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I just returned from San Francisco today, with more energy and enthusiasm than I know what to do with. That’s why I decided to sit down and pour it all into this blog post before thoughts like “I have a bazillion emails to read!” and “I have a cookbook review due in a week!” decide to consume my giddy state.
Not long ago I was asked to be included as a mentor with Palo Alto-based Local Food Lab. Started by two individuals with background in both food and tech, Local Food Lab aims to fill the needs of budding food entrepreneurs in the form of mentoring and education. The accelerator program this fall is taking a group of individuals with various food business plans (organic farming, healthy packaged lunches for kids, a brunch-themed food truck, etc.) and giving them the resources they need to become successful. The morning I attended we listened to partner Jay Jamison from BlueRun Ventures talk about the successes and trials of his parent’s Jamison Farm in Pennsylvania. Attorney Erin Bennett gave a presentation on food law covering trademarking, health claims on packaging and advertising regulations.
As a mentor, I was able to meet individually with the participants and answer their questions ranging from “Where do I look for nutrition requirements for kids?” to “How can I make sure my Facebook posts get done every week?” With another gentleman, I helped him come up with a way to evaluate whether or not a student intern was savvy enough to handle the requirements of a social media manager. I was truly using all of my skills – everything from regulations on Facebook campaigns to discussing politics of raw milk and pasteurization. Each one had decided to dream big, and what an honor to help them along on their journey.
I was truly in impressed with not only their enthusiasm, but each person’s desire to make a difference in the food world with positive social change. The soon-to-be owner of food truck Brunched in the Face wanted to use local, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible, and was focused on giving her future employees fair wages and benefits. Another student was developing an energy food, LifeBites, that he hoped would somebody be profitable enough to make money for community programs. The charming Anea Botton of Valley Girls Foodstuffs has already been making a difference with her business, teaching at risk girls how to bake, can and make artisanal products. The owner of Phoenix Foods was focused on creating a healthy pre-packaged lunchbox option for busy parents that would help curb the tide of childhood obesity. He got the idea as a stay-at-home dad trying to make healthy lunches for his kids. It was clear that making money was not the only priority of these entrepreneurs.
I left inspired. If this is the future of small food business on the west coast, then we’re going in the right direction. Looking forward to being a mentor to the next cohort!
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