Resources for Food and Beverage Entrepreneurs Webinar

March 27, 2023

Video Transcript

- Welcome everybody. We're gonna get started. People are still joining the webinar. Going to share my screen. Jodi, do you see the slides okay? - Looks great. - Good, thank you. All right, welcome everybody to our webinar. It's 12:01. I think some people are still coming in, but we're just gonna get started on time. This webinar is being recorded. All right, great. We have three wonderful speakers joining us today for our webinar on Resources for Food and Beverage Entrepreneurs, from the Michigan Department of Agriculture, MEDC's Pure Michigan Business Connect, and we have an entrepreneur joining us to tell her story about how she's utilized these resources. Just a little overview about Zooms. We are doing a webinar today, so you will be muted for the experience. If you're having trouble with your audio, we encourage you to, you know, try testing your speaker and your audio settings, your mic settings, turning up your volume. If you do need help, there is a help desk to call. So that number is 844-678-6200 for technical assistance. If you're having trouble, we would like you to use the Q&A button to type in questions. We have typed in some links in the chat, but we'd like you to use the Q&A button and you can add questions at any time. Show you my next slide here. So if you can be respectful in your responses and just know that we are going to take questions at the end, but you can type them in at any time. We'll get to all the questions at the end and we are recording the webinar. Everybody that's registered will receive a copy of the recording via email. We do need to closed caption the webinar so it will take a few days. It usually takes about three to four business days for us to get the close captioning back. So it won't be immediate, but you will get a copy of the recording. Just a reminder that Michigan State University is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. Our programs are open to all without regard to race, color, gender, national origin, sex, gender identity, religion, age, weight, height, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or veteran status. If you need any special accommodations, please let us know. Just a real quick reminder about the Michigan State University Product Center. We exist to accelerate innovation and growth for business, industry and entrepreneurs in the food agriculture and natural resource sectors of the Michigan economy. We have all kinds of resources available all around the state. We encourage you to check out our resources on the Product Center's webpage and we are going to highlight our making it in Michigan conference today. We're gonna talk a lot about this. It's Thursday, April 20th, 2023 at the Lansing Center. There should be a link in the chat to our Making it in Michigan conference. You can easily find it online. We have a conference and a trade show, two separate registrations. The conference agenda is posted online and we're so pleased to be partnering with MEDC's Pure Michigan Business Connect and the Department of Agriculture on this event. We also have an exciting one-on-one buyer opportunity at Making it in Michigan. We're gonna be talking a lot about this event as well. So there is an application open till March 23rd. If you are supplier of food and beverages and you would like to meet one-on-one with a buyer, there's an application form online that you need to complete and you'll receive follow-up information if you're selected for one of those meetings and we'll talk more about this. I'd like to begin by introducing our speakers today. We have Jodi Gruner. She's an economic and community development specialist with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. She delivers direct business attraction, expansion and retention services for food, beverage and agricultural sectors in the state of Michigan. She's helped a lot of companies over in West Michigan. She's based over in our area, but has a team that covers the entire state and she says she loves working with all things food and farming. Katy Till is a project manager with the Michigan Economic Development Corporations, Pure Michigan Business Connect Program. She works to facilitate connections between Michigan-based businesses and local and national and global purchasers from both private and public organizations. She works with companies across any industry focusing on providing opportunities to food and beverage and agricultural businesses as well. Prior to this role, she worked with the women's entrepreneurship organization in St. Louis, Missouri and came back to Michigan in 2017 and we're so glad she did. And Hannah, Hannah Awada is founder and creator of Hummus Goodness. And she has a passion for hummus that began in China. She started a Hummus House business, fresh hummus business with over 20 flavors. Later that year she moved to Michigan and she was hesitant about launching a product, but her friends and family just loved it and encouraged her to launch Hummus Goodness here. And you'll hear her story about how she's grown this business over the years and she's making her hummus with love and passion. So now I'm going to stop share and I'm gonna let Diane take it over with some questions for Katy and Jodi. - All right, thank you Kendra. So Jodi, if you could tell us about your role with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development? - Thanks Diane, and good afternoon everyone. I'm Jodi Gruner, Economic Development Specialist for the Michigan Department of Ag and Rural Development. I've been at the department for a little over 10 years now, working very closely with food entrepreneurs, with vertically integrated farms and just really working to help companies expand and get connected to resources in this space. I grew up on a small hobby farm and love all things food farming, especially educating people on the incredible opportunities that our food entrepreneurs and great products they are creating. - All right, fantastic. It's always fun to work with you, Jodi. I know we go to a lot of similar things and Katy's always there as well. Katy, would you tell us about your position there with MEDC's Pure Michigan Business Connect? - Yes, thank you and good afternoon everybody. I'm Katy Till, a Project Manager with the Pure Michigan Business Connect team. We are a program of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. We typically call our program PMBC 'cause it's a little less of a mouthful than saying all of those, you know, eight different terms to describe our organization and program. So I work, as my bio stated, with Michigan based businesses looking to access procurement opportunities with purchasers. So really anytime there's a supply chain gap that a purchaser communicates to us, we do our best to find a Michigan based business to fill it. So we work across any industry, we do stuff in aerospace, automotive, even fast tile and textile design. But I have the pleasure of working on a lot of the food and beverage based businesses with great partners like MSU and MDAR here. - Well I know on April 20th we'll be all at the Making in Michigan event and we also have U2 supplying the buyer supplier matchmaking event from one to four that day. So if you could tell us more about that event. - Yep. So the buyer supplier matchmaking activity will take place between one and 4:00 PM on April 20th during the Making it in Michigan show. We had already discussed a little bit previously about an application that's open. I'm please to let you know that we have extended the deadline so you do have a little bit more time. We will keep it open until the end of next week to allow for more businesses to review and indicate capability relevant to the needs that the purchasers have communicated to us that are highlighted in that supplier application. So we have engaged 16 different companies that will be there to take one-on-one 15 minute meetings with suppliers. We have buyers from retail grocery, like the Meijer Market format stores you may be familiar with. We have institutional buyers from healthcare settings like Bronson Methodist Hospital and Corwell Health. And then we have university buyers as well. We have Western Michigan participating, the University of Michigan, and we're excited of course for the MSU Dairy Store to participate as well. There's a number of other buyers as well. They're all listed in the supplier application and it'll show exactly what they're looking for. And then if you're a business that has relevant products, we encourage you to detail those in that application. And then once the process, excuse me, once the application closes, we'll ask buyers to review and make selections of suppliers for meetings there. - Wow, that's a great opportunity for businesses. So what information should businesses come prepared to discuss that day? - So I think first and foremost businesses really need to come talking about like how are they unique? Like what is their, you know, value proposition, how are they distinct in their market category? I think packaging and labeling and nutrition labeling is always something that the buyers are very interested in talking about. Any kind of food safety or certifications, right? Food safety certifications that are required that you have or you're in process of getting is something that I think is very important to the buyers as well. I think distribution is always on everyone's mind, like how are you gonna get the product there if you're not already working with the distributor? And then really about your production capacity. So if you land the big account, you know, how are you going to scale up to be able to provide the volume that the buyers may require you to have? So I think those are some of the things to really be thinking about as you come into those meetings with the buyers. - Fantastic. How about, is there any materials that they should bring with them? Any copies of anything or? - Yeah, so we always encourage businesses to bring pretty standard promotional material flyers, you know, informational sheets, things like that. Business cards if you have sales sheets, listing wholesale prices and all of that good stuff. Definitely encourage you to bring those along Regarding sample, that's gonna depend on number of buyers that you may be selected to meet with. Typically each buyer company sends one or two representatives. So if you were selected for a meeting with one company, we'd encourage you to bring two samples, one for each of the buyers and obviously multiply that by however many companies you end up getting meeting opportunities with. Buyers may or may not sample during your meeting, so it's really at their discretion but of course they're gonna wanna see the product and and labeling and packaging and all of that good stuff as well. And we will indicate all of this information and some know before you go information that we'll be sure to share prior to the fact. If you're selected, I do wanna just differentiate between the trade show, the making it and Michigan math-making opportunity, the sampling, I'm specifically talking about the buyer supplier meetings that our PBC and MAR teams are hosting. Please refer to the MSU product center on all of the sampling information if your exhibiting there from a booth. - So are there, I'm glad you brought that up with the sampling. It has been a point that people are just wondering a little bit about or confused about. Each event has a separate registration, each event has its separate sampling rules and guidelines. So are there any additional resources that businesses can refer to as they're getting ready for these one-on-one meetings? - Yeah, so there is a video called Prepping for the Big Buyer meeting that we hosted from a previous trade show that's still very relevant for this one that is available at the landing page for the buyer supplier matchmaking at Making it in Michigan. The details page that is linked in the webinar chat, we'll make sure that you have access to that too and follow up communication. But it is there under the details for the matchmaking opportunity, definitely encourage you to to check it out 'cause there's some really helpful information there. And then of course any of the resources at the product center is sharing like these webinars leading up to the event as well. - Okay. Yeah, these meetings that you're putting together are really helpful. I mean it actually a sit down with a buyer. Obviously the trade show is going to have buyers walking throughout the trade show. They'll be going up to the booths as well talking to people. Sometimes it'll be obvious that they're buyers, sometimes not. But this is another opportunity and maybe some buyers that they wouldn't normally think of to be able to get into, especially the institutional ones, right? So Jodi, outside of the Making it in Michigan event and the Buyer Supplier Matchmaking, what resources does MDAR have for food, beverage and ag businesses? - Thanks, Diane. So our ag development team is really vested in the success of Michigan's robust food and ag sector. And so along with the collaboration with our great partners like PNBC and MSU, on events like Making it in Michigan, we also are working on a variety of other events. I think we'll highlight some of those in a few minutes. But from MDAR's team specifically, you know, we have a team that can help with resources, right? So I'm on the economic development team, I have colleagues all across the state, right, that can help geographically with companies and get them connected to resources within the department and even without, right, because we're always connected with local partners but then we also have a grant team. We have a variety of different funding grant opportunities that we can work with companies with and we're very good at helping companies understand what makes the most sense for where they're at right now and what opportunities we can get them aligned with. We can help get them connected to our regulatory team within the department. So if they're just getting started or if they are looking at licensing new products or maybe they're going to open a facility to produce product and they need a plan review, we can get them connected with our food and dairy division. We also have an international marketing team that works with companies to grow domestic and international product access to markets through trade shows and through buyer missions. And then we have a craft beverage council as well that works on promoting and facilitating opportunities for that sector. So depending where you are and yeah on your journey and what type of company you are, we can really help support you getting and making the connections that you need. - That's a lot of resources. - It's a lot. It's a lot. - So Katy, how about you with PMBC? What other resources does PMBC have for food, ag and beverage product companies? - So in addition to matchmaking activities like the one that we're doing at Making it in Michigan, we host different events throughout the year, often in partnership, again with M S U and MDAR, we do things including local vendor events. I won't do too much of a deep dive 'cause I think Jodi's gonna touch on that shortly. But really those are an opportunity to bring selected Michigan food and beverage companies to a retailer location to meet directly with store directors and other decision makers who have immediate needs for products. We've been really successful with those and I think over 50% of the businesses that have participated in those events have gone on to do business with the buyer partner that we worked with closely. So those are a great opportunity. We do regionally based pitch competitions with some different economic development partners throughout the state. Those are typically providing participants support service packages in lieu of a traditional cash prize. So we'll cover the cost of usually about $5,000 worth of customized services that are tailored to a business's unique needs. So an awardee you may win marketing and branding services or website divided design and development, customized consulting, really a customized package that will help further that business' growth. So those are our regional pitch competitions. We recently launched a partnership with RangeMe, for those of you who may be familiar with that platform, it's a sourcing platform with over 15,000 different retailers and other purchasers. And we have a made in Michigan pavilion that is exclusive to Michigan brands that provides some additional visibility to buyers and some additional connection opportunities. So we'll be sure in our follow up to share a link to that pavilion in ways to get your brands into our pavilion if you're not in there just yet. - Wow. You two are a great, great resource for our businesses. So I know that you are just alluding to what we were just doing over the last six months I think, where we've had two local vendor events with the small Meijer format stores that are really supportive of local businesses. Can you tell us a little bit more about those events and what happened? - Yeah, so we had an extremely successful event at Meijer market format store in Grand Rapids just at the end of March. We had all four market format stores there, along with Fresh Time, and we had 22 companies that came in to meet with the buyers. When we did a quick debrief with the buyers at the store, they indicated they're gonna bring probably 70 to 80% of the companies that they met with on, which is, it's incredible, right? Just absolutely incredible. We are gonna be hosting another one of those events at the Detroit Rivertown Market store in September and we will most likely launch that application in July. And so if you're not already signed up at the Pure Michigan Business Connect site, please get registered and I think that link is already in the chat. - All right, thanks Kendra, for putting that in there. Yeah, that's a great event to go to. And like you said about 80% of the people that went or the companies that went were able to get into that store at least to start the process to be a vendor. So our teams are also collaborating with a regional group to host a 231 food and beverage pitch challenge in the Muskegon area in May. Can you tell us more about that? - Yep, so I mentioned the regional pitch competitions. This one is coming up on May 16th. It'll be hosted at the Muskegon Farmer's Market. There are about 15 different partner organizations, which I won't take the time to list at the moment, but lots of great people from all over. Well from that targeted region, MSU and Michigan Department of Agriculture are partners there as well as a lot of regionally based economic development and partners, chambers of commerce and so on. And it's targeting five counties in the Muskegon area, food and beverage businesses based there either looking to start or scale a food or beverage operation. We're targeting smaller businesses, 10 employees or less with 750,000 or less in the annual revenue. And then it gives, again, these businesses an opportunity to receive some customized support packages that we cover the cost of to help them with with their growth and buyer connections and all of those good things. So we will be sure to share a link to that application. That application is also open through next week. So if you are in the Muskegon area and are interested in participating, we'll make sure to get that information to you. - Well these pitch competitions are important. I have several clients that take advantage of those for some of the initial capital that we need. So Jodi and Katy, could you tell us how do the webinar attendees today, how can they connect with you after this? Jodi, wanna start us off? - Sure, so the best way really is to get in touch with your local economic developers. So I cover the west side of the state, but as I said, we have colleagues that are positioned all over the state and so that is also in the chat and there's information about the grant program. That landing page will kind of take you to all the different programs. But we're happy to talk with each one of you individual and kind of help you determine you know, what your path is and where is the best place to connect. - And I just went ahead and put my email address in the chat here. Feel free to reach out to me if you're interested in learning more about our program and ways to get engaged or have any questions on any of the applications or events that we've been talking about. There is a link to our PMBC landing page at There's gonna be a link there to join our community that is an online business to business connection platform. That's the first best way really to get engaged with us. If you're not yet, you'll be prompted to create a brief company profile in our system that'll get you added to our e-communications distribution list so that you're notified of great events like all those that we're discussing. - All right, well Jodi, Katy, thank you. And I know that you're going to stay on to the end so you can be part of the question and answer. So I will turn it over to Kendra now to lead the conversation with our next guest. - Thanks, Diane. Hey Hannah, how are you? Hey, how are you? So much great information, Jodi and Katy. I even learned a lot of things today so thank you. - Awesome. Well Hannah, just to start out, I know I did a little short bio of you, but can you tell us a little bit about your business and your products and what you make and when you started? - Sure. So as mentioned, I'm Hannah Awada, I am the founder and president of Hummus Goodness. We are a Michigan based woman-owned company, making a fresh, clean hummus. As mentioned in the discussion earlier, I did start the company when I was living in China. I was an expat wife looking for something to do, went to a party, took hummus, and people were like, you have to sell this. So believe it or not, I'm not a huge lover of actual hummus, but I do love flavored stuff. So I started getting really creative with the hummus and adding like different things that I found in my pantry into it, like kale, basil, pesto, or like a romesco, all different flavors. It was a really fun opportunity. I sold to neighbors and friends in Shanghai and then when I moved to Michigan people said, will you do it again? And I'm like, no, there's so much hummus out there. You go to Papa Joe's, Nino's, you know, Meijer, and there's no shortage. But people argued with me that there is a shortage of good hummus. And so that's where Hummus Goodness came into play. Making fresh, clean hummus without preservatives, citric acid or seed oils like soybean oil or sunflower oil or anything like that. I worked with my mentor, Becky, from Michigan State University Product Center very early on. Thumbs up, thanks for that opportunity. She has been a wealth of knowledge connecting me with Peer Michigan Direct, with Katy, with Jodi and everybody here on the panel. So started a small church kitchen that I rented a little space out of and grew during COVID, which was exciting and got into Meijer Woodward corners in the local format stores. And then in August, sorry, in April of 2022 I had the opportunity to pitch to Meijer supercenters and got in. So today you can find our products there as well. - That's amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with making it in Michigan and the one-on-one buyer meetings? - Absolutely, those buyer meetings are awesome and you never know what's gonna come out of it. I attended my first making in Michigan, it was a virtual show in 2021. We did win the Startup To Watch Award, which was awesome. And I registered to speak to anybody I possibly could on the matchmaking. I'm like, "Hey everybody, talk to me, please talk to me." And I had the opportunity to talk to Chartwell's Higher Ed to make hummus in bulk for the universities. And so we acquired that account. We make make hummus today for Central Michigan University, maybe one day Michigan State, but we're with Central Michigan right now. But what came out of that was something really cool. We were making the hummus for Central, our co-pack, or sorry, not our co-packer, our distributor said, hey, there's an opportunity here perhaps at Detroit Metro Airport Sky Lounges, would you wanna go after it? And this is the distributor that I got from Chartwell's to work with for the Central Michigan. So there was the connection. And I said, "Sure, let's go for it." And so today you could find our products in Detroit Metro Airport Sky lounges, we do all the bulk hummus there. So that was completely taken us by surprise. We did not expect that kind of trajectory from that one little meeting. - Awesome. Can you tell us about your experience with Meijer and scaling up? - Yes. So my mentor, Becky, said when I started the company, "You should pitch to Woodward Corner Market. It's really close to where you're producing in Birmingham." So I went to Woodward Corner Market and I spoke with the amazing Natalie Rubino, and showed her my products and she said, "It's good, it's just not ready for Meijer." And I was like, okay. So my first like big pitch, I didn't get in to Meijer Woodward corner, but she gave me some really great advice which was, you're just not ready right now for that. You know, take some time, seal your containers, maybe stop printing the labels from your home computer. Things like this home printer, you know, step it up a little bit. So I took all of her advice and I spent the next like three months really working on our branding, buying labels that were pre-printed, putting seals on our containers and got into Papa Joe's at a couple of stores around Woodward Corner. So then I went back to Natalie and told her about our success. This was like two weeks before COVID shut down by the way. And they brought us in right away, it was really cool. The same Natalie who said, "You're not ready quite yet for Meijer." Then two years later, a year and a half later, recommended us for Meijer supercenters. So it's been a really amazing experience. - Well that's so wonderful to hear that, you know, the first time you might not make it in, you might have some work to do and it can be done if you take it step by step. - It was the best thing that happened to us, otherwise we'd still be printing labels off at home. - Not that there's anything wrong with that to start, right? - Yes, yeah, to start for sure. Economical, 100% . - Do you have any words of advice or suggestions for your peers in the food and beverage business space? - It's hard, but it doesn't mean it's not awesome. There's a lot of challenges along the way. We tend to laugh. I have an amazing business partner, Laura, and we always joke around that it's like two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one steps back, and being really having to keep the mindset that you can do anything you put your mind to. If you wanna get into supercenters, you can get into supercenters. If you wanna get into a local farmer's market, you can get into a local farmer's market. You just have to have the perseverance to keep going. Everybody's busy, the stores are busy, the managers are busy, the people stocking the shelves are busy. You might have the world's best product but you have to have the passion behind it and the voice and let the stores know, like, you know, if they don't respond to you the first time or the second time or the third time, they're not ignoring you, they're busy. So just keep trying believe in what you're doing and be your biggest advocate for yourself. - Awesome. And can you list off where you can find your products again? - Yes. So Detroit Metro Air Airport Sky Lounges, which is cool. We are also in 145 Meijer's Supercenters. We're at Fresh Time Market as well throughout Michigan. We are Papa Joe's, Nina Sabatio's Plum Market. You go up to Traverse City and you can find us at Oriana and Burt's. We make the hummus for the Grand Resort in Mackinac. So yeah, on our website there's a whole list of where you could find us and it's all geographed by your location. - And follow you on Instagram too, right? - We're always doing giveaways, which is a great way to get followers. - Awesome. And how, lastly this is the last question we have, is how do you work best with your product center counselor? We've talked about that there are some practical tips that entrepreneurs should really be aware of. - Yes, product center counselor, any counselors, if you're working with Jodi or Katy or any counselor, anybody who's there to support you is definitely like taking time out of their day to help you. And you have to respect that, they are busy. Everybody is so busy these days, but they wanna help you be persistent, believe in yourself, respect office hours. Don't call your mentor at seven o'clock at night. She's not gonna answer unless you call a couple times. Then she'll definitely answer and she's great about that. But in in general, respecting office hours, respecting their time and making sure that when you go to them that you have like thoughtful questions and you take their advice. They are experts in their industry. They're experts in what they are doing. And so if they tell you something you should listen but also believe in what you wanna do as well. - It's wise words. - Yes. - So now I think is the Q&A portion of our webinar, so we encourage everybody participating to use the Q&A button to type in. We do have a few questions loaded, but we'd love to see some more if you can take some time to type questions. So the first question is for Jodi, did Jodi say she can help with plan review submissions? When you were talking, did you say that? Do you have resources to help with plan review, Jodi? - So our, we have a team actually that is part of our food and dairy division that does the plan reviews. And so again, depending on where you're located, what you're doing, I can get you connected. I do not personally do work on plan reviews for the regulatory team. I hope that answers the question. - I think it does. To be a vendor, this might be for everybody, to be a vendor for Rivertown Market Store. How many products would a small business need to project, maybe to distribute on a regular basis if selected as a vendor? Oh, maybe it's kind of a volume question. If you're at Rivertown, how many products, maybe how many SKUs would you need to be able to pitch? Do you have any advice about that, Hannah? - Yes. Not a thousand. I would say like three to five, maybe if you have like one solid item that's substantial, you might get in, but three to five is the number. You might have eight items, but a store takes only two or three. So maybe giving a little bit of options you can expect three is a nice number. - And then maybe the volume too. How many cases a month or week or you know, how much should you expect to go through (indistinct) supply? - Yep, it's a really relative question. Depending, we have a short shelf life item, so we go through more cases than somebody who is selling potato chips or a frozen item. That's a hard, if you wanna tell me what your industry is or what your item, I could maybe answer. But it really just depends on your shelf life and a couple of other things. - Great, thanks. We have a question about are there resources to assist with grant writing. - From MDAR perspective, we don't have grant writers on staff. I know that there are, you know, I know there's a lot of companies that will hire a grant writer to do their grants for them, but I also say that would say that the bulk of grants that come through our grant program are written by, you know, the companies, right? They're just, they're written by the entrepreneurs. And so I've seen it go both ways and, you know, I've seen grant writers be successful, but I wouldn't say that the bulk of our grants that are awarded are written by grant writers. Our grant team may have a list of grant writers, you know, that they've worked with and that they know our writing projects. But I don't know if from a product center perspective, if the innovation counselors like will review or you know, support when their companies are going for some of our MDAR grants. Maybe Kendra and Diane can lend some ideas on that one. - Yeah, we have two counselors at least that I'm aware of, myself and Wendy Wieland, that's in the northern part of Michigan that's working with a value added client that they're producing a product and then adding value to it, whether it be through packaging or whether it be processing for their applications. And so we're more of an advisory, helping them to formulate their thoughts. We're not writing it for them. Also providing them maybe research on the market that they're writing their grant for. For instance, a packaging one. For vegetables that I'm working with, providing information on how much vegetables are put into a retail ready package annually. So just providing staff to support what they're doing. So that's kind of generally what we do. We can only handle out so many each year. So people have to get with us real early on to make sure that we have the time to be able to help them on that. But we do provide that. - As far as the MEDC goes, similar to what Jodi and Diana have just shared about their organizations, we don't specifically offer grant writing assistance. The MEDC is usually drafting grant programs that we may offer. If you are responding to a grant that the MEDC offers and need help with some of questions, you know, there's always MEDC staff available, you know, to help you maybe figure out how to respond appropriately or just provide additional clarification, things like that. And it's always just gonna be a designated contact person depending on what department the grant is associated with. I think that there are probably several small business resource organizations throughout the state that do specifically offer grant rating assistance, but I'm not 100% sure of who all does and doesn't. So I'd hate to say the wrong organization, but I'm sure there are some other businesses we'll do a little little bit of research on and see if we can figure that out. - Okay. We have a couple questions for Hannah and Karen from Drench says, hi Hannah, we love you. She's (indistinct). So, first question is, do you use a co-packer? And the second question is, Hannah, how many trade shows do you plan to do this year? - I'll do the trade show question first. We just finished a trade show with our distributor Carmella Foods. It's a selling trade show. So that's a really good trade show for us to attend because we leave there with purchase orders. If you're a small company with limited resources, spend your money on the trade shows where you're gonna actually sell. We have another one that we're going to in June and then we're gonna walk, we're walking the shows this year. That's a big thing, we're gonna walk the NRA show, we're gonna walk the sweet and snack show, probably gonna walk Pack Expo East. We don't sell it west so we're not gonna really go out west. But next year, like we definitely wanna hit up some shows that just does require a lot of capital guys, even just for the tickets. The tickets can be upwards of seven, $800 a piece just to attend. Don't even mention the booth fees. So a lot. The other question is, do you use a co-packer now? We do, yes. We started off in a church kitchen then we built out an amazing facility in Southfield with a walking cooler and floor drains and all these awesome things only to get ourselves into Meijer supercenters. And so dealing with a highly perishable item, we found a co-packer who is able to produce our recipes, our food safely for us. And that was awesome. So a point will come where you might have to go to a co-packer. I always said I would never do it. I had a five year lease but on my facility but less than two years in and we had to find a co-packer. - And one last question- I wanna piggy, can I- - Yeah, go ahead. - Can I just piggyback on what Hannah just said? She talked about the NRA show and the Sweet and Snack Show. Those are both two of our international development teams shows. And so if you're looking at those types of shows and you are a branded client, there is funding to help offset the cost of booth space and all that good stuff. So again, if you're thinking about some of those types of shows, get in touch and we'll get you in contact with our international marketing team. - Great, thank you. In reference to the regional pitch competitions, maybe Katy, do you need to live in that area in order to apply or just as long as you're a Michigan based company? - For the regionally based ones, you do need to live in the designated area, but we do have a number of them all around the state. So at some point we're probably gonna end up in your region. But because of the regional significance there in working with partners who are engaging, you know, their business networks, their participation, it is a requirement that you're in that designated territory. - Thank you. And Jodi or Katy, can you talk about specific grants or support for infrastructure development for agri-manufacturing products? Projects, not products, projects, agri-manufacturing projects. - So we will have, I don't know what what it, you know, so there's eligibility requirements of the grants for some of the grants based on geography and whether or not you're considered in, you know, to be in a rural community. However, there's a rule development grant program that will come out early fall infrastructure is definitely one of the eligible activities under that grant program. The ceiling on that grant program is a hundred thousand dollars with 30% match. But I'd love to talk to you more about it and see what makes sense. - And then we do not currently have any grant programs but are hoping within the next year or so to reactivate a previous program that offset the cost for different manufacturing equipment certifications, things like that. - So, oh, here's Tim from GS10K for Hannah. Hey Tim, from your first meeting with the product center counselor, how long was it until you got your product on the shelf, maybe when you were at the very beginning? - Oh, probably a couple of weeks, a couple of months I think. And I started with the stores like in my local area initially. And so while you know Natalie had said no at the moment, we did in the meantime get into the local stores like Market Fresh and Market Square, Holiday Market, Birmingham was our first door, and pretty much these smaller stores, it's a lot easier to get placed like the next day if they love your product. So it just, yeah, I would say, for a meeting with Becky, I needed about a month and a half to get my ducks in a row, sell sheets, shelf life stuff and that, and then I started going after the stores. But that was up to me cause I went fast, so, yeah. - Oh, and then we have another question for you, Hannah. How important in your journey was it to become women-owned, certified? - Very good question. Very important. If it's any reference to you, we were at the trade show last week as an example and a lady walked up and she's like, "I'm like try some fresh hummus." And she's like, "I don't like hummus." And I was like, okay, we're certified women-owned, maybe we have something else we can help you with. And she turns back around and is like, what else can you do? And so, yes, and that is also how we got into the sky lounges as well, was that woman-owned certification. It's a little bit of work, it's a lot of paperwork. I mean my lord, but it is definitely worth the time and effort to get it in. You have to renew it every year. But yes, do it a 100%. - Awesome. How long is your shelf like for your hummus, Hannah? - That's a little proprietary information. I won't say what we, but I will give it one advice, which is if your product has a 60 day shelf life, give it like a five, seven days less than what you should be getting just to account for people taking it home to eat. - Yeah. Great. What resources do exist for people are going to start a small restaurant and they're asking about in Battle Creek, maybe anywhere. - If somebody doesn't have a site selected yet, that's something that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation could definitely assist with. We have a great business development team with business development managers stationed throughout the state and designated territories. So, you know, I'd be happy to connect whoever the individual is to a business development manager who works closely with Battle Creek entrepreneurs with a variety of different resources. - Yeah, and I would say that, you know, supply chain connectivity, so if you're looking for something specific around the supply chain, depending on what you're serving at the restaurant, you know, growers, that's a place where our team can get involved. I would definitely get connected with Battle Creek Unlimited, you know, they are the local economic development organization there and they can help, you know, with all the sort of local planning, health commission for licensing, things like that. And then Kendra and Diane, you have a colleague that's specifically stationed in Battle Creek, don't you that maybe? - No, not anymore. - Yeah, okay. - Oh, sorry. - Sorry, yeah, things changed, yeah. Well we do have resources with the product center. So if you sign up, you know, for MSU product center counseling services, anywhere in the state, we'll assign somebody to assist you. So that is an option. But I encourage people to connect with resources, especially in their area. In Grand Rapids we have some specific restaurant consulting companies that supports restaurant developments in the area, like Chambers of Commerce and local, like our Hispanic Chamber has a lot of restaurant experience. So you reaching out to your entrepreneur support organizations in your city and finding out what resources might be available and then connecting with MEDC on their site selection. Or if you're doing some processing in your restaurant, maybe figuring out if you would be eligible for Department of Agriculture grant for some equipment for processing. So it's like piecing different pieces together, right, from a lot of different organizations. Somebody is a beekeeper from Flint and he's saying that he's having trouble finding trade shows and stores to connect with. He has product ready. Is there anyone I can connect with that could guide me in the right direction and should I have a barcode? How would you guys answer that? - Well, depending on the store, whether or not they have a scanning machine to price their product, if they do, then you'll definitely want a barcode. So I would advise you going to the Making and Michigan trade show to walk the conference, see if you can meet some buyers. Maybe you want some shirt representing your company, maybe you're already a vendor signed up. I don't know there, but that's a great way to meet a lot of buyers and becoming a client of one of ours to connect with some of the events that we have would be helpful. So when we are opening up for registration again in May, I would sign up to be a client and we can definitely give you way more than your $50 registration fee. So as far as PNBC goes, I'd say if you're not yet in our Connect space platform, I'd encourage you to create company profiles. You can start getting notified of all the different types of events that we've been discussing today where we look to make connections directly to buyers. So that's my words of advice there. - Yeah, and I would connect from our team's perspective, Terry Barker is your connection in Flint. And I also, you know, we just had a call out for honey producers, right? That somebody was specifically looking for honey producers. So being connected, like, you know, with your team and with, you know, your local resources really helps to get more information on maybe needs, you know, that local businesses have or when there's requests, again working with our craft beverage council, a lot of times they may have a need, right? And so you can sign up on their website to say that you have the capacity to provide honey for perhaps mead producers, et cetera. So there's so many options. I would say just, I would say get connected with all of our teams and get plugged in. - And we had Karen from Drench even put in the Q&A that she uses honey, so she's interested in hearing from you. So even connecting with other Michigan businesses that might use honey. So there's a reach out, she put her a email address in the chat. We do have one person that is registered already for the one-on-one meetings. They're asking about notification and about what might happen, when that might happen. - Yep, good question. So we did extend the deadline for the supplier application out a bit. And so at the end of the month we'll close that supplier application and then we'll share all of the responses with the buyers and ask them to make selections of which suppliers they'd like to meet with. So we are hoping that all of buyer confirmations will be to us by the end of the first week of April, so that at that time we could start notifying suppliers about whether or not they were selected. So you'll hear from us either way. Don't be discouraged if you're not selected for a meeting opportunity at this event, as you heard today, there's plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to still get connected to buyers. - Thank you. Well, we have time for a few more questions, so if you have a few more to keep typing in the chat. A couple of people asked questions about connecting with co-packers. Hannah, do you have advice about how you reached out and found and you know, just found the right co-packing relationship that worked for you? - Yeah, it again depends on your product. If you're an ice cream, you wanna find somebody who has freezer space. If you're hummus, you need somebody that has a refrigerator. If your chips, you need somebody that has a fryer. So it really depends on what your product is. I would say you can also reach out to your competitors because they might have capacity to bring you in and aren't threatened by you for whatever reason, or 'cause they're just good people. There's a lot of good people out there, everyone wants to load up their assets. So I would say start with your local competitors and see if they'll bring you in and to work with you. But again, it really depends on what the product is. I would say I found mine, I just happened to be somebody, a family friend that I grew up in knew and he brought us in when we, but you have to have the numbers, you have to have, I mean the more you are gonna produce, the better your pricing is going to be. So if you go to a co-packer with, you know, I need 24 cases of potato chips, you're gonna pay good money. And if you can deal with that for a little while as you build and grow your brand, there could be a good opportunity. But make sure that they put in the, you know, the price breaks. And my best advice is what are the price breaks are as you grow with them so that they're incentivized to keep working with you and you're incentivized to move more product. And my last piece of advice is make sure they have certifications. You wanna have somebody who's third party audited, who has insurance, who has a food safety auditor, especially if you're in a perishable, good on hand. Those are all really big things to think about with a co-packer. - And you did sign a non-disclosure agreement with your co-packer. Someone's asking in the chat about that. Yeah, that's pretty standard, isn't it? Yeah, yeah. - Yeah. I mean like, it's a small world, it's a small industry, people find out who you're working with it, you know, and everything like that. And you know, don't compete if your competitor brings you in. Always respect the competitor, this person and make sure that you're not, you know, going after their lines or anything like that as well. Keep everybody happy. - Sorry, I was gonna say, each of our organizations, MSU and our PBC team are all here also to help with sourcing needs of your own. So most of you are looking for, you know, customers, getting connected to buyers, things like that, which we're all here for. But you know, alternatively all of you probably have sourcing needs of your own, whether or not it's for a service like co-packing or for ingredients like honey, you know, at any time as far as PNBC is concerned, you're welcome to reach out to us and say, hey, can you help me find a local supplier that has this particular product or service that I'm looking for? And we're gonna do our best to find somebody for you. - Absolutely, and Hannah had some great points of what you need to do to prepare yourself. The product center also has a lot of information, a fact sheet on how to prepare yourself as well for working with the co-packer. - Lastly, about trade shows, this might be where we end up, what advice, I know Department of Agriculture has a whole program focused on trade shows helping people find the right trade shows for their goals and resources. You wanna give any closing advice about people struggling with setting up trade shows and what to look for and how to know which shows are right for them? - Yeah, and I think that truly walking a trade show like Hannah had talked about, right, is a really good way to find out whether or not you wanna actually, you know, spend the money for booth space at a trade show because it is expensive. The ability to go in under like a Michigan pavilion or under a trade association pavilion, I think is something that we do a lot with our Michigan companies that brings costs down, right? Instead of having like just your own space. And I guess I'm gonna kick it to Hannah too, just, you know, with any other insights, right, from her perspective on what, you know, what they look for in a trade show. - Like I said earlier, the selling, being able to sell the show, but also a trade show where there might be opportunities to connect with regions outside of your driving capacity. I mean, you can only drive so far and go so far. So going to a trade show could be also a good way to talk to the buyers from stores in Minnesota and Kentucky and in New York where it would be hard to go out there and reach out to every single store. The biggest thing, when you select the show that you're gonna go to and you actually go to the show, my biggest advice would be, and if you participate, take a paper and a pen and jot down as much notes as you possibly can because you have to follow up with everybody afterwards. - Hmm, great advice. Well, thanks everybody for participating today. This webinar was recorded, so everybody will get a link after we closed caption. So usually it takes three to four business days to get you that link. We'll also follow up with the links that were in the chat with the email addresses that were in there. Somebody was like, what is the email address for, and it's was Katy Till's email address. So if you could use your phone and grab a quick picture of this QR code. We'd love to have some feedback from you as participants on how this webinar assisted you or how we could improve webinars in the future. We also have a link, but I didn't get that into the chat, so just use your phone if you can and go to that QR code and give us a little bit of feedback. So last slide. Thanks so much to everybody for participating today or write at one o'clock. So I'll say thank you and enjoy the rest of the afternoon, everybody. Take care, thanks so much, Hannah. - Thank you. - Jodi, Diane, thanks for your time. - Thank you. - Thank you. - All right, I think we-