Advice From The SFA's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

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The Specialty Food Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are widely recognized for growing the industry, improving the SFA, inspiring companies, and nurturing individuals. In a Q&A originally run in our Summer Fancy Food Show Daily, we asked the 2019 honorees to share some advice with industry newcomers looking to go the distance. Here is what they had to say.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to makers just starting out in the industry?

Starting a new business is full of both known and unknown challenges. You can usually prepare for the known challenges like having enough capital to finance your business or finding an affordable location to house your new enterprise. Sometimes the bigger challenges of starting and growing a business are the unexpected dilemmas like an economic recession, inflation, new competition for the products that you are producing, or a new market trend that isn’t favorable to your products. How you respond to both will, in many situations, determine the success of your business venture. If you are planning to start a new business or you are already producing a product and are in the early stages of growth, I would suggest that you take the time to build a network of experienced, successful, honest, trustworthy people and seek their advice on the issues that you have questions about. All experienced and successful people have made at least a few bad decisions or choices in the course of building their business. These people may have also experienced an unforeseen business situation like a product recall due to labeling issues. Why not take advantage of their experience and wisdom and avoid making the same or similar mistakes in your business? You might be able to save yourself time and money and jump start your business by seeking the advice of an experienced mentor.
Benny Curl, Byrd Cookie Company

You are lucky. We are in an industry where you will never be hungry, even in tough times. You also have the privilege to be able to raise funds to start your company the crowd-funding way, much easier that the old-fashioned way of begging family and friends. But it can be a little intoxicating, so please do not forget the forest for the trees. You started this company because you are passionate and convinced that the world needs your product(s). Stay the course, and make sure, along the way, that everything you do is aligned with your original mission statement. You are not stubborn; you are just extremely focused. Have courage!
Ariane Daguin, D’artagnan

Starting out means you have given much time and thought to your product or services. It goes without saying that young or old, to be an entrepreneur for the first time requires financing and a solid game plan. In the food world I live in, I spent many days and hours looking and watching others who were reasonably successful at what I had in mind for myself, visiting every venue possible that markets products or services similar to my planned direction. Trade shows that feature subject matter related to my plans were very helpful. They were very important to give me focus and direction in my natural food business. I also met many possible and potential customers at the shows. All this busy activity helped me to guide and drive my business to success.
Bob Moore, Bob’s Red Mill
Posted by Denise Purcell on Jul 29, 2019 11:30 AM America/New_York