In the seven years of leading a food business incubator, Lee Langerock has seen plenty of businesses — and dreams — sour.
“We’ve had a front-row seat to the startup challenges and trials of food-based business,” said Langerock, the executive director of the Independence-based Ennovation Center. “The biggest pitfall we’ve witnessed is lack of practical, executable planning. There’s this great push at the start to get a product to market. The biggest question initially is, ‘OK, I’ve passed all the health department and regulatory requirements. Now what?’ … Once there is the first rush of business, then the question becomes, ‘How do I sustain that momentum and grow this business?’
Like the area’s broader entrepreneurial ecosystem, food startups in Kansas City benefit from a collaborative community that helps one another, Langerock said. But what the area lacks for food entrepreneurs is a comprehensive resource to help with the beginnings of a business strategy, she added.
The painful and expensive process of trial and error to launch a business is why Langerock and the Ennovation Center is preparing to offer a 12-week course to help food entrepreneurs develop their businesses.
Hosted at the center’s shared kitchen space, the course is designed to help food businesses with interactive group workshops, and one-to-one business and cooking coaching. It also will cover such topics as food regulation, how to enter a market, distribution, process production, working with retailers and managing perishable inventory.
“We’re excited to launch it in Kansas City and Independence,” she said. “We have some terrific food entrepreneurs in KC and a solid food manufacturing industry in this region. … There are also some really good free resources providing general basics of the business including general Ennovation Center services, however, there’s not that deep, accelerated dive into how to bean food entrepreneur.”
The course will welcome only 10 food businesses, Langerock said. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 31. The class will culminates with a buyers’ event for graduates to connect with the area marketplace and showcase their products to consumers and businesses.
The course is the Ennovation Center’s latest resource, adding to its years of impact in the area.
Since the Ennovation Center’s launch in 2010, more than 60 businesses have tapped the its resources. Those first have created about 85 jobs and about $2.1 million in payroll, according to the company’s website.
For more information, check out the Ennovation Center here.