We are in the homestretch!
As we come into our last week of our very first Kickstarter campaign, we are thrilled beyond belief to have reached our initial $10,000 goal and to have qualified for the additional $5,000 grant from Miller/Coors. And we are super-ecstatic to be 110% funded.
But, we've been getting lots of questions from those of you who are new to Kickstarter who are worried about us exceeding our initial goal, thinking that we have somehow jeopardized our success. Rest assured, IT IS TOTALLY OKAY to exceed expectations!!!
Our initial $10,000 goal covered the barest necessities of getting GROW-Food off the ground for a one year pilot program. Now, every additional penny that comes in to support GROW-Food means so much...it means the project will be funded for more than one year...means that more food artisans can benefit from it...means that we can create more jobs, more businesses, create more vibrancy and GROW-(MORE)Food!
So, let's not stop now. Get your friends, family and colleagues to pitch in. Help us help you eat better, help new businesses begin, help our farmers make a living wage and secure our food shed today!
Here's a little thank you from everyone at Rogers Park Business Alliance:
GROW-Food will be the best, multilingual, local and sustainable food-sourced business incubator in the U.S.! An initiative of Rogers Park Business Alliance, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, GROW-Food will empower entrepreneurs to develop artisanal food businesses. It will change what we eat, create new jobs, provide unique economic development income sources and open up new income bases for local farmers while stabilizing and growing the local food hub. While we plan to have the program within the city of Chicago, the curriculum we develop will be able to serve as a framework for other communities around the country to use and adapt to their unique local rules and regulations.
When we started Glenwood Sunday Market, our local farmers market, in 2010 our community embraced locally grown, sourced and produced foods. And we noticed our customers wanted more and more opportunities to have access to fresh and preserved and specialty products made with local food. But even though there is demand, there just aren't that many entrepreneurs making small batch, locally sourced, fresh, value-added or shelf-stable foods here in Chicago. Why? Because navigating the process is confusing and complex. Without proper technical assistance and guidance, getting your food business off the ground can stop you before you begin.
Every week at our farmers market, potential food artisans talk to our farmers market director about their business ideas and dreams. Sometimes it's a former hippie finally ready to start that tofu business they've been thinking about since 1970. Sometimes it's a newly arrived neighbor from Mexico wondering why amaranth is growing wild in the alleys and no one is harvesting it or seems to know what to do with it. Sometimes it's a recent college graduate yearning to turn every vegetable they see into a pickle. But one thing all these potential business owners have in common is that they have no idea where to begin, let alone how to succeed.
GROW-Food will serve as both incubator and proving ground for start up and emerging food artisan businesses. Rogers Park Business Alliance successfully grew the Glenwood Sunday Market to be a year-round farmers market with almost 2,000 weekly customers and guided two vendors through the process of opening permanent locations in the neighborhood. We will use our expertise to develop and implement a program that will provide technical assistance, structure, support, outlets for products and controlled conditions for real shopper response to the products offered in multiple languages - starting with English and Spanish. We hope to expand language options in the future.
The Grow-Food artisans will have access to a learning lab at Rogers Park Business Alliance's offices and a product testing tent at the weekly Glenwood Sunday Market where thousands of potential customers will test and provide feedback to the Grow-Food artisans.
Renting a commercial kitchen: In order for our food artisans to prepare their food for sale, it must be prepared in a certified commercial kitchen. GROW-Food will rent kitchen time for participants.
Marketing materials: GROW-Food will create collaborative marketing materials for food artisans participating in the program. This will build awareness for the program and for the products produced through GROW-Food.
Consultant fees: The reason GROW-Food artisans will be successful is their access to a knowledgeable consultant who will help each entrepreneur navigate the difficulties of starting a food business in the city of Chicago.
GROW-Food participants will be chosen based on a completed application and application fee of $75. Rogers Park Business Alliance staff will review applications and interview potential participants to assess what assistance the applicant needs, market interest in the potential product(s), sourcing availability, appropriate licensing, insurance and the uniqueness of the potential product offerings.
Technical assistance will include business plan development, navigation of rules and regulations, kitchen referrals, sales outlets connections (some connections may include additional fees i.e., selling goods at the farmers market is a per appearance fee; kitchen rentals and supply fees are at the expense of the participant), risk management and compliance guidance, real customer feedback both live and online surveys, empty storefront database access and more.
PLUS: Special thanks to John Versical of Screen Door Films for our great video, to Peter Robinson and Katie Olson of Seed Chicago and World Business Chicago for their ongoing support and to every single one of our current and future backers!
Risks and challenges
GROW-Food will face unique challenges and risks as the project is developed and implemented. One of the greatest challenges will be keeping the project participants moving forward to achieve their dreams of building a locally-sourced food based business. While the program will guide them through the process of building their business, kitchen rentals and supplies in the city of Chicago are pricey and city regulations are non-negotiable. We've seen our fair share of entrepreneurs give up as a result of the overwhelming experience.
Another challenge will be actual interest in the potential products that an entrepreneur may want to make and sell. Not every idea is a great idea, and it will require entrepreneurs to be open to product testing and honest feedback from consumers who may or may not like what the entrepreneur wants to make.
We believe that by providing the technical assistance potential food entrepreneurs need from business plans to consumer response, that we can help them navigate the complexities of starting their businesses through the objective yet supportive GROW-Food program.
The ultimate challenge that the project faces is ever-changing city, state and federal food regulations. We'll be watching legislation and working with others in the local food movement to understand and accommodate any changes that could negatively impact the development of the project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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