Want to start a food business? This new school can help

WASHINGTON If friends who have tasted your secret tomato sauce, killer chocolate chip cookies or sweet strawberry jam echo the same reaction “You should bottle and sell this!” perhaps they are onto something.

The specialty foods industry is on the rise, reaching $127 billion in sales in 2016, up 15 percent since 2014. And data shows craft culinary products are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in categories up and down the grocery aisle.

But turning your grandma’s sweet pastries into a profitable business isn’t always as easy as pie.

It requires a business plan, startup funds and access to a commercial kitchen. Then there are regulatory hurdles, marketing strategies and hiring tactics.

For those far removed from the business world, these responsibilities can be overwhelming. That’s where School of Food comes in a yearlong educational curriculum for current and prospective food and beverage business owners.

This fall, the Baltimore-based training program is expanding to D.C., where it will hold monthly classes from September through May at Union Market.

Kim Bryden, program curator for School of Food, says this year’s lessons will tackle everything from defining value proposition to financial forecasting and even labeling — “the really complex systems part of feeding somebody and being a part of the food system,” she added.

Classes can be attended individually ($20 per workshop) or for the whole year ($149).

Bryden says with D.C.’s growing culinary industry and expanded access to commercial kitchen space, the school’s presence in the District just makes sense.  

“A lot of people start in the food business because they’re really good at making jam or ice cream or bagels or anything of the sort, but not necessarily knowing how to run the business side of things,” she said.

“I think people are craving being able to produce something in the world especially their values and culture through food.”  

The first class, “Defining Your Mission and Core Values,” takes place Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. For more information on this class and upcoming workshops, visit School of Food’s website.

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