by Bob Benenson, Rebecca Frabizio and Chelsea Callahan, FamilyFarmed
FamilyFarmed invites rising food and farm entrepreneurs to apply for a Fellowship in our Good Food Accelerator (GFA). The application period began Monday (Aug. 14), and we have scheduled a GFA Application Celebration and Networking Event on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 1871 in the Merchandise Mart.
If you are a farmer, processor or otherwise involved in Good Food marketing in the Chicago foodshed, there are numerous reasons why you should click this link and apply for our intensive business development program.
The Accelerator provides a six-month curriculum, technical assistance, industry-leading mentors, interaction with FamilyFarmed’s broad network across the Good Food business spectrum, and connections to financiers and lenders. To date, we have graduated 27 Fellows over the Accelerator’s first three years, and all have reported significant benefits for their companies.
We’re proud of all of our hard-working Accelerator Fellows and their accomplishments… including a brand-new one that Jenny Yang is celebrating today!
Jenny owns Chicago’s Phoenix Bean Tofu and graduated in the first (2014-15) Good Food Accelerator cohort. And her delicious tofu products — made from organic Illinois-grown soybeans and re-branded as Jenny’s Tofu — are going on the shelves in all 54 stores in Whole Foods Market’s Midwest region. (The timing of this expansion on the same day as the Good Food Accelerator application launch was purely coincidental, though we can’t totally rule out that some karma was involved.)
Phoenix Bean Tofu is a particularly fresh and flavorful variety of the product. Demand was already rising when Jenny, a native of Taiwan who came to the United States to go to college, joined the Accelerator. But that demand was mainly from chefs at Chicago restaurants. Her products were in just a couple of Whole Foods store in Chicago when she did a sampling event at one of them in January 2015 (pictured here).
Then things escalated quickly with the help of the Good Food Accelerator. In part because of FamilyFarmed’s longstanding partnership with Whole Foods Market, Phoenix Bean’s presence of their store shelves grew quickly, even as other grocery stores and restaurants were becoming acquainted with Jenny’s excellent products. Then the Accelerator helped facilitate connections for Jenny that helped her clinch a $1.5 million loan, backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, that is enabling her to build a new factory (near her original tiny location) that will increase her production capacity five-fold.
The Accelerator has produced similar stories. For example, Megan Klein launched HERE’s cold-pressed juice line just recently, while she was a Fellow in the Accelerator’s 3rd cohort (2016-17), and the company’s juices are already in 131 Chicagoland stores. (HERE has since added a line of delicious dips made from local produce.)
Another highlight of the Accelerator graduates’ growth curve is Fillo’s Sofrito Beans. Their Latin-American style beans are made with sofrito, aromatic vegetables cooked with herbs and spices in olive oil, and are sold in pouches throughout Whole Foods Midwest, a number of smaller grocery stores, and Amazon Prime. Owner Daniel Caballero also segued quickly from being a Good Food Accelerator Fellow in the 2nd Cohort (2015-16) to being a program mentor.
“The Accelerator gave us all of the foundational knowledge to see past our daily activities and map out the path to every one of our benchmarks,” reported Jordan Buckner and Isaac Lozano, 3rd cohort graduates whose company produces Tea Squares, an energy snack that includes caffeine derived from tea. “Moreover, we built strategic partnerships with business veterans and insiders to best tailor our product to our core market.”
The Good Food Accelerator, to ensure that the program is meeting its goals, conducts periodic surveys of graduate fellows. The metrics underscore the value of this program:
AGGREGATE BUSINESS GROWTH, COHORTS 1-3 (2014-17)
- 148% increase in full-time employees (FTEs)
- 176% increase in Markets
- 41% increase in Sales
- Collectively, entrepreneurs in the GFA network have obtained $38 million+ in debt and equity financing.
ACCELERATOR PROGRAM VALUE, COHORTS 2 AND 3
- All (100%) of the Fellows said that by participating in GFBA, they learned new skills that they can apply directly to their businesses.
BUSINESS GROWTH AND ACCELERATOR, COHORT 3
- $1.8 million in financing
- 350% increase in FTEs
- 183% increase in market distribution
- 37% increase in sales
- 16% increase in Gross Profit Margin
- 100% (9/9) said “by completing the GFBA program, I feel better prepared to grow my business.”
- 100% (9/9) said they were better prepared to lead their organization.
- 100% (9/9) said they were better prepared to increase sales.
- 88% (8/9) said they were better prepared to talk to investors about their offerings.
- 78% (7/9) said they were better prepared to increase their profit margins.
- 78% (7/9) said they were better prepared to create more jobs within their organizations.
Time flies, and it feels like almost yesterday that the Cohort 3 Fellows completed their course and graduated on April 24. The following are photos of the Fellows with Jim Slama, founder and CEO of FamilyFarmed, and Bobby Turner, a FamilyFarmed Board member who then was the longtime Vice President of Purchasing for Whole Foods Market Midwest (Bobby since earned a promotion to President of Whole Foods Southern region, based in Atlanta).
Want to be part of the Cohort 4 graduating class next April? Apply now!