Expert food entrepreneurship panel speaks at Venture Cafe St. Louis
The St. Louis Mosaic Project teamed up with 39 North to host a panel of speakers at Venture Cafe @39 North with backgrounds in food entrepreneurship and business funding to talk about their business experiences. Mosaic was especially interested in hosting this panel as many foreign-born in St. Louis are restaurant, food entrepreneurs.
“We know that the foreign-born are 60% more likely to start a business when they arrive to the US.—they are starting a new life and eager to contribute and succeed,” Suzanne Sierra, Senior Program Manager at Mosaic, said. “Mosaic’s mission is to help connect them with all of the existing resources available. Making sure they know who to talk to for seed money, equipment, work-space or commercial kitchens and other aspects of running a business is of the utmost importance.”
The discussion focused on branding a business, business financing, and how to market a new business.
Josh Schipkowski, a panelist, is the founder of Upstart Food Brands, a virtual agency, geared for, and specifically focused on helping small food and beverage companies create big brand presence with tons of personality at a reasonable agency rate. He told the crowd that branding is one of the biggest challenges when starting a business.
“Your brand is the most valuable thing you own,” Schipkowski said. “You should start branding from the very beginning.”
BALSA Foundation founder and local restaurant owner Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano agrees with establishing your branding first and finding your brand’s voice.
“On social media, you have to find your voice and truly understand what the story is you want to tell,” Ramirez-Arellano said.
A question posed from the audience was how to balance starting a business from the ground up while also working a full-time job. Minas Espresso Inc. business partner Mauricio Silva, a panelist, said the price was high when he first started his business.
“I had a full time job and pretty much worked 18 hours a day while making my own business on the side,” Silva said. “It’s a price you have to pay to start your own business.”
After the panel, students and aspiring food entrepreneurs spoke 1-1 with the panelists. For more information on the panelists and the resources offered, click the links below.
- Tim Bohnert – St. Louis Economic Development Partnership – Small Business Financing Department – [email protected] – 314.615.7693
- Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano – The BALSA Foundation
Infrastructure & Resources
- Rikki Henry – Center for Emerging Technologies (CET)
Marketing/Branding & Packaging:
- Josh & Sara Schipkowski – Upstart Food Brands