Friday, December 31, 2010

Entrepreneurship as personal economic growth. Happy New Year 2011!

Economic development continued to be an uphill climb last year.

However, as tough as things were, it was a good year to work on business startups and especially the opportunity to work in artisan food processing.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen has been able to help new entrepreneurs develop and existing ones to grow smartly and sustainably. It’s a brand new experiment that could yield some valuable new business models.

The Innovation Kitchen was successfully launched in July of 2010 and is poised to make a great contribution to the discussion of regional food systems. If the cards fall right, we’ll help open our next level of food processing capacity in 2011, the individual quick frozen (IQF) vegetable processing facility in Highland, WI.

I think there is a significant opportunity to build great jobs and vibrant economic development from regional food opportunities. Not someday. Now. But we have to run the experiments and get sustainable business models wrapped around them.

A big part of our effort will be the need for many thoughtful new entrepreneurs.

These posts have tried to encourage people interested in entrepreneurship to gather some knowledge and take some action steps toward getting involved

Many of us coming out of the great recession are looking for better economic security and independence. We are also thinking about personal growth.

For many people, that search will lead through entrepreneurship. The essence of entrepreneurship is personal economic growth. That includes personal growth and business growth.

You get to judge and change how you define growth. There are no right answers except the answers that are truly your own.

It’s a great time to consider a startup or new ways to grow your enterprise.

Have I mentioned the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen? ….

So, on to 2011 my entrepreneur friends!

Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted here.

Happy New Year 2011!

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County (WI) Area Economic Development

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congratulations Xolve!

This is an update about the way-cool Wisconsin startup Xolve.

My friend John and the great team at Xolve just landed $2 million in funding. What's very exciting is that the new funding round included Wisconsin companies and investment groups where the new Xolve nanotechnology-wrangling tools may be deployed.

Congratulations John, Eric, Professor Hamilton and inventor Phil Streich. Our hats are off to your great Wisconsin startup!

Article about Xolve's $2M funding round, WI State Journal at Dec. 23, 2010.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The new year and your new career as a startup

The passing into a new year feels to me like someone opening a curtain. It's a little too bright, and the details out there are fuzzy and indistinct in the glow. But hope and chance are out there, and it feels like a good bet to reach out and grab some of it.

I believe doing your own startups can be a smart alternative to doing nothing. I think it’s wise to be working on ways to increase your personal and financial independence. Building your own small business enterprise can be a good way to do this.

In almost all cases it will take longer than you think. It will likely deliver less clear profit than you want. You will work harder than you supposed. And as you do it, you get faster, smarter, profitable, and more independent. The real message is to get started.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen offers people interested in food entrepreneurship a complete package for testing out their own small food enterprise. This is a model we hope to develop and reproduce in the coming year.

There are growing markets for regional and specialty foods, but without a growing, robust field of food entrepreneurs and artisan food startups, the market will never reach its potential.

The world of local foods needs startups. It needs innovators and creative business models.

The business and economic development opportunities available through local and regional foods are significant. New innovative, specialty food startups are integral to that discussion.

Helping them become sustainable is a worthy goal for all of us in 2011.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen provides a valuable platform for testing food innovations and the wonderful entrepreneurs who create them. I look forward to sharing this story.

Happy New Year!

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Photo from a visit to the Eliza Furnace, in Vitondale, Pennsylvania. Download a history of Eliza Furnace prepared by the Indiana County PA Parks Department. A business startup story worth knowing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Food entrepreneurship presentation at 2011 Wisconsin Local Foods Summit

Want to start next year off learning about becoming a food entrepreneur?

I've been offered several good opportunities in January to talk about food entrepreneurship and the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

The first of these is the Wisconsin Local Foods Summit in Elkhart Lake. The conference is January 13 and 14, 2011.

My presentation is on Thursday Jan. 13 at 10:15 AM. An experiment in local foods processing: The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, Mineral Point, WI.

Another good chance to share this idea will come on with the Midwest Value Added Conference, January 27 and 28, 2011 in Madison. Details to follow.

C'mon you aspiring food entrepreneurs. This is a chance for growers and their food friends to take some positive steps in the new year to build or grow an artisan food enterprise that matches your goals.

Merry Christmas 2010 to one and all!

Download 2011 Wisconsin Local Food Summit brochure. PDF format

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grants for farm entrepreneurs starting food businesses through the Innovation Kitchen

Good news from our Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) this week.

We were able to enroll the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen onto a list of approved consultants who are eligible to be paid for training and supporting Wisconsin farm entrepreneurs.

Eligible Applicants:

"Wisconsin food producers who are selling to the local food market sector are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to applicants selling at least 75 percent of their products to be consumed within 300 miles of the farm. Value-added products must include at least 50 percent Wisconsin-grown ingredients, of which at least 50 percent must be grown by the applicant."

Consulting services available from the Innovation Kitchen through this grant:
• Commercial recipe development, testing, and production services. Packaging and labeling services.
• Small food business counseling, startup and development services

If you grow food in Wisconsin you are eligible for an amazing opportunity to experiment in value added processing. You can create small, inexpensive batches of artisan recipes to sell under your own brand and label through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

This grant program, Producers First, is open to applications through the end of 2010. I'm not sure about the future of this specific program but hopefully this and others like it can continue to help our Wisconsin food entrepreneurs create jobs, grow businesses, and build a more sustainable farm and food economy.

The Producers First grant is a nice opportunity to get your new or emerging farm and food enterprise acquainted with the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and vice versa.

The grant will pay up to $3,000 per successful applicant, which largely covers recipe development and testing, as well as mentoring in artisan food business planning and execution.

The Hodan Center is sharing this amazing resource with Wisconsin and the world.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is a platform of knowledge, networks and valuable tools. What seems possible with this kind of platform is that these new and emerging food enterprises will become platforms themselves for creating jobs and economies that will be valuable and sustainable.

Julie Miller's article in Agri-View last week caught a quote about leveraging the physical platform this kitchen represents into many new business and community platforms for new and emerging food entrepreneurs:

“I want to start these new smaller businesses as sustainable work platforms,” says Terrien, referring to food entrepreneurs that begin at the Innovation Kitchen. “They feed families, communities, and a larger purpose. It’s these production platforms that are needed and no more so than in food.

Download information for applicants. PDF format.

Agri-View article: Innovation Kitchen stirs economy with local produce & ready workers

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

The Hodan Center

Iowa County WI economic development

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Innovation Kitchen stirs economy with local produce & ready workers"

One of our premier regional publications celebrating agriculture and rural life is Agri-View, "The Number one Ag Newspaper in Wisconsin"

Julie Martin with Agri-View did a great interview and story in their current issue, dated Dec. 9, 2010. What a great opening to the story...

"At the Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point, their cookbook is filled with signature recipes of family-crafted specialties.

Among them is their own recipe for success, calling for a heaping tablespoon of leadership, a few cups of community support, and a dash of entrepreneurial spirit.

And don’t forget the key ingredient: a few truck loads of Wisconsin grown produce."

This is a well written story that accurately highlights many of the opportunities available through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

I thought the article did a great job summarizing what's possible: "The Innovation Kitchen helps bridge the gap between locally-produced foods and the grocery store shelf, while also creating Wisconsin jobs. A hub for new entrepreneurs to grow their ideas, this commercial kitchen has a promising outlook."

I especially love the closing quote from Annette Pierce, our Food Service Director (and Master of the Universe):

“They keep telling me that we need to expand already,” says Pierce, with a smile to the center’s success. “We want to be sustainable and to keep our local farmers in business. We’re accomplishing that, and I think this is going to help everybody.”


Agri-View article: "Innovation Kitchen stirs economy with local produce & ready workers"

Photo credit: Julie Martin and Agri-View.

Writing your own patents / holiday greetings

People ask if they can write their own patents. The answer is that you can but you really have to put a lot of time and thought into the process. You will also most likely not be anywhere as thorough as a patent attorney would be.

The photo is of our a suction skimmer removing oil from a manufacturing fluid. This elegant, simple, powerful skimmer was our first patent.

We made the holiday post card from the photo to send as a 'thank you' greeting for our very earliest customers.

The first patent my previous business partner Dave and I received was filed on Jan. 6, 1999. The 12th anniversary of our first intellectual property application is less than a month away. Our most recent patent was awarded in 2008.

I wrote the text and did the drawings for our first patent. Then our wonderful patent attorney Dr. Jaen Andrews thankfully took charge.

I've written for all kinds of applications in my life but I can say without any hesitation that the abstract for our first patent (below) was the single most difficult paragraph I've ever worked on.

The rest of the writing - the claims and the description and the drawing labels had to be just as precise. There is a link to the full text at the end.

There is excellent advice out there for writing patent applications yourself. I believe the best advice comes through Nolo Press. However, people have to understand this intellectual property language is a complex code unto itself. Many terms have been frozen in their meanings for more than a century. There is important, legally relevant meaning to every single word and phrase. Accurate use of punctuation and drawing details are equally important with highly defined legal implications. The abstract language below sounds stilted. However, the legal requirements for defining your innovation as a new creation must work with centuries of law and language. It takes a lot of time to digest these rules and then write to those standards.

Civilians can do it, but thank goodness for patent attorneys!

Here is the abstract I wrote for our first patent:

Abstract. U.S. patent # 6,183,654. Filed Jan 6, 1999. Issued Feb. 6, 2001.

"A suction skimmer with a vertically adjustable inlet for removing preferred upper portions of a liquid from a fluid body under substantially laminar flow conditions and which is self leveling in response to level changes in a fluid body. Suction skimming device includes a skimming sleeve elongated body member having a fluid flow passageway disposed proximally contiguous and slidably movable along the vertical axis of an elongated body sleeve guide member having a fluid flow passageway. The fluid flow passageway of the skimming sleeve member is in open communication with the fluid flow passageway of the sleeve guide member. The suction skimmer is provided with a flotation assembly to buoyantly support the skimming sleeve member thereby positioning the inlet first end of the skimming sleeve member near the surface of a fluid body. The flotation assembly is removably engaged to the skimming sleeve member so that the distance between the skimming sleeve inlet and the surface of a fluid body can be preferentially adjusted and engaged over a large array of vertical distances."

Based on this abstract our claims were accepted on their first application. There were about 45 individual component items identified across 3 separate drawings (figures) submitted.

You can write this language and do the drawings yourself if you commit a lot of time to the process. It's a big learning curve. It takes a lot of time.

So, yes, you can write and draw your own patents.

Do you really want to? Do you have months of work-hours to devote to learning and executing in this environment?

Is it valuable to utilize the professional skills of patent attorneys? Absolutely!

Is it fun to use your business graphics and make holiday cards? Oh my gosh, priceless.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!

Happy 12 year anniversary of our first patent filing Dave!

Kudos to the great books from Nolo Press that guided the writing and the patent drawings that supported our first patent.

First photo is of our suction skimmer in action.

Second is a scan of a holiday card we sent to our customers and friends in the first years - our suction skimmer with the flotation system disguised as Christmas ornaments.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Next phone conference 12/15 - starting an artisan food enterprise through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

We'll be having a phone seminar next week for people interested in starting or growing an artisan food business through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. We limit these invitations to keep the conversation effective. There are 5 slots open for next Wednesday Dec. 15 at 2:30 PM CST.

Here are a couple of comments from the first seminar:

"Thank you for the very informative conference call yesterday. I came away from the call with the inspiration I needed to go to the next level. "

"It was really informative taking part in the phone seminar."

If you know someone who might be interested in having the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen be the 'food processing back office', please pass this note along.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is an opportunity to start or grow an artisan food enterprise in a state-inspected commercial kitchen, licensed to legally and lovingly prepare recipes for commercial sale. The Innovation Kitchen can also supply packaging, labeling and shipping support, all of this at a small enough scale that's affordable for most new and emerging food entrepreneurs.

You can live anywhere in the United States and start an artisan food business through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

For people thinking about this opportunity we have a couple of pricing paths into the process. One path will focus on commercial recipe testing and development. The other path will provide mentorship in business startup and development with a focus on artisan food enterprises, as well as the commercial recipe development services.

Our next phone seminar to discuss this food entrepreneurship opportunity is next Wednesday Dec. 15 at 2:30 PM CST. We have 5 slots open for this seminar.

We also have phone seminars scheduled for Wed. Jan 5, and Wed. Jan. 19

Join us or pass this note along to a friend who may want to become a food entrepreneur ! You can register using the link below.

Request an invitation to an upcoming phone seminar for people interested in having the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen prepare their recipes for commercial sale.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County (WI) Area Economic Development Corporation.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Boomer startups and encore careers

Long time Madison and Wisconsin contributor Nino Amato is currently the President and Executive Director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups.

There was a very good interview with Mr. Amato in the November 2010 Madison Magazine.

The discussion of an aging workforce can be looked at from many ways. Certainly there is a financial risk to individuals and to the system.

However, starting new careers and new businesses may be one way older Americans can meet this challenge.

As Mr. Amato closes out his interview, he cites a movement I'm seeing in many areas of my economic development work, especially in the field of artisan food entrepreneurship through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

“'Baby boomers don’t think they’ll be ‘old’ until they’re eighty,' Amato says. Citing survey research conducted by Merrill Lynch, Amato says 76 percent of baby boomers intend to continue earning income full- or part-time after they retire from their main line of work. Many plan to begin new professional careers or start their own businesses."

For anyone thinking about starting their own small food enterprise to help carry them into and through their older years, the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen may be a great option right in our own back yard.

Sounds like a plan...

Interview with Nino Amato in Madison Magazine.

Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups. Focusing on issues that impact older adults and people with disabilities.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. Mineral Point, Iowa County, Wisconsin.