Creating Social Value Blog / Food

Brass Tacks Training for Food Entrepreneurs

At Food Sol, we ask constantly: what do food entrepreneurs need? Responses orbit the same basic pillars: access to highly-networked mentors and guides; relevant expertise and specialized service; and practical, actionable data. If you are a natural or specialty food or beverage entrepreneur, you can find all of that at Natural Products Consulting’s bi-annual sales, finance, and (occasionally) ops seminars.

Founder of Natural Products Consulting (“NPC”) Bob Burke is a Babson alumnus (M’87) and Senior Fellow at Food Sol. He’s been consulting for 18 years—following 8 of the early years of Stonyfield. Bob is one of our heroes because he combines seemingly boundless knowledge and network with a down-to-earth, boots-on-the-ground approach to consulting.

NPC’s two-day sales seminar, co-hosted by John Maggiore, wrapped yesterday at Nixon-Peabody in downtown Boston. Sold out this season, the program was attended by entrepreneurs representing a wide array of product categories and hailing from all across the country. “Two key elements set us apart,” Maggiore reflected. “One: we are primarily focused on the Natural and Specialty channels. And two: we go deep over two full days.”

Indeed, the sales seminar delivered highly technical, highly practical content. The interactive nature of the seminar design – whereby entrepreneur attendees and other experts in the room had free reign to chime in as needed – allowed for relevance across product categories, breaking down silos and taking insights from one vertical and offering them across the industry.

“John Raiche is a case-in-point,” Bob Burke added, referencing one of the day’s presenters. “Here is the VP of Marketing for UNFI clarifying what has been, for most food entrepreneurs, consultants and brokers, a black box: distributor pricing. No one really understood all the elements of freight factors, pickup allowances, and transfers to other distribution centers that ultimately resulted in a product’s published wholesale price. Today we were able to engage and understand it—right with the source.”

Real, relevant, and reasonable guidance that entrepreneurs can immediately question and engage with is surprisingly rare, despite the incredible influx of new companies and concepts flooding and further fragmenting a rapidly shifting food marketplace. Rather than classic case method, NPC’s content is all ready-to-use.