The HVADC Cultivator
FFFA Application Deadline Approaching
HVADC’s next Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) program is scheduled to blast-off November 2018, which means that applications must be received by September 15 in order to be considered. The FFFA is a six to eight month, intensive mentoring and training program for Hudson Valley farmers and food entrepreneurs preparing to grow their businesses and gain access to financing.
A limited number of FFFA participants will be accepted, so that the program can be custom-tailored to the individual needs of each. The curriculum involves expert instruction, one-on-one counseling and technical assistance, group interaction and industry networking events to help food entrepreneurs learn how to position their businesses in anticipation of speaking with investors and pitching to potential funders. FFFA applicants must be a farm, food, fiber or agriculture-dependent business having their home office, farm or production facility in the Hudson Valley, and sourcing the majority of their product ingredients from the region, as well as the majority of their labor force.
With a specific focus on funding, FFFA offers the opportunity for participants to connect with the growing network of funders that support local food systems through methods such as equity, loans, grants, crowdfunding, as well as HVADC’s Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Loan Fund. Training sessions will be conducted by HVADC, its industry partners, industry professionals, and institutional and retail stakeholders in the Hudson Valley food system.
In addition to HVADC instructors, Peers from the 2016 Accelerator will participate as mentors and counselors. Sylke Chesterfield, a business consultant and certified coach of Chesterfield Advantage, has been named the FFFA Project Manager. Brian Zweig, founder of Business Opportunities Management Counseling in Rensselear County will be leading discussions among topics like business planning, strategy for expansion and financial planning.
Jason Foscolo, owner of the Food Law Firm in Dutchess is one of the few attorneys in the country who specializes in Agriculture and Food Law. Foscolo will be reviewing the legal structures, contracts and other risk management strategies with participants.
Diane Greco, owner of Tactix Inc., a marketing consultancy, specializes in affordable marketing strategies for small to mid-size businesses; including advertising, direct response, digital media, branding, and entrepreneurship. “FFFA Peers enter the program at various stages of their business models and marketing plans –with a diverse range of products. As Advisors, we can help them hone in on the best ways to communicate with their target customers and to position their brand to potential funders,” she said.
Participants will work one-on-one with industry professionals to conduct an in-depth assessment of their sales, marketing, operations, financials and suitability for funding. FFFA Advisors will help participants develop or update a business plan and marketing strategies. Ongoing technical assistance will available to address the production, logistical and financial challenges that may need to be overcome as participants prepare their businesses to grow.
Peers from the inaugural group found the networking aspects of the program quite useful and this round will continue this valuable aspect of learning. Facilitated meetings with industry peers and past FFFA participants offer guidance and seasoned advice throughout the duration of the curriculum. Over the course of the program, applicants will be expected to attend approximately two networking events designed to connect them with access to sales opportunities and financing by meeting industry leaders, service providers, potential partners, and investors. These events will be facilitated by HVADC or their collaborative partners. Participants will work to develop a funding pitch aimed at securing financing for their business. Through counseling sessions, they will receive help developing a funding pitch and financial projections, as well as identifying what types of potential funding sources might be appropriate for their business model. The program will culminate in a facilitated pitch to industry leaders and potential funders in spring 2019.
Upon completion of the FFFA program, participants are expected to commit additional time to subsequent programs through peer-to-peer networking and mentoring to assist future Accelerator participants, and to further develop a community of food and agriculture entrepreneurs. FFFA is not one size fits all for every interested business. Accepted applicants are expected to dedicate a minimum of 10-15 hours per week to complete the curriculum and events, as well as devote resources, and energy to meet program requirements and responsibilities. Participants will be expected to commit additional time outside of classes and counseling to work on their business strategies and complete relevant tasks. Independent work is critical to the successful completion of this program.
Dylan Dembeck, Director of Operations in Orange county-based Minkus Farms, previously participated in the FFFA program. “I was lead to the program because it seemed to focus on areas that I thought would be helpful for our family business,” said Dembeck. “Minkus Family Farms was only in the third year of business and any and all relevant help would be useful. I worked on basic general business practices that were never really focused on. For example, we were a new fast growing company, but we never looked into a proper business plan. I used the business plan I developed to help focus on goals and I also used it to apply for grants.”
Dembeck added that being a family business involves “wearing many hats” and the program offered him various vantage points of those various roles required to run a family business. “I also focused on growing our business by developing a marketing plan and focus on being a ‘local’ option,” said Dembeck. “By focusing on the ‘local’ branded product and marketing ideas developed in the program has help open doors for our business. It helped us get into some very impactful retail partners, food service, and distributors.”
FFFA Peers will be selected by October 15, and the program is set to launch in November.
For more information on FFFA or to sign up, please visit https://www.hvadc.org/farm-food-funding-accelerator.
Photo Credit: Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC