Food Entrepreneurs Gain Business Insight at Lehigh University Workshop
Posted: March 30, 2012
Northampton County Farmland Preservation’s own Barbara Martucci presents a unique marketing idea for her group’s assigned product: a barbeque sauce.
Penn State Extension’s Food for Profit program helps “food dreamers” decide whether or not a business is right for them, and starts them on the right path toward making their dream a business. On March 15, Penn State Extension partnered with Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center to offer a one-day workshop for 41 food business entrepreneurs.
Art Skrzenski of Easton Salsa Company shared his story of going from engineer to an award-winning salsa maker and his transition from working part-time on his food business to full-time. From how to obtain the needed licenses and nutritional information to where to purchase packaging material and labels, Art offered advice and experience in building a food business. While he has bottled, shelf-stable salsas and sauces, the fresh salsa is the biggest seller. It is also the most expensive to market – refrigerated shelf space is costly. By building a relationship with the small-store owners who carry his line and taking back unsold product, he provides them a service they cannot refuse. While this system many not work for everyone, it has certainly help Art quit his day job and pursue Easton Salsa Company full time.
Food safety inspections are a critical aspect of opening a food business. A license must be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and inspections must be completed regularly. Judy Miller, Food Safety Supervisor for PDA, and Dave Hay, Food Sanitarian, spoke of the importance of contacting PDA before opening a food business. They are able to provide guidance as to where a food business can produce their goods (in a home kitchen or if it must be a commercial kitchen), how to obtain the needed license and food safety trainings, and how a kitchen must be set up to pass inspection. All of their guidance is a service to prevent food businesses from being shut down before the doors are even opened.
Mary Beth Zingone of Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center shared resources the center had available that could help entrepreneurs get their business started and help them be successful throughout their journey. Extension Educator Marcia Weber provided information about safe food handling methods and certification; Extension Educator Winifred McGee closed out the program for the day, talking about the need to link niche food products with customer values, the use of specific colors, nutrition and allergen information and UPCs on packages, and pricing products to cover your costs.
Food for Profit is made possible through Penn State Extension and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Food Science. Course resources are available on-line. Check their website for future Food for Profit and other food business workshops and resources.