Your Recipe for Happiness?

The pages of Edible Indy overflow with wonderful stories, photos of happy people and ads featuring foods that make people happy. Behind all that evidence of a vibrant local food scene are the challenges and rewards an entrepreneurial life in food can bring.
Food and food tech start-ups are being funded and acquired in record numbers. Farmers’ markets, adventurous DIY meal kits and convenient meal delivery services have become as popular as grocery shopping. Mainstream supermarkets and warehouse stores are clamoring for more organic foods.

This begs the question: Is a food business in your future?

For me, after decades of having food business ideas, and taking a stab at a snack food company, my answer was: No. But, what about supporting food entrepreneurs? This was a definite Yes. A year has passed since my book Good Food, Great Business came out, teaching people, as the subtitle says, How to Take Your Artisan Food Idea From Concept to Marketplace.

With the tips and tales included in my book as their roadmap, many readers have reported starting their ventures. And now is the perfect time to reflect on your life journey to see if food is your next fork in the road.


Every great business revolves around a big motivation. Some call this the “Why.” The Why is a passion-packed mission. Start by pondering which Whys speak to you.

The Business Whys List

Here are a few popular reasons to turn food into a business:
Innovate Packaging for Good Eating: Small changes in the way a food is packaged can create major markets, solving our desires for healthful, affordable, convenient meals and snacks.
Spark the Local Economy: Local food enterprises (ala Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor), converting old factories to incubator kitchens, agri-tourism and business-related services lead to a thriving local economy.
Create a Market for Small Farmers: From domestic produce and meats to fairly traded coffee and cacao beans, each food start-up that sources responsibly from small producers makes a positive difference.
Cater to Restricted Diets: Kosher, gluten- and nut-free foods are all growing categories thanks to consumer demand for more good food.
Re-create a Popular Food in a “Better For You” Way: Organic candy bars and grass-fed-beef jerky capitalizes on the desire for familiar tastes without less of a bad-food factor.
Save the World! We’re on the brink of bad food threatening our collective future. Billions of people need access to good food and clean water. Crickets have become a hot new food ingredient. What’s next?

The Personal Whys List

Your motivation may lean more toward personal fulfillment reasons, like these:
Connect with Community: Seeing customers love the food that you made is downright fulfilling. Selling food from mobile carts, at farmers’ markets and directly all provide this in-person connection.
Create a Market for Small Farmers: Each food start-up that sources responsibly from small producers makes a positive difference, supporting everything from local produce and meats to fairly traded coffee and cacao beans.
Share a Family Recipe: Food deeply reflects culture, which may be why “grandma’s recipe” is behind so many businesses.
Preserve a Tradition: A quest to create a market for a dying food tradition or re-vitalize an old holiday tradition infuses even more meaning into your work.
Make a Fulfilling Living: Sometimes a smart money-making idea can lead you to a food-related business, such as gift baskets, tasting boxes or meal delivery to seniors.
Because You’ve Always Wanted To: You’ve saved up a bunch of cash. You could buy a car, go back to school or travel the world for a year. Or you could tap into that nest egg to school yourself and develop a line of foods, drinks and/or services (which, incidentally, may take you on travels and lead you to buy an oh-so-practical car for deliveries).
And then, here are some final questions to ask yourself as you consider a food business:

Five Questions to Find a Future in Food (or Not)

What’s your Why? There are many easier ways to make money and make a difference than food. Your desire needs to burn like a summer grill.
Where does food and a business fit in with your life? Big success calls for more money, energy and time than you may imagine. Then again, limited, seasonal, small-batch foods may fulfill while keeping your investment in check.
Are you a crafter or a business maven? Love the art of making or the art of the deal? For many food categories you can contract manufacturers, called co-packers, to make food for you.
Is it you alone or with a team?
What’s your personal end goal? If “because everyone says I should” is your answer … the answer is probably no. If any of the points listed above fits with your motivation, well, you may have the recipe to begin planning a successful food business.

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