Monday, June 28, 2010

Rules of Thumb for the Innovation Kitchen

The following text is borrowed directly from a really wonderful book I've posted about before, 'Rules of Thumb' by Alan Webber, Cofounder of Fast Company Magazine.

I've talked about the only way to do effective startups is to love what you do because you'll be spending extraordinary, I-can't-believe this-is-taking-so-long time together.

Alan Webber's book 'Rules of Thumb' says it better.

For the emerging group of food entrepreneurs we have coalescing around the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, I'd like you to read this carefully and please take it to heart.

In fact, all entrepreneurs need to adopt this attitude to succeed.

I think the Innovation Kitchen has the potential to create a new, widely reproducible model for doing economic development.

What the Innovation Kitchen now needs are committed, inspired food entrepreneurs steeped in the wisdom of their craft, and in love with the pursuit of continuously getting better.

Fast Company magazine under Mr. Webber was one hell of an inspiration. I hope his words inspire you to start now, start smart but just start.

Following a description of false media images of fast track gurus-of-the-moment, Mr Webber offers the following, which I highly endorse.

Rule #44: When it comes to business, it helps if you actually know something about something.

"I have a slightly different model in mind.

It doesn't matter how old you are.

Start with something you feel passionate about. Don't think about getting rich. Think about something that you are driven to do. Something you would do even if it never made a dime.

Learn everything you can about your passion.

Read everything you can get your hands on. Find someone who knows more than you do and glue yourself to them. Start a collection that displays your passion. Surround yourself with artifacts, history, examples, everything you can find about the thing you want to master.

Keep going until you know more than anyone about the one thing you care more about than anyone."

Many of our best Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen entrepreneurs are on this path. It's an honor to walk with them.

Are you a family farm looking to create value added products? Are you a chef with a great idea for a year-round food line? Are you a food entrepreneur?

Join us on our walk. The Innovation Kitchen is open for business.

Alan Webber's Rules of Thumb

The Grand Opening of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is July 11th in Mineral Point, WI.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen web site

The Innovation Kitchen is coming to life. Checklists are being double-checked. Final connections are being made. It's easy to close your eyes and imagine all the good that can come from a facility like this.

Our friends at the Hodan Center made a beautiful office at the Innovation Kitchen available to our Economic Development Corp. I moved in last week. Computers are wired in. The stuff of everyday workflow is transferred and available. Our EDC logo is in the window. Phones are ringing. We're open for business as the Innovation Kitchen gets set for its Grand Opening on July 11.

Our goal is to put business resources in play at the Innovation Kitchen site to help grow existing food businesses, and enable new food entrepreneurs to launch innovative new food enterprises.

This week's news - The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen has it's first stand-alone web site. We had been organizing it on the EDC web site until now. We just organized the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen at its own web address this weekend.

This is just the beginning of course. Much more to wire in as time goes on.

I was able to update the facilities and equipment list this morning with Annette and Tom's help. If you are an existing food business looking to grow, or an aspiring food entrepreneur, check out the equipment list that's available beginning this summer in our state-certified kitchen.

Iowa County, Wisconsin. Come grow with us.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen new web site.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

97% of farmers agreeing on anything...

We wrapped up a grant-funded worker training program in South and Southwest Wisconsin called the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) program from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Wisconsin, the WIRED region includes Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Marquette, Richland, Rock, and Sauk Counties.

For our piece of it, we (Iowa County/SW CAP) were fortunate to receive a grant for training area farmers about growing vegetables at a commercial scale meant to serve institutional users. We were also able to emphasize the possibilities of local foods processing in our new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

First, special thanks to new ICAEDC Board member Dr. Lorin Toepper from the Iowa County Town of Highland and Madison College for helping organize this grant. All of the planning and execution was done masterfully by Beth R. The good folks at SW CAP made it all possible by acting as the fiscal agent and organizer. Links below.

This is how the final WIRED newsletter described our project:

"Using WIRED funds, Southwest Community Action Program created an Agriculture & Agribusiness Peer Network to link member farmers with economic development experts, education providers, entrepreneurs and businesses. Participants gained valuable knowledge in areas of planning, budgeting, and safe growing, as well as handling and harvesting techniques for vegetable growers.


48 certificates awarded to participants

5 training sessions held with 97% of attendees rating the sessions “highly satisfactory."

My goal in all this is to help create valuable new platforms for doing entrepreneurship and innovation. We can't make jobs in rural economies without the infrastructure to support innovators and entrepreneurs. Iowa County is at the front edge of a movement to create new opportunities for job creation in agriculture and local foods.

Having worked in rural economic development for some time now, getting 97% of farmers to agree on anything is an accomplishment, let alone a 'highly satisfactory' rating for the presentations our group organized. I am thrilled with the outcome, and the possibilities for what comes next.

The WIRED grant supported our work building new peer-to-peer networks in agriculture. I'm watching parts of these new networks unfold in valuable, unanticipated ways.

Almost like it was planned. Thanks to WIRED. I enjoyed helping and learning from all the many great contributors to this project.

Now let's keep that work going!

Southwest Community Action Program (SW CAP)

ICAEDC, Iowa County Area Economic Development Corp.