Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tom Peters. 'The Little BIG Things', and local entrepreneurship

I've set down the new Tom Peters book all over my home and office, fully impailed with post-it notes.

'The Little BIG Things' is Mr. Peters' most recent contribution. It's a great series of short essays about organizing our business lives wisely in the 21st century. I've been a huge fan of Mr. Peters for many years, starting with the publication of the seminal, 'In Search of Excellence'.

The people that can hire Tom would be larger organizations not typically startups and emerging enterprises, but he writes in a way that will benefit any small business, especially those wanting to be sustainable through chaotic economic times.

Here's a piece from Mr. Peter' bio (linked below):

"'Excellence in Execution'... was, is, wherever, and forever will be Sustainable Competitive Advantage #1."

At the end I'm going to focus this advice on local foods entrepreneurship and our new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Check out these pieces from a guy I believe has changed capitalism in the last few decades:

"I sometimes, and not in jest, call 'it' the only thing I've learned 'for sure' in the last 44 years.

She or he who tries the most stuff… wins!

44 years.
One idea.
Not bad."

And this, in part, immediately followed:


'Experiment fearlessly' - Business Week on the #1 tactic of innovation stars.

'Ready. Fire. Aim.' - Ross Perot and others [Editor's note - Please note that 'Ready' is the first step in the sequence].

'Intelligent people can always come up with intelligent reasons to do nothing.' - NPR host Scott Simon

'Blame no one. Expect nothing. Do something.' Football coach Bill Parcells.

'You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.' - Wayne Gretzky."

This is real life business advice for any entrepreneur, startup or small business.

I especially think there are specific lessons for food entrepreneurs considering starting or growing a food business through our new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

We are setting it up as a platform capable of running many kinds of experiments in artisan and commercial-scale local foods processing.

If local foods are to be made available year round they need processing of all kinds. The Innovation Kitchen will be a platform for testing and growing food businesses to meet this demand.

All of Mr. Peters' books are valuable. This new one "The Little BIG Things" is a great addition.

So, fellow food entrepreneurs, please pay heed to Mr. Peter's one 'sure thing' idea when considering the possibilities of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen: "She or he who tries the most stuff… wins!"

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen opens July 11. Join us that day in Mineral Point.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen Grand Opening July 11. 11AM to 4 PM.

Tom Peters' site. It's been my greatest writing honor to be included on Mr. Peters' recommended blog roll for the past 4 years.

Tom Peters' bio.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

News from the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Oh my gosh. Kitchen equipment gets moved in next week. I get to move in the week after. I can't tell you how exciting this is.

Very few people know the full story of how hard the Hodan Center family and their supporters worked to open this facility. Centers for adults with disabilities are facing increasing challenges. Including Innovation Kitchens in the mix of their services to our communities allows us all better, easier access to food innovation and entrepreneurship.

Innovation Kitchens can help our disabled friends enjoy a meaningful work life. They can also enable small food enterprises as well as new food entrepreneurs to grow new businesses and create new jobs. Innovation Kitchens can create platforms for profitably processing and marketing local foods within regional foods systems. My kind of win-win-win…

So, Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen news from last week…

Processing Partner news: (Processing Partners prepare their own recipes utilizing the Innovation Kitchen on a rental basis).

Initial rental rates have been set.

Let me set the stage. This is a state-inspected commercial kitchen. All new equipment. (initial list linked below). Walk-in freezer and fridge. Shipping docks. Total facility cost is well over $1 million dollars.

Rental rates have been set at $15 per hour for available slots.

That's not a misprint. With the appropriate certifications, you can rent a million dollar+ commercial kitchen for $15 per hour. It made me glad I passed my certification courses. The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen/Hodan Center is making this facility available for rental to local food entrepreneurs during available time slots. If you would like to prepare your own recipes for commercial sale, this is a significant opportunity. (certification requirements linked below)

Preparation Partner news: (Preparation Partners utilize the Innovation Kitchen staff to process and package their recipes on a contract basis).

This is an opportunity to have your recipes prepared for commercial sale in artisan, commercial batches in a state-inspected kitchen by a community of food-certified workers who love their jobs.

For farmers, local food lovers, and food entrepreneurs, this is a significant opportunity to start or grow a virtual food business without having to invest in infrastructure or employees.

This virtual food business idea - using the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen as your Preparation Partner - will allow food innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world to launch and run exciting new food businesses from Iowa County, Wisconsin. The kitchen can prepare, package, store and ship your food innovation. What an opportunity.

There are limited slots for this. Send me an eMail if you are interested. (work email linked below).

Event Partner news: OK, this is why I started this post. Chef Joel and I had a great meeting this weekend. Everyone at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is excited about the local foods courses Chef Joel will be starting this summer. The courses will weave through the theme of 'Everyday Cooking with Wisconsin Local Foods'.

Chef Joel's local foods courses will be scheduled for one Saturday every month at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point. Details to follow. Here also, due to space limitations, enrollment will be limited to something like 15 to 20 local food lovers per class.

For these courses, Chef Joel will have an education/ demonstration presentation in the morning. The afternoon will be hands-on, focusing on local foods preparation (and celebration!).

All the details need to be worked out, but Chef Joel will be on hand to do demonstrations and answer questions about Wisconsin local foods preparation at the Innovation Kitchen Grand Opening. July 11 from 11 AM to 4 PM. If you're in the area come on over, meet Chef Joel and let us give you an introduction to our wonderful new Innovation Kitchen.

What's next…

The renaissance in local foods is opening up many new opportunities in food entrepreneurship. Everyone from farmers to those who love food can benefit by improved food processing infrastructure, wisely deployed at scales that makes economic sense.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is just one shining star in this movement. What fun it will be. There are so many experiments in food entrepreneurship that can be run, refined and replicated in a facility like this.

Are you a farmer that would like to experiment with your own value added product lines? Are you a food entrepreneur with a unique food innovation looking for a home?

Perhaps you should grow or start your own food business. Have I got a kitchen for you…

Save the date. The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen Grand Opening. July 11, 2010. 11 AM to 4 PM. Ribbon cutting at 3 PM

Food safety certifications at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Innovation Kitchen partial equipment list

Work email: rickt (at)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Entrepreneur Club - Opportunities in Food and Farming

Opportunities in Food and Farming - May 26

Have you ever wondered what kind of grants and loans might be available to help you explore opportunities in farming and food entrepreneurship?

Explore Opportunities in Food and Farming! Our next Entrepreneur club meeting will feature great speakers from USDA Rural Development and Farm Service agency.

Many grant and loan programs are available. Quit wondering and come out to the the next Entrepreneur Club to learn first hand!

Given the popularity of the local foods movement, there are many new opportunities emerging for farming, food and ag entrepreneurship.

What: Next Entrepreneur Club meeting: Opportunities in Food and Farming.

When: Wed. May 26, 2010 6 PM (Doors open 5:30 for networking)

Where: Stonefield Apartments 407 E. Madison, Dodgeville, WI

Join us for our next Entrepreneur Club meeting on May 26. There are many new opportunities emerging for food and farm entrepreneurs. Join us! Bring a friend!

Link to current meeting info

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ten Rules

I've been carrying a link around with me for a long while. This piece was written about web startups in 2005, but I knew immediately there was universal advice for all startups in it.

Now that the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is about to open, I've found a great place to utilize this wonderful writing. I would suggest that these ten rules have significant meaning for local foods entrepreneurs (and most other startups).

I'm reposting this writing (edited-down-to-my-favorite-parts) by Evan Williams.

These ten rules are from a blog post that was written in 2005.

The author is the current CEO of Twitter. He has a very interesting bio (linked below) and the whole Twitter-startup thing looks like its working out pretty well for him (Yikes!).

These (edited) ten rules are among the first things I'd tell people to think about as any kind of new entrepreneur, specifically new food entrepreneurs working in the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Every time I reread these I find myself nodding in agreement or laughing at myself for screwing a few up. All of these things need your attention.

"#1: Be Narrow. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do.

#2: Be Different. See #1—the specialist will almost always kick the generalist's ass.

#3: Be Casual. If you want to hit the really big home runs, create services that fit in with—and, indeed, help—people's everyday lives without requiring lots of commitment….

#4: Be Picky. Startups are often too eager to accept people or ideas into their world. You can almost always afford to wait if something doesn't feel just right, and false negatives are usually better than false positives. [Editor's note: Amen]

#5: Be User-Centric. Always focus on the user and all will be well.

#6: Be Self-Centered. Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world.

#7: Be Greedy. It's always good to have options. One of the best ways to do that is to have income.

#8: Be Tiny. … and the willingness of the big guys to shell out for small teams doing innovative stuff, the most likely end game if you're successful is acquisition.

#9: Be Agile. Ebay was going to sell auction software. Initial assumptions are almost always wrong. The same philosophy should be applied to building a company.

#10: Be Balanced. Nature requires balance for health—as do the bodies and minds who work for you and, without which, your company will be worthless.

#11 (bonus!): Be Wary. Overgeneralized lists of business "rules" are not to be taken too literally. There are exceptions to everything."

Thanks to Evan Williams for some really beautiful work (with apologies for my edits). There is serious startup knowledge in every one of these points. Pay attention.

I would also include that startups need a robust data capture and storage capacity, but that's for other posts.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen can become a platform for all kinds of food entrepreneurs to test their skills and grow smart, creative new food enterprises.

This list is a great place to start.

My thanks to Evan Williams for the great advice!

Original 2005 EVHEAD post: Ten Rules for Web Startups

EVHEAD A blog by Evan Williams

Evan Williams is an American entrepreneur who has co-founded several Internet companies, including Pyra Labs (creator of weblog-authoring software Blogger) and Twitter, of which he is currently CEO. He was born March 31, 1972 and raised on a farm in central Nebraska. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.

Wikipedia Evan Williams

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Past Silos and Smokestacks

In my first year officially working in economic development I got to work with some very interesting new people. One of the most valuable was Mark Drabenstott, a former vice-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and recently a Director of the RUPRI Center for Regional Competitiveness and Chairman of the Territory Development Policy Committee for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (OECD).

Mark has been facilitating a discussion about the emergence of a distinct economic region around the geography of the Upper Midwest. I found his ideas challenging, and I'm trying to help with an experiment to test the concept.

Mark just authored a great report, "Past Silos and Smokestacks: Transforming the Rural Economy in the Midwest", published by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

This is from Mark's executive summary: "The path to stronger economies in the rural Midwest is plain. Partnering regionally to compete globally is what's needed. This pathway will lead to scores of multicounty, self-defining regions across the Midwest. Only by combining their forces to create new businesses and good jobs at home will the towns and counties of their rural Midwest compete and thrive in a global economy where this sort of collaboration is fast becoming the norm."

"The Rural Midwest needs a bold new development strategy to transform its economy. The strategy developed in this report stands on four legs:

- Help rural communities and counties think regionally to compete globally.

- Focus public investments on transforming economic opportunities rooted in distinct economic strengths, not on smokestack chasing.

- Spur innovation and entrepreneurship, turning ideas and innovations into economic progress.

- Create a world-class entrepreneurial climate and innovation culture to grow a landscape of new companies, in the process of recycling the region's considerable wealth."

I find Mark's ideas compelling. My own response is to help take this idea into action steps that tie logical regional assets together while developing the infrastructure tools that can make these emerging regions globally relevant. Our Iowa County projects can make key contributions to the regional food systems emerging around us.

Building wise micro-region economic partnerships is vital. Wiring counties and micro-regions together to create globally relevant economic entities requires vision. I believe Mark's report , Past Silos and Smokestacks, provides that vision.

Here is a great summary from Mark: "Rural areas must partner regionally to compete globally. And they must give up the worn strategy of industrial recruiting in favor of innovative investments in their own distinct economic strengths. This bold new model for economic development is now gaining steam around the world…. The Midwest has always been good at growing things. And its hallmark values of resilience, determination and hard work will supply the essential fuel for a new century of prosperity. Let the work begin."

Many thanks to Mark Drabenstott for the contribution he made to the economic well being of Southwest Wisconsin and his work to help build a vision for connecting wisely to its regional partners.

As Mark says, let the work begin!

Download Past Silos and Smokestacks, 3.1 MB. 48 pgs. Published by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

RUPRI. Rural Policy Research Institute.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Cultural Economy

I was at the Grand Re-Opening of the Mineral Point Opera House Friday night.

I just can't say enough for the people and the organizations that created this wonderful community asset.

I've poached the title of this post, cultural economy, from Mineral Point Opera House materials handed out opening night…

"Nine decades after the original Opera House opened its doors, Mineral Point is still well-known and respected for its leadership in historic preservation and the cultural economy."

Yes it is. Mineral Point is a celebration of culture and a center of the cultural economy for South and Southwest Wisconsin.

Again from Opera House materials, how this community values culture as a value to their community: "And while national acts, professional performances, and world-class cinema are a remarkable addition to Mineral Point, for many of us, nothing will be more thrilling than watching our young people develop the confidence and pride that the arts encourage. The experience of performing on the restored stage of the Opera House will link our young people to Mineral Point's history in a way that will allow them to develop deep and meaningful roots in this unique and creative community."

Economic development designers say they want tools to help retain and attract their young people. Most struggle to enunciate just what it is that is valuable to those young people. The good folks behind the Mineral Point Opera House not only talk the talk they have walked the walk. This new facility will benefit young and old alike for generations to come. They put these goals right into their opening statements for this magical facility.

The Blue Canvas Orchestra from the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua sold out the house. What a resounding festival / sing along and community affirmation this night was.

Cultural economy is a term that deserves more merit, especially in the world of economic development. People move their money and their businesses to places that are attractive to them across a wide number of measures , specifically-and-especially including the 'cultural economy' of a location.

Very soon Mineral Point and Iowa County area people can begin utilizing the new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen to broaden the region's 'cultural economy' to include agriculture - local foods, regional food systems, and food entrepreneurs.

Building and nurturing the cultural economy is a vital strategy for implementing economic development generally. This beautifully refurbished facility will serve that effort for generations.

Many congratulations to the organizers of the effort that led to the Grand-Reopening of the Mineral Point Opera House!

Mineral Point Opera House. Come visit the cultural heart of Southwest Wisconsin.

Moon Songs & Moon Shadows. A tribute to the songs of Paul Simon and Cat Stevens

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, opening July 11, 2010

Photo courtesy of the Mineral Point Opera House.