ISBDC Has the Recipe for Successful Food Start-ups




ISBDC Has the Recipe for Successful Food Start-ups

Since 1985, the Indiana Small Business Development Center has worked with and advised thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as owners of established businesses.  ISBDC provides no-cost, confidential counseling for all types of business, but food and food-related business concepts have always represented a significant share of the organization’s client base.

In some years, food-related ideas of all types (restaurants, caterers, bakeries, food processors, beverages, etc.) comprise as much as twenty to twenty-five percent of the start-up clients served by the Central ISBDC office, which covers Marion and surrounding counties.

Food-related start-ups are in some respects more challenging to work with than other types of businesses (often fiercely competitive markets, more government regulation, more difficult than the average start-up to find start-up capital, etc.).   But food start-ups are often more exciting and may offer more profit potential than others.

Despite some notable differences between food-related and other types of ventures, the ISBDC works with foodies in pretty much the same ways we would work with any entrepreneur who is serious about starting a business.

When an entrepreneur applies to become as ISBDC client, he/she is assigned to one of the organization’s business advisors.  Working one-on-one, the advisor will help the entrepreneur understand the market (s) for their food business/product, and determine the preliminary feasibility of the entrepreneur’s concept.  From there, the ISBDC advisor will assist and advise the client as he develops a business plan, which gets into the array of details such as start-up costs, location options, sources of supply, government rules and requirements, and many others.

At the core of the business plan is the financial plan or forecast.  This is where all of the details and decisions laid out in the rest of the plan come together and are translated into dollars and cents.  This would include direct costs of ingredients and packaging, as well as overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, liability insurance, advertising, and many others.  For many entrepreneurs, the financial plan is the most challenging component of the business plan.  With some hard work, though, and some help from the ISBDC, most entrepreneurs find the financial plan do-able.

Chuck Brezina is the owner of Subito, a lunch-only, take-away restaurant located in downtown Indy.  Chuck spent well over a year planning his new venture, which opened in August, 2015, and he turned to the ISBDC for assistance and advice at several points during the process.  Chuck said “Without the ISBDC, I would not have had the resources and connections necessary to successfully apply for my SBA loan.”

ISBDC business advisors have a variety of tools and resources that may be beneficial to food start-ups.  The following is a sampling, almost all of which are available at no cost to the client:

  • IBIS World research reports – quarterly reports on current trends and long-range outlook for more than 700 different industries, including many food-related businesses.
  • Business Reference Guide – benchmark data, information on industry trends, and market conditions for over 500 business types
  • ESRI reports and maps – detailed demographic and consumer spending information, essential for market analysis.
  • Reference USA – business database useful for generating lists of prospective customers, suppliers and/or competitors.
  • Navigator On-line Business Plan and Marketing Plan software
  • Procurement Technical Assistance Center – if you want help selling your food products to the government.
  • Export consulting – technical assistance in selling you food products in foreign markets

For more about how the ISBDC works with food entrepreneurs, go to and look under Success Stories for My Sugar Pie, Gettinger Family Custom Meats, and other food businesses

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones has extensive experience in helping small businesses owners and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. From 1992 to 2006 he was the director of the Small Business Development Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and since January, 2008 he has been a business advisor with the Central Indiana Small Business Development Center based in Lawrence. Kevin worked for several years as a private consultant to small businesses and economic development organizations and he was Special Projects Manager for a Wisconsin-based furniture manufacturer. He has also taught courses in marketing and management at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire College of Business. In 2003 Kevin was selected by his peers as the outstanding Wisconsin SBDC staff member, and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center recognized him as a Wisconsin Innovation Champion in 2005. He received his MBA from University of Wisconsin -Eau Claire.
Kevin Jones can be reached at
Posted in: Starting a Business

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