Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Food Business Accelerator to Launch at 1871

Good Food Business Accelerator to Launch at 1871 
Strategic partnerships with Whole Foods Market, UNFI, and SBA make the accelerator a national leader in advancing sustainable food businesses. “Accelerating Good Food” event to be held October 1 at 1871

CHICAGO (September 22, 2014) - The Good Food Business Accelerator (GFBA), a major new fellowship program for regional food and farm entrepreneurs, is being launched this month by FamilyFarmed.org. A non-profit organization, FamilyFarmed.org has been promoting local, sustainable, humane, and fair food for more than 15 years.

The GFBA is headquartered at 1871, Chicago’s center for digital technology and innovation, and will be its first tenant focused on encouraging broad-based food entrepreneurship. The GFBA also will be the nation’s first business accelerator focused on building supply chains of sustainable local food.

“The Good Food Business Accelerator aligns perfectly with 1871’s mission to foster economic and job growth by facilitating the efforts of creative entrepreneurs across every important market sector,” said Howard A. Tullman, CEO of 1871. “FamilyFarmed.org already has had a major impact in this industry and will open up important new avenues at 1871 for businesses in the thriving Good Food sector.”

Applications for the first class of Fellows are now being accepted. All manner of food-related businesses that can leverage technology in the food sector are eligible to compete for the fellowships including food artisans, consumer packaged goods companies, farmers, technology firms, food hubs, restaurants, retailers, and foodservice providers.

“The Good Food Business Accelerator gets businesses ready for prime time, giving them the skills to raise funding to launch or scale up," said Jim Slama, president of FamilyFarmed.org. "The GFBA has first-class partners that will support Fellows to be major players in a thriving Good Food Cluster."

Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest natural foods supermarket chain, and UNFI, the nation’s leading distributor of natural and organic food, are strategic partners on the GBFA project. Lead funding for the GFBA came from Food:Land:Opportunity – Localizing the Chicago Foodshed, an initiative of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust that seeks to strengthen the resiliency of the region by increasing the supply of local and sustainable food. In addition, the Accelerator recently earned a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition.

“Whole Foods Market is pleased to be a partner in the creation of the Good Food Business Accelerator,” says Michael Bashaw, Midwest president of Whole Foods Market. “It is an innovative way to support food and farm entrepreneurs to grow the supply of local and organic food.”

The Accelerator project will build upon the successes of FamilyFarmed.org and its Good Food Trade Show and Financing & Innovation Conference, held each March in Chicago. They are the oldest and most advanced regional Good Food industry gatherings in the U.S., and aim to build supply chains to meet the fast-growing demand for sustainable local food. Illinois alone is a $50 billion market for food, but currently 95 percent of that is grown and processed out of state — underscoring the growth potential of local Good Food businesses.

These events bring together more than 1,000 food producers, entrepreneurs, trade buyers, financiers, NGOs, investors and others engaged in expanding a robust Midwest Good Food cluster. Regional businesses secured more than $5 million in funding over the past two years through participation in the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. The gathering also includes the Good Food Festival, which last year featured seven chefs and authors recognized by the James Beard Foundation and more than 3,500 attendees.

Those accepted as Fellows will receive mentoring, strategic support, connections to customers, and access to capital to launch and expand profitable local and sustainable Good Food businesses.

The impressive lineup of nearly 100 mentors and advisers include leaders from Whole Foods Market, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, organic distributor Goodness Greeness, Eli’s Cheesecake, One Off Hospitality Group, 2X Consumer Products Growth Partners and many more.

The programs for the Good Food Business Accelerator Fellows will begin in early November and run for six months. Fellows will pitch their business plans at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference on Thursday, March 19 at the UIC Forum before a highly engaged audience of financiers and investors.

Speakers at last year’s conference included Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman, and Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb. Chicago is now home to the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group and the Angel Food Network, which have together more than 40 angel investors seeking to deploy capital in local food businesses.

The event Accelerating Good Food will introduce the Good Food Business Accelerator to businesses and the public and will be held the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 1871. Joining Slama as speakers will be Howard A. Tullman of 1871; Eli’s Cheesecake President Marc Schulman; John Hall, the founder of Chicago’s Goose Island brewing company and lead investor of FarmedHere, a large-scale, organic indoor farm in the Chicago suburb of Bedford Park; plus other successful food and farm entrepreneurs.

“The speakers’ lineup reflects the broad network of industry leaders that FamilyFarmed has developed, and also signals the quality of the instruction and mentorship that GFBA Fellows will receive,” Slama said. For more information about the Good Food Business Accelerator or the Oct. 1 Accelerating Good Food, please contact Bob Benenson of Family Farmed.org at bob@familyfarmed.org or 202-746-1378.

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