Friday, February 18, 2011

Reporting delicious economic success!

As we ramp up the Innovation Kitchen I'm reporting here on different facets of the project. The last post was about our emerging regional network.

This one is about a delicious success story from within the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

The Innovation Kitchen is owned by the Hodan Center in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It is is a shared-use food preparation and processing facility.

I've been describing this effort as a series of experiments. The idea is to learn from everything and get better every day.

Some experiments just plain work. A great example of this is Matt D'Amour and his Inside Out Wellness food line. Matt's recipes for organic, gluten free flax crackers and granola are wonderful.

Matt had not been a food entrepreneur but teaches the value of wellness. He knew that a food line designed for people with specific health or wellness goals would be a real contribution.

Matt came in under our 'artisan food career' program. Initially Matt came into the Innovation Kitchen and prepared his own recipes. At the same time, Matt was able to engage the professional staff in ways they could all learn the process together. Annette and her team utilized these training sessions to help Matt transfer recipe preparation to the in-house professionals.

Matt was then able to turn his attention to marketing and sales.

Ta da!

Matt's line was initially welcomed by our Metcalfe's Market at Hilldale, in Madison.

The Inside Out Wellness line has now also been brought into our Willy Street Co-ops (East and West), the local Whole Foods, and the Regent Street Market among others. Congratulations and good on ya, Matt!

Here is what makes my glass half full about all this.

Matt was able to start a new food enterprise using our shared kitchen platform at the Innovation Kitchen. He was able to utilize the professional staff to quickly transition from recipe development to commercial production.

Importantly - in a survival of the fittest way - Matt did his homework and he made cold calls. He did the heavy lifting of learning what was needed and then he went out and found customers for his wonderful food products.

Was this easy? Of course not. Matt was one of the first new food entrepreneurs to come into the Innovation Kitchen and he helped us learn and grow this part of the enterprise. What impresses me most is that Matt paid the 'patience tax', learned what was needed to launch this kind of enterprise, and then used his time carefully to develop his recipes and then transfer their preparation to the professionals inside the Innovation Kitchen.

The Innovation Kitchen team also then packages and labels Matt's great line of foods for his new customers.

Along the way, Matt has helped create much-needed jobs in Southwest Wisconsin with his success.

Matt is a great example of what a person can do - given some gumption and the willingness to pay the 'patience tax' - with a food preparation and processing platform like the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. Our new FACT Alliance network partners will help us share this adventure with increasingly more people.

These kinds of experiments in food processing and distribution can make all kinds of people and all kinds of economic development goals healthier.

Best part? My office is at the Innovation Kitchen and I get to eat the experiments.

Congratulations, Matt, and all the great food partners working through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen!

My favorite part of Matt's early success story is the short phrase he puts on every label. It's a little bit of truth with a big, wonderful story behind it:

“Handmade with Love"

Matt's Inside Out Wellness site

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Hodan Center

Metcalfe's Market

Whole Foods, Madison, WI

Iowa County Area Economic Development, Come Grow With Us!

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