I deal with organic food entrepreneurs all of the time, and one thing that I can say for certain is that building and managing these start-up businesses is no easy task.
Aside from the fact that it may take several years to reach profitability (it took Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg 9 years to get there!), you have to deal with rising food costs, a distribution system largely controlled by one major player, and the constant worry of food safety. And, of course, that doesn’t mention all of the other things like sales, marketing, public relations, legal, recruiting, and accounting,
Most entrepreneurs are tackling this industry for the very first time and have to figure out the nuances and complexity of the food business as they go. Invariably, many mistakes are made.
Understanding the challenges that these start-ups face, a company called AccelFoods has just launched to solve these exact problems.
Founded by Jordan Gaspar and Lauren Jupiter, AccelFoods is a very unique platform to help food start-ups get to the next level.
It will take on four companies at a time and features a six-month educational program, totaling 16 companies over a two-year period. Although AccelFoods will make an initial investment in each company and offer support in all key areas of a start-up’s operations, what makes this platform so compelling are the many relationships that these young companies will have access to.
For example, one partner of AccelFoods is United Natural Foods (UNFI), the dominant distributor in the natural and organic food space. Getting the time and attention of UNFI is a very, very challenging endeavor, but AccelFoods will be able to facilitate and expedite this in a major way.
Another example is the partnership with Jet Blue. The airline will get a first-look at products from any AccelFoods portfolio company. (Can you imagine what a huge deal it would be to have your organic product being offered on a Jet Blue flight?)
Even though AccelFoods’ first group of companies has not been selected, organic food executives are already singing the praise of this accelerator.
“The support, mentorship and collaboration of AccelFoods’ experienced leaders gives small food companies access to critical information and tools they need to help them grow. My experience at NibMor proves that having the ability to foster and build relationships with investors, customers, and suppliers early in the life of a business can save time and money, and prevent mistakes,” said Jennifer Love, co-founder and CEO of NibMor. “What AccelFoods’ leadership brings to the industry is profoundly needed.”
While there are numerous food incubators in cities throughout the country and fundraising platforms, such as CircleUp, that assist emerging food companies, I have yet to come across a food accelerator similar to AccelFoods.
Needless to say, having another enterprise that supports the organic food ecosystem is a great, great thing and will only serve to make our industry that much healthier and vibrant.
Any food entrepreneur whose business is generating between $100,000 and $500,000 in revenues and is interested in applying to the platform can do so via the AccelFoods website.