Food Service & Agriculture, Retail, and Small Business & Startups

Partners producing seminars for food entrepreneurs

March 2, 2017
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Grand Rapids Downtown Market cooking class
The Downtown Market in Grand Rapids offers food classes and features an incubator kitchen for startups. Photo via

The Downtown Market is partnering with a local food distributor to provide free seminars for food entrepreneurs this month.

The Downtown Market will host Recipes for Success, a three-week program designed for individuals interested in starting or accelerating a food-based business, in partnership with Byron Center-based SpartanNash.

MSU Extension is also a sponsor of the series.

Pre-registration is required online.

Industry experts will provide insights to attendees during each of the seminars. The seminars will address common challenges food entrepreneurs face.

Panelists for the sessions include professionals from SpartanNash, the MSU Product Center, Gordon Food Service and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, as well as startup founders, marketing specialists and other organizations helping entrepreneurs navigate the process of creating a business from the ground up.

Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market, said connecting food innovators with experts in the field will help bring “ideas to life” and “further develop West Michigan’s emerging new food ecosystem.”

Meredith Gremel, VP of corporate affairs and communications at SpartanNash, said participating in events like Recipes for Success benefits the company, because it allows SpartanNash to form deep relationships with local food entrepreneurs, so they can “navigate a distribution channel as large as ours.”

“Our category managers study the continuously changing market, trends and consumer preferences, so they have the knowledge and expertise about how to best get the right products on to store shelves,” Gremel said. “We also work with emerging local entrepreneurs to guide them as they scale up their operations.”


Food Startup Essentials: Working with a Food Lab, Packaging & Labeling, Licensing

March 7, 7:30-9 a.m.

Panelists: Dianne Novak, specialized services with MSU Product Center; Kevin Halfmann, regional supervisor from Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development; Andrea Anson, quality assurance and compliance manager with SpartanNash

Moderator: Kay Cummings, innovation counselor at MSU Product Center

Breaking into the Retail Market
(plus a Meet the Retailer session immediately following the panel)

March 14, 7:30-9 a.m.

Panelists: Karen Bakewell, director of grocery, frozen and dairy merchandising with SpartanNash; Monica Mitidieri, founder of Monica’s Gourmet Cookies; Matt Birbeck, senior project director with MSU Product Center

Moderator: Carlos Sanchez, Latino business development director at Ferris State University

Getting the Word Out: Marketing & Social Media on a Budget

March 21, 7:30-9 a.m.

Panelists: Steve Smith, director of brand strategy and marketing with SpartanNash; Jason Dodge, founder of Black Truck Media; Liz Della Croce, founder and food blogger, The Lemon Bowl; Charlotte Milligan, digital marketing specialist from Gordon Food Service

Moderator: Darel Ross II, co-director with Start Garden

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