Over 50 B.C. small food processors are being rejuvenated after completing the first phase of the Food Business Refresh program. Another 25 “fast tracked” processors are set to join this group and move into Phase 2. This initiative of the Small Scale Food Processor Association (SSFPA) and funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries was designed to help micro and small-scale food processors succeed despite business challenges created, or amplified, by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This 3-phase Refresh program offers participants free customized training and coaching plus funded implementation support to help rejuvenate their businesses. The structure of the program is what makes it so effective and appreciated by participants.
“Being part of the Refresh program is one big bubble of goodness. I love how we get to work in smaller groups during the workshop series,” describes Refresh participant, Kara Walsh of Kara’s Crepes. “It is fantastic to be able to talk to each other, get feedback and share ideas. It is very supportive.”
There was a desire by SSFPA, WD, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries to do something distinct, with a better probability of helping businesses succeed. Providing funding in a new and unique way was paramount in getting this initiative off the ground. Add in Farm Food Drink to develop and facilitate the program on behalf of SSFPA, and the Refresh Team was born.
What would normally take many months, even years to develop was created over the course of eight weeks. With support from the collective Refresh team, a curriculum was developed, a learning platform created, and a marketing campaign launched. For the marketing side of things, the brand position, logo, brand guide and website design started us off, supported with email and social media marketing elements, a press release and media outreach.
The program was so distinct, so practical, and action oriented that it attracted leading edge food industry specialists and experts from across the province. People wanted to help.
Within nine days of hitting the launch button, all available Refresh seats were full, and a substantive (and growing!) waiting list created. People wanted this program.
Phase One has just completed, and participants are enthusiastic about where they are going. This phase was about assessing their situation and pivot options, and with the help of their peers and one-on-one coaching they were able to develop a plan that they can work on in Phases Two and Three. Those phases are about finding the right industry expert to help refine their project, and then actually implementing the plan.
“That’s the uniqueness of this program over other funding programs,” explains Candice Appleby, Executive Director of SSFPA. “It’s not just about having a plan, it’s about putting things into action with the right support.”
Refresh participants have been amazing! Each has come along way in just three weeks, being involved in over 15 hours of workshops with small cohorts, and putting in the work on financials and their plan. Their engagement has been both collaborative and enthusiastic as they each supported their peers, and several worked with a coach to dig into their specific situation. They came to the program ready to work and despite heavy workloads during a busy season are digging in to pivot and position their business for long term success.
Phase Two starts in the New Year, and we’ll be ready to take participants another step closer to their goal by connecting them with specific technical experts required to implement their Refresh Plan. That could be a food scientist, regulatory expert, label and packaging designers, distribution support, or creative marketing services. And then, Phase Three will have them implementing, acting on their Refresh plan, their “pivot” and shift to meet the needs of a changing market place.
Many players have contributed to the success of the Food Business Refresh program so far. Certainly SSFPA, Western Economic Diversification, and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, recognized the need for programming accessible to small scale operators. This collaboration set the stage for development of this program and Farm Food Drink provided the experience and skill to bring it to fruition. Add to that some of the best business management coaches in the B.C. food industry who made time to be involved with the project because they recognize how important it is for the sector, and these micro and small-scale processors, the foundation of our local food systems – the people who feed us.
“I have been so thrilled, impressed, and gratified by the shared intention and efforts by all of the Refresh partners and funders to do something different and greatly in need,” shares Greg McLaren, Farm Food Drink’s Founder and Chief Strategist. “Collectively we have all contributed to an objective that focuses on the viability of small-scale food processors, through timely implementation.”
We are very proud to be a part of this initiative and are inspired by the commitment of these business owners to dig in and make things happen. Our reward will be to see their success.