The HVADC Cultivator

HVADC Involvement: 
FEED Webinar Series

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Donna Williams, Client Advisor at Albany SBDC

Recently, HVADC leadership and a number of affiliated clients, partners and program graduates have been presenters in the University at Albany Small Business Development Center’s Food Entrepreneur Educational Development (FEED) webinar series. FEED is a dynamic program that helps provide guidance, resources and connections to small business owners looking to thrive in the regional food economy.  HVADC has collaborated with the Albany Small Business Development Center (SBDC) , Cornell AgriTech, and TasteNY to present this series of seminars.

Seminars for this session have been running since April 28, and will conclude June 16. They’re offered on Zoom, with corresponding business guidance available in-person at the SBDC Albany office or via digital platform. The program was developed as an eight-week soup-to-nuts series aimed at food entrepreneurs interested in starting or expanding a food product business. 


The FEED program was started by frequent HVADC collaborator, Donna Williams, Albany SBDC client advisor. Williams is the perfect program lead for FEED, with almost 30 years of experience working at start-ups and in the food industry. Prior to joining the SBDC, Donna Williams founded Field Goods (now Hudson Harvest) after she completed agriculture economic development consulting work for Greene County. Field Goods was an inevitable outgrowth of this work, her belief in the positive power of local food and small business, and her new venture experience in consumer health, e-commerce, and the natural food industry. 

Also speaking at the seminars are notables including Ric Orlando, founder of the former New World Home Cooking restaurant, and winner of the Food Network’s shows Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay; experts from Cornell AgriTech, Jim Hyland from Kitchen Table Consultants, HVADC’s own Executive Director Todd Erling, and many others. 

 

“FEED is an example of SBDC’s incredible commitment to strengthening the vibrancy of our regional food economy,” said Erling. “Seminars like these are vital tools that put small businesses on the path to long-term success. HVADC is honored to be able to partner with SBDC to help entrepreneurs survive and thrive in the complex Hudson Valley economic ecosystem.” 

Another presenter close to HVADC’s heart was Reuben Schwartz of Vital Eats of Saratoga Springs, who spoke at the first FEED seminar and shared with attendees his experience growing his condiment business, as well as the ways HVADC helped along the way. Vital Eats was a graduate of the third class of HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator program and has expanded its production significantly since.Schwartz has recently been in discussion with Williams and the SBDC about plans to expand Vital Eats’ production and even offer co-packing services to other food businesses. 

“Donna invited me to be a host and I was honored,” Schwartz said. “We are not veterans in the industry but we have learned a lot with the help of organizations like HVADC, and now it’s nice to give back and help other small businesses expand.”

Schwartz said that starting and running a new business can just bury an entrepreneur in work. He said there is real value to attending seminars like FEED to give business owners perspective and access to information and tools they won’t find on their own. 

“The networking and connections we make through FEED helps us as well,” Schwartz added. “It’s really an ideal situation.”
 
While half the classes have already been administered, recordings will be made available at a later date and three great seminars are still on the menu for June, including “Selling Your Product”, where participants will learn about using a distributor, working with food retailers, and using other sales channels, on June 2. 

On June 9, “Product Profitability and Operations Management” attendees will learn about how to set pricing, managing product profitability, and managing inventory, and on June 16 “Projecting Your Future” will provide guidance on how to develop financial forecasts and a strategic plan for creating and growing a business.

To learn more about the business technical assistance that HVADC can provide to food businesses, visit: https://www.hvadc.org/iww.