President of Hollymead Capital Partners, Joe Bute, is entering into partnership with Denise DeSimone, founder and chairman of C-leveled, to launch a new venture called Food Innovation Group that would support firms in the food space. The venture group will assist small food producers connect with the food processing and growing areas in the region. It will also help them in identifying the goals, developing a business strategy, and marketing the food products.
Mr. Bute said that they are going to help everyone related to the food industry including farmers, distributors, retailers, commercial kitchens, and others. They will assist small food producers to scale up their operations, productivity, and revenues.
A few years ago, Hollymead had helped Republic Food Enterprise Center develop a business plan and convert the former 50,000 sq. ft. grocery distribution center into a food processing facility, creating additional jobs in the Fayette County Community.
C-leveled had also worked with a number of entrepreneurs in the past years in successfully setting up a food business. The company’s services include analyzing the market and helping the firms set the right price for the product.
Both Mr. Bute and Ms. DeSimone have been greatly inspired by the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen that deals with custom recipe products. They had decided to call their venture group Innovation Kitchens of Pittsburgh, but then decided to go for Food Innovation Group.
Rick Terrien, who founded the Innovation Kitchen LLC in Wisconsin, said that the small batch operations give flexibility to entrepreneurs to spend on marketing and sales of the product. It fulfills the need for the business where the co-packers set a minimum standard order that might be too much for a start up food firm.
The Innovation Kitchen, however, will not help in securing financing for the small firms. Food Innovation Group will start an independent investment company that would provide financial backing to promising food business companies.
The venture group will provide a one stop shop solution to small food producers. According to Mr. Bute, the group will serve as a virtual business accelerator to help new business startups successfully enter the food industry.
CEO of the Fayette County Community Action Corp., Jim Stark, said that his company will greatly benefit from this venture. Anything that helps small food producers to scale up their production will stimulate food production in the area.
The center is working to set up a hummus production for Greek Gourmet Marketplace. However, it was not able to secure state budget for the program that would cost about $100,000. The hummus is already sold in the Giant Eagle Market District stores but the equipment would make it easier in packaging the product in a way that gives it an extended shelf life. This would also help free up resources for small owners.
Mr. Stark says that this is the reason that the company would greatly benefit from the services of Food Innovation Group. The services will help make the firm become more profitable to take on large projects without needing government funding and support.