partners include the U.S. Small Business AdministrationU.S. Department of Agriculture, and 1st Farm Credit Services.

For more information about the Good Food Business Accelerator, or to arrange for an interview about it with President Jim Slama, please contact Rebecca Frabizio at 312-874-7361 or email rebecca@familyfarmed.org.

GOOD FOOD BUSINESS ACCELERATOR FACT SHEET

The immediate impacts of the Good Food Business Accelerator are evident in the first and second year’s program metrics reported by FamilyFarmed.

Since the second Accelerator cohort graduated in April, the businesses reported a 239 percent market increase, and all of Fellows say they directly applied what they learned to their business practices.

At the point of graduation, 89 percent of second cohort Fellows said they were already better prepared to launch or expand, and to increase their sales. More than half said they were better prepared to create new jobs. And all of the cohort Fellows reported they were better prepared to speak with investors about their offerings.

One Fellow reported, “As I went through the GFBA, I was able to utilize the relationships and classes almost in parallel to what was happening in my business. When we talked about brokers, I was able to build a relationship with one. As we talked about co-packers, I was able to find one and partner with one. Being in the Accelerator really did accelerate many of the things that I needed to get done for the CPG [consumer packaged goods] part of my business.”

Businesses that participated in the Accelerator’s first year averaged a 62 percent increase in sales, a 107 percent increase in the number of customers and a 68 percent increase in the number of employees.

All of the GFBA Fellows report that exposure to the program’s network of mentors, advisors, educators and investors benefits their businesses significantly. Members of the 180+ network of mentors, advisors and investors report that working with the entrepreneurs in our program provides a front-row seat to young, innovative and fresh perspectives.

The Nov. 7 Good Food Business Accelerator orientation ended with a welcome dinner at The Kitchen, the Chicago outlet of a restaurant group whose social mission includes sponsorship of hundreds of school gardens.

The Nov. 7 Good Food Business Accelerator orientation ended with a welcome dinner at The Kitchen, the Chicago outlet of a restaurant group whose social mission includes sponsorship of hundreds of school gardens.

Previous Alumni Businesses Include:

Cohort 1 (2014-15; all located in Illinois)

  • dailyServing (Chicago): produces a variety of functional food combos for people on the go.
  • FoodTrace (Chicago): provides an innovative online platform that facilitates connections between food producers and buyers.
  • Jakobs Brothers Farm (Sterling): raises livestock and grain.
  • Kishr (Chicago): produces a tea-like superfruit beverage.
  • Living Water Farms (Strawn): grows specialty greens and microgreens year-round in greenhouses.
  • Mint Creek Farm (Cabery): produces meat and eggs from livestock raised in its organic pastures.
  • Phoenix Tofu (Chicago): makes fresh tofu, prepared tofu products and soy milk.
  • Spark of the Heart (Chicago): makes delicious and easy-to-prepare mixes for bean-based soups, salads and side dishes
  • The Urban Canopy (Chicago): produces food on urban farms and collects food scraps for composting.

Cohort 2 (2015-16; all Illinois except where noted)

  • Flur (Riverside): produces gluten-free French patisserie-style baked goods.
  • Food He.ro (Chicago): provides an online workforce training platform for restaurant employees.
  • Gotta B Crepes (Chicago): sells fresh sweet and savory crepes at Chicagoland farmers markets, made with local ingredients sourced at those markets.
  • Karma Kombucha (Vernon Hills): produces raw, organic, probiotic kombucha, a beverage with health-enhancing qualities.
  • Kitchfix (Chicago): creates and delivers meals and snacks made with Good Food principles to homes and catered events.
  • Laine’s Bake Shop (Chicago): creates all-natural treats with a Conscience.
  • Sofrito Foods (South Elgin): produces heat-and-eat seasoned organic bean products based on traditional Latin American recipes.
  • The Cider Farm (Mineral Point, Wisconsin): grows true cider apples and converts them into quality ciders and brandy
  • Wind Ridge Farm (Caledonia): an organic farm that produces herbs and converts them into a wide range of value-added products.

Photographs by Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed unless otherwise noted.

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