Sunday, January 30, 2011

Upcoming presentation at FamilyFarmed Expo, March 17: 'Building Urban Social Enterprises.'

I am honored to be joining a panel presentation at the next FamilyFarmed Expo in Chicago on March 17.

I'll be making a presentation under the heading, 'Building Urban Social Enterprises'.

My focus will be on exploring new urban/rural partnerships built around small scale, collaborative food processing networks.

The FamilyFarmed Expo is called 'The Midwest's Premier Good Food Event'. I'm grateful for the invitation and look forward to discussing our emerging 3-facility food processing and distribution alliance in South and Southwest Wisconsin.

Our panel is on Thursday, March 17 which "..features our world-class 'Financing Farm to Fork' conference supporting the local food movement by encouraging investment in farm and food production, processing, and distribution businesses."

"Confirmed speakers include Gary Hirshberg, Founder and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Will Allen, Farmer and CEO of Growing Power, Michael Bashaw, Midwest President Whole Foods Market, Open Table Founder Chuck Templeton, Financier Andy Whitman, University of Chicago's Linda Darragh, President Jim Slama, Fresh Taste Director Karen Lehman, and many more."

The FamilyFarmed Expo is Co-sponsored by the Chicago Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Please join us if you can. Links below.

Thanks for the invitation to present at this year's FamilyFarmed Expo.

Looks like a great opportunity to learn new stories and tell a few.

FamilyFarmed Expo home page.

Financing Farm To Fork Conference, Thursday March 17 at the FamilyFarmed Expo.

Chicago Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago Alumni Association was a 20-plus year, much beloved customer (and friend!) of our first business, Banner Graphics. Through that time the alumni offices were in the Robie House, a beautiful, landmark Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, now part of the campus.

Discover Wisconsin television featuring the Innovation Kitchen. April 23, 2011.

Our great Discover Wisconsin television program is always fun and informative to watch.

It's always a cool mix of learning and love-of-place, focusing on the best of Wisconsin's many opportunities.

The good folks at Discover Wisconsin were at the Innovation Kitchen filming recently and did a long interview with our Food Processing Director (and Master of the Universe) Annette Pierce and got some good video of the food processing operations going on that day.

I'm sure they will do a great job with the story. We have been told this Innovation Kitchen video will air on Discover Wisconsin on April 23rd across the upper Midwest, including stations in Chicago and Minneapolis and throughout Wisconsin.

This should be great. Thanks to all involved!

Discover Wisconsin

Television and Radio markets hosting Discover Wisconsin, including dates and time this episode will be shown. Choose 'TV Station Guide' on the right to search all the different outlets.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County Area Economic Development. Come Grow With Us

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Inside the Minds of Great Entrepreneurs

When I had the good fortune to be teaching entrepreneurship through Waukesha County Technical College and its great Small Business Center, I thought one of the significant missing pieces of that subject was the simple act of giving people permission to try, to act. Much of my curriculum was built around establishing ways people could give themselves that permission.

The cover story of the new Inc. Magazine for February 2011, is “Inside the Minds of Great Entrepreneurs”. I thought there was some excellent advice for taking action steps in the largely unknown space of innovation and business development.

If you’re on the sidelines thinking about starting a new enterprise it can be daunting to consider all the ‘rules’ that seem to be required to take the entrepreneurship step.

A new study looking for what distinguishes great entrepreneurs provides some highly valuable advice – and especially, permission - to think big and act fast.

Dr. Saras Sarasvathy at the Darden School of Business, at University of Virginia compared highly successful entrepreneurs to professional managers at major global corporations.

I recommend the article and the study, both linked below.

There are some great quotes to consider if you think you need to have everything locked-down and well known before acting (emphasis added by me):

“Somebody once told me the only thing you need is a customer. Instead of asking all the questions, I’d try and make some sales. I’d learn a lot, you know: which people, what were the obstacles, what were the questions, which prices work better. Even before I started production. So my market research would actually be hands-on selling.

“…pick your partners and package yourself early on before you have to put a lot of capital out. Chief among those influential partners are first customers. The entrepreneurs anticipated customer help on product design, sales, and identifying suppliers. Some even saw their first customer as their best investor.

And my favorite: “Entrepreneurs fret less about competitors, Sarasvathy explains, because they see themselves not in the thick of a market but on the fringe of one, or as creating a new market entirely. ‘They are like farmers planting a seed and nurturing it’, she says.”

If you think you need permission to take some actions steps, think again. The entrepreneurs Dr. Sarasvathy interviewed all had at least 15 years of entrepreneurial experience, have started multiple companies – both successes and failures – and have taken at least one company public. All were running companies they had founded and all had current revenues between $200 million and $6.5 billion across multiple industries.

“Sarasvathy concluded that master entrepreneurs rely on what she calls effectual reasoning. Brilliant improvisers, the entrepreneurs don’t start out with concrete goals. Instead they constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies. “

Amen. Seems like a good place to end, using text from the masthead of this Sustainable Work site: This site is about creating sustainable startups and growing emerging enterprises. It's about developing successful new products and innovating existing ones. Sustainable work means creating valuable solutions that fix real problems. Sustainable work means creating business processes that make you, your enterprise, and the world a better place. You can do it. Welcome.

How Great Entrepreneurs Think, Inc. Magazine. February, 2011. Written by Leigh Buchanan,

Dr. Sarasvathy’s full case study

Dr. Saras Sarasvathy at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.

Waukesha County Technical College, WCTC and their great Small Business Center

Thanks women entrepreneur friends from the Heart of the Farm

What an interesting couple of presentations this week. I learned so much.

On Thursday, I made many new friends at the Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference in Madison. I got the chance to make a presentation about making good food entrepreneurship easier utilizing our Innovation Kitchen model.

Lots of people are interested in the idea of local and regional food processing as a way of getting good food to a wider demographic. I think our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen made a good impression as a worthy experiment.

Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm was a great keynote. I thank the organizers for the invitation to present at this important, dynamic venue. Oh my goodness, a vast blessing of delicious local foods for lunch and dinner with old and new friends!

On Friday, the entrepreneurship energy at the Heart of the Farm Conference was inspiring. This was a regional gathering of Wisconsin women in agriculture. They packed our wonderful new Iowa County conference venue.

About a third of the group was able to visit the Innovation Kitchen after the conference.

They stayed more than 2 hours and we had a wonderful discussion. Lori, my friend and our local Farm Service Agency partner in the Dodgeville (WI) office, reminded me that every one of those women entrepreneurs had work to do, or cows to milk, but chose to invest their time learning more about this entrepreneurship and business development opportunity.

The questions were inspired, pointed, direct, and wonderful. I could not be more grateful.

Forward good, local foods everywhere!

Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin's family farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley they describe this way: Polyface, Inc. is a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

USDA's Farm Service Agency. whose societal vision they describe this way: A market-oriented, economically and environmentally sound American agriculture delivering an abundant, safe, and affordable food and fiber supply while sustaining quality agricultural communities.

Iowa County Area Economic Development. Come Grow With Us

Our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Monday, January 24, 2011

Join us. Heart of the Farm. Women in agriculture. January 28. Iowa County, WI

I'm looking forward to a presentation this Friday with our regional 'Heart of the Farm', women in agriculture conference.

I'm very grateful for the invitation and look forward to meeting new entrepreneurs and making new friends. We'll be focusing on opportunities for growing their farm enterprises in the Iowa County area, and beyond.

I've said it many times. This is the Renaissance age of entrepreneurship and it's just beginning. The opportunities in food and agriculture play a leading role.

This should be fun. Hope to see you there!

You can learn more by calling the UW Extension office for Iowa County, 608 930 9850. A really great resource!

Heart of the Farm program, UW Extension.

Iowa County Area Economic Development. Come Grow With Us

Photo courtesy of UW Extension

Friday, January 21, 2011

Join us at the 2011 Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference, Madison Jan. 27

The 2011 Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference will be held in Madison next week.

I'll be making a presentation on Thursday, Jan 27 titled: "How to Utilize the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen: Start & Grow a Virtual Food Business."

Here is the full description of this presentation: "The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point, WI is a unique food processing facility, capable of providing outsourced services for all phases of food processing and logistics. Artisan food entrepreneurs can utilize the Innovation Kitchen to provide most steps of the processing, from ingredient purchase, food preparation, processing, packaging, labeling, storage and shipping."

I'm going to build this from the new presentation I did with the Wisconsin Local Food Summit recently, and add what I've learned since.

The emphasis of this approach is that simply providing space and equipment in incubator kitchens is not the end of the story. There is a much bigger opportunity available to develop and grow the market for local foods by providing professional food processing and business services at the local and regional levels.

There are certainly many opportunities available for people to process their own food products themselves in incubator kitchens. I encourage it, and we have some great new processing partners working in that capacity in the Innovation Kitchen.

However if we want to make a significant impact on the process of re-localizing big food sheds, I believe we need to focus on getting appropriate scale food processing and business services in place if we're going to make good, healthy, local foods available year round at affordable prices to the widest number of people.

I also believe we can learn to replicate this kind of platform over and over, not just in rural regions but also to support and celebrate the pioneering work being done in urban agriculture.

It will take many small local and regional plants working together to do this. This year we're organizing our first network of collaborating facilities. The initial network will start with three partners. Two artisan commercial food processing kitchens and a beautiful food packaging, cold storage and distribution facility.

Our first collaborative network of food processing facilities is underway!

All three of these facilities support people with disabilities. This artisan food processing network is at the heart of a high quality food-growing region in the center of 35 million people, all within a half day's drive.

The real fun will come as we start to grow these networks out to knit urban and rural communities together through good, healthy food and high quality, local job creation.

Yum. My kinda story. Sign me up.

Download the conference brochure and full agenda from the River Country RCD site.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Our home state global heroes of urban agriculture, Growing Power.

Iowa County Wisconsin economic development. Come grow with us

Friday, January 14, 2011

“Our goal is to re-localize the food system in Chicago”

The Capitol Region Business Journal just published a very nice piece about the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen by James Mills.

I'd like to highlight a couple specific quotes from the article. James has posted the full article at his web site, linked below.

“Our goal is to re-localize the food system in Chicago,” said Karen Lehman of Fresh Taste, a local food advocacy group that recently visited the Innovation Kitchen from Illinois. “In a city of 8 million people we’re interested in seeing more facilities like this in the food shed. They help to build more resilient communities, that promote the health of their citizens, create jobs and establish new businesses.”

And of course, with my usual subtlety: “The Innovation Kitchen is a machine to make new businesses, said Rick Terrien.”

James Mills did a wonderful job rounding up many good Innovation Kitchen stories into a single piece. Thank you for a very thoughtful presentation James.

Innovation Kitchen provides jobs, skills, markets and much more, at James Mills' site, the Joy Trip Project. Full text of the article originally published in the Capitol Region Business Journal, January, 2011.

Fresh Taste, Local food and agriculture resources for the Greater Chicago Foodshed

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County Area Economic Development

Iowa's Local Food Initiative released

Great day at the Wisconsin Local Foods Summit in Elkhart Lake this week. Our presentation was packed. Innovation Kitchen Food Service Director (and Master of the Universe) Annette was even there to check on what I'm saying in public. Talk about pressure...

I met some great new friends and connected with colleagues I haven't seen in a while.

My favorite part was to catch up with my friend and our keynote speaker Rich Pirog, leader of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Institute's Marketing and Food System Initiative, in beautiful Ames, Iowa.

Rich and his team just released their Iowa Local Farm and Food Plan, based on a thorough public participation process. This is a great proposal. Those interested in regional food systems should know and support this kind of work.

I salute Rich and his multiple Iowa food networks for their inspiring work.

Forward local foods everywhere!

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's web site for their Iowa Local Farm and Food Plan

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece on the 2011 Wisconsin Local Food Summit

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Enabling innovation and entrepreneurship - getting more parts on the table

There was a great essay in a recent weekend Wall Street Journal called "The Genius of the Tinkerer", by Steven Johnson, (Sept. 25, 2010).

Mr Johnson writes that the secret to innovation is combining odds and ends.

That would make a great phrase to include in any definition of sustainable entrepreneurship.

Combining odds and ends is often easiest to do with what's close by, or as this WSJ piece closes "getting more parts on the table."

There are great opportunities in every industry to reconfigure and get more smart new 'parts on the table' as we emerge into a rebuilding world economy. It's not just an opportunity. It's necessary for growth.

Entrepreneurship is based on action, not endless hand-wringing.

Among the ways we're doing it in Iowa County (WI) now is with experiments in food entrepreneurship of all kinds. The more substantive ideas we can help nurture, fledge, and develop, the more new parts on the table we can contribute, the more useful our work becomes.

Within that mix, our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen has the potential to be a valuable new tool for creating jobs and growing economies in all kinds of geographic regions.

But any experiment is best developed and deployed in context. With other parts.

More parts like the wonderful Hodan Center that created the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and makes these experiments possible. We have a wonderful group of peer institutions in our region. Many of us are looking for ways to work together. More parts. More value. Put me in coach.

I believe knitting together nearby institutions into a regional food hub makes great sense and has the most likely chance of success.

The WSJ article quotes scientist Stuart Kauffman discussing his idea of "the adjacent possible." What comes next arises from what we do with what we have.

I like the sound of that. Focusing on the ‘adjacent possible’ with like-minded peers has always been effective in my work life. Working with friends and organizations within the sphere of what is sensible and ‘adjacent’ will allow more combinations creating more and better parts on the table for communities to grow and prosper.

This is not a thought experiment. It's a call to action. We are working hard in Iowa County and throughout Wisconsin and our region to enable progress. We may not get everything right but we are taking action steps and learning from each one. Creating new tools and growing new networks is at the heart of this effort.

As the WSJ piece closed, "The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table."

Wall Street Journal article "The Genius of the Tinkerer"
by Steven Johnson

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Iowa County Area Economic Development

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A 2011 shout-out to Tom Peters

The only outside link on my blogroll (right) is Tom Peters' site. I'm a big fan of Mr. Peters' writing and approach to enterprise, starting with his seminal work, In Search of Excellence. I've followed much of Tom Peters' advice for decades of my professional life and am proud of it.

His newest book, The Little Big Things, is an essential walk through the world of doing enterprise right.

Here is a nice shout-out to Tom Peters. I just borrowed this quote below from Tom's site, dated Jan 3, 2011, quoting the (Jan 2) Financial Times:

The Management Gurus Due for a Review

"Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great and most recently How the Mighty Fall, is similarly impartial, but the case studies in his books, as in many of those written by business school professors, risk aging poorly. He would do well to follow the example of Tom Peters, who wrote In Search of Excellence in 1982 but has never stopped reinventing himself and developing new material, becoming a blogger and Tweeter at an age when many gurus would rather retire to their herbaceous borders. Peters is on Olympus."

For many of us considering small startups, or growing small enterprises, the work of Tom Peters is invaluable. This is not corporate stuff - it's human stuff. You need to know Tom Peters to be good at sustainable work.

Many thanks, Mr. Peters, for your ongoing excellence. Keep up the innovations!

Tom Peters web site

Tom Peters' book, The Little Big Things.

Graphic courtesy (without my asking) of the Tom Peters Company