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ArtHouse incubator: How to grow your food business

Contributed By: The 411 News 

Annabelle Sanders baked 200 pies for customers over the Thanksgiving Holiday. That kind of heavy lifting was easy for this chef who wants to get out of the house and expand into store sales. “I have a sweet potato pie that has gone viral,” Sanders said.

Sanders and other food entrepreneurs like her were drawn to the workshop “Developing Retail Partnerships and Purpose-Driven Businesses” held Tuesday night at ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, Gary’s incubator for food-related businesses and a center for culture and art.

Geared towards helping the small business owner take the next step, the workshop was led by Maya Broussard, owner of Justice Of The Pies in Chicago. “Broussard’s the right person for our workshop,” said Arleen Peterson, community engagement consultant for ArtHouse. “She understands the restaurant business and knows product development.” Broussard’s pies are in Whole Foods, small cafes, and she runs a catering business.

“How to be successful without a store front,” “branding,” “imaging,” and “purpose” were Broussard’s focus. “If you don’t have a purpose, you won’t know your market or how to do marketing,” she said. For Sanders who wants to expand her customer base, Broussard said community events like fairs and farmers markets are ideal locations to get the word out and retailers visit them in their search for new products. “Start first with mini pies. Ask restaurants to carry them. Most restaurants don’t employ staff for their dessert selections.”

Trademarks, standards for ingredients and packaging, and UPC codes were also discussed.

Decadent Flavor’s owner Sonia Payton wants to grow the success of her catering business featuring carnival-themed desserts. She’s ready to expand beyond the county fairs and individual catering sales. “I’m looking for some direction, but I don’t want to open a bakery,” Payton said.

Broussard suggested Payton add corporate gifting to her line of prospective customers and host or co-host events where her desserts are featured. And she asked Payton to consider a name change, because the name helps to tell the story and purpose of the business. “Your name should be connected to carnival-themed desserts.”

Jermaine Miller operates Cool Runnings, a carryout in Michigan City and a food truck. He wants to expand the carryout into a Jamaican dine-in restaurant. Because of the expenses of opening a new restaurant, the kind of service should be among the major concerns, Broussard told him. “I suggest making it quick service instead of hiring a wait staff. And have a cleanup person for the tables.” She also gave him several restaurants where he could see the advantages of quick service.

Hearing it from someone who’s been there is the incubator’s way of helping those who don’t have the money to pay for that kind of advice. “We are offering free business tips that some pay thousands of dollars to gain,” Peterson said.


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