The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will present “The ABCs of Starting a Food Business” and “Running a Great Farmers Market Booth” on March 15 at Heifer International in Little Rock.
Local foods advocate and small business owner Martin Butts of Daytona, Fla., will lead both workshops.
Butts brings 15 years of food entrepreneurship experience and a passion for local foods to the table. He owns and operates Small Potatoes, a consulting firm that specializes in working with small-scale and startup food businesses of all types.
“The ABCs of Starting a Food Business” will be from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by “Running a Great Farmers Market Booth” from 1-4 p.m. The workshops are free, but pre-registration is required.
“The information presented will be practical, actionable and based on real-life experience I’ve had working with producers and farmers,” Butts said. “I want you to walk out with at least one thing that will improve your business that day.”
Recommended for anyone wanting to start a restaurant or other food-based business, launch a food product or grow a home-based operation, the morning “ABCs” session will focus on the ingredients necessary for a new food or beverage business to thrive.
Butts will share his recipe for success, along with tips for launching any type of new food enterprise. Topics will include commercialization, packaging, labeling, pricing strategies, production, and distribution.
Just in time for the 2018 season, the afternoon farmers market workshop will offer ideas for a new booth and ways to enhance an established one, whether the product for sale is farm-fresh produce or something completely different.
Through hands-on exercises, Butts will demonstrate low-cost techniques for creating an attractive and effective product display. He also will share customer service and selling techniques to help farmers market vendors connect with shoppers and turn them into loyal customers. People can registration online or by or calling the center at (501) 683-7700.
Butts says he has worked with “hundreds of stores and at dozens of markets” and wants to share his experience to help prospective, new and veteran “foodpreneurs.”
“Sometimes a small bit of insight from someone that’s been there can make a big difference in your approach,” he said.
“The most common thing I see people doing wrong is undervaluing their product, specifically, undervaluing their own labor to make and sell the product,” Butts said. “I’ve seen really great products fail because when the time comes for them to scale up, get distribution, hire staff and buy equipment, they can’t do it without dramatically increasing their price.
“Price your product with your future growth in mind,” he said. “Small-scale and artisan products aren’t ever going to win a price war with national brands, but the market is willing to pay a premium price for exceptional products. If you’re product is great, people will pay for it. Price it that way from the start.”
Butts will return to Little Rock April 27 to lead ASBTDC’s full-day food product boot camp, “Breaking Out in the New Food Economy.”
The boot camp will look at maximizing local and direct-to-consumer sales, expanding to new markets, building a brand, running an online store, identifying wholesale partners and developing good relationships within the industry.
All three workshops are co-sponsored by Heifer International and the Arkansas Agriculture Department. The events are part of ASBTDC’s effort to boost food and beverage businesses in four central Arkansas counties. The project is funded by a Portable Assistance grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Based at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center assists entrepreneurs at every stage of business development and growth. Core services include no-cost consulting and market research. Learn more at asbtdc.org.
Contributing Writer: Gwen Green / Communications Coordinator / Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center
The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with SBA through a partnership with the UA Little Rock College of Business and other institutions of higher education. All programs are extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. Language assistance services are available for limited English proficient individuals. Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact Shannon Roberts at (501) 683-7700.