Getting Food Funded

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Entrepreneurship and Investor Fair in San Francisco

At the Presidio in San Francisco

On March 26, 350 food entrepreneurs and investors convened for an inspiring day of educational workshops and live investment presentations to catalyze the funding flow for food ventures. Since that energetic sold out event, many participants have been huddling in follow-up meetings to work out investments in a new generation of food makers and artisans.

Food Investor Fair: making connections

Kitchen Witch Bone Broth presents at Food Funded

Kitchen Witch Bone Broth presents at Food Funded

Two weeks later, several investments have already closed. For Slow Money, these are uncharacteristically fast moves. “It was a fabulous event and I have literally been emailing/calling/meeting with people non-stop since we left. I have over 20 hot leads and several meetings already set up.” (Alex Low, Founder of Artis Coffee)

This first Food Funded fair was created to catalyze the money flow into mostly local food venture, that represent new  sustainable alternatives to big food and ag corporations. At the Investor Fair, the participants learned about vinegar-based health drinks, farm-to-table services, and identity-preserved local grains. (roster of presenters)

Why isn’t more money flowing into small growing food enterprises? In the Slow Money community, we have observed that it is neither a supply, nor a demand problem. There are plenty investors who want to move their money into places more aligned with the future they want to live in. There are many talented entrepreneurs who are capable and ready for investments to build such a future. What’s missing are the vehicles and connectors that bring money supply and demand together. FOOD FUNDED was created to provide such a vehicle for connections.

Calicraft receives the Jury's Choice Award

Calicraft receives the Jury’s Choice Award

25 food enterprises presented their next endeavors for growing sustainable food businesses, most of them in their early growth stages. A far cry from Wall Street industry conferences, the small enterprises need funding in the hundred thousands. The amounts of funding needed ranged from $75,000 to $4million. Most of the attending investors were aligned in their values to place their bet on such innovators of sustainable food. Over 120 enterprises had applied to present at FOOD FUNDED. The organizers are very proud of the quality of the presenting food makers and movers. In the selection process, it was not easy to decide among all the well-qualified applications.

At the showcase, a jury of food industry innovators and seasoned investors provided live feedback to the presenters. They awarded their Jury’s Choice Award to Calicraft Brewery, with honorable mentions to Cherryvale Farms and eHarvestHub. Of course, the real award that matters are the relationships and investments committed, following the connection made at the event. Congratulations to all presenters!

Entrepreneur Lab: getting investment ready

Before the investors learned about sparkling honey mead and other food ventures, the entrepreneurs attended a rich program of workshop sessions, designed to help them get more investment ready. Most food entrepreneurs come from a mastery of their products, great food. However, many of them discover that they need to pay equal attention to the business topics surrounding their products, to make them ready for investments.

Learning about  wholesale distribution from Veritable Vegetable, Whole Foods Market, Buyers Best Friend

Learning about wholesale distribution from Veritable Vegetable, Whole Foods Market, Buyers Best Friend

The workshop covered topics like wholesale distribution, decisions about production places, factoring risks into business plans, and the legal issues and paperwork required for investments (full program). Often called Technical Assistance, the participants benefitted from the pragmatic inputs from seasoned practitioners. Many thanks to CUESA, Whole Foods Market, Working Solutions, Marin Organic, Fare Resources, Food-X, Buyer’s Best Friend, Venture Greenhouse, North Bay Angels, RSF Social Finace, Cutting Edge Capital, Barnraiser, Pi Investments, Union Bank, Moss Adams, DWT Corporate Law, Veritable Vegetable, Back to the Roots, La Cocina, Food Business School, Renaissance Entrepreneur Center! For a full list, see the program.

Collaboration: about that village that it takes …

FOOD FUNDED turned out to be the premier investment event at the West Coast for this year. Most participants were from Northern California, several joined from Southern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Lively Networking at the FOOD FUNDED reception

Lively Networking at the FOOD FUNDED reception

While this was the first FOOD FUNDED event, it builds on the traditional of prior gathering. Slow Money Northern California has held its Entrepreneur Showcases and educational workshops since 2011. Cynthia Maxey (now with Bee Partners VC) has organized four Investor and Beverage Investor Fairs in prior years. Mixing Bowl Hub has been convening events around topics of food, infrastructure and IT innovations. Working together, FOOD FUNDED has elevated our prior events.

The organizers thank the sponsors Davis Wright Tremaine, Union Bank, and Moss Adams for their continued support. The in-kind donations of Calicraft Brewery, Jittery Johns, Food Hackathon, Bluxome Street Winery, and Cherryvale Farms were very much appreciated!

Now, let’s see that we get food funded!