Edible-Alpha® Podcast-logo

Edible-Alpha® Podcast

Business & Economics Podcasts

The Edible-Alpha® podcast is your source for actionable insights into making money in food.


United States


The Edible-Alpha® podcast is your source for actionable insights into making money in food.







Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Helping Food and Farm Entrepreneurs Access R&D Funding

Idella Yamben, Ph.D., shares how the Wisconsin Center for Technology Commercialization helps early-stage businesses test assumptions and secure grants to foster commercialization.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Financial Lessons from a Successful Diversified Farm

Cliff McConville discusses building multi-enterprise All Grass Farms from the ground up and managing the finances to ensure profitability.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Farmer Brothers Distill Grains into Profits

Will Glazik of Cow Creek Organic Farm and Silver Tree Beer & Spirits discusses his evolution from organic grain grower to distillery co-owner.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Sisters Succeed with Simple Syrup, Soda Shop, and Subscriptions

Belinda Kelly and Venise Cunningham of Simple Goodness Sisters stop by to discuss their innovative farm-based company, diversified business model, and plans for growth.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Doctor Turns Dates into Healthier Sweetener

Sylvie Charles, M.D., traded a stable career as a physician for the wild ride of entrepreneurship when launching organic real-food sweetener company Just Date in 2018. She shares the mission behind her endeavor, along with her business arc and growth strategy.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

SBDC Consultant Helps Food Businesses Go Global

Wisconsin's international trade expert Chris Wojtowicz discusses how food and farm entrepreneurs can successfully expand their business beyond the U.S.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Hill Valley Dairy Broadens Family Legacy

Ron Henningfeld, owner and cheesemaker at Hill Valley Dairy, drops by to discuss putting his own spin on a family farm business and expanding into new opportunities.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Grassway Organics Cultivates Community

Andy invites in Grassway Organics’ Chaz Self for an inspiring conversation about farming business models, growing a diversified ag operation, and regenerating local communities.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Clean Beam Advances Food Safety for the 21st Century

Brad sits down with Mark Cottone and Jim Rush of Clean Beam, maker of a dry, chemical-free footwear sanitizer powered by pulsing UV light. This innovation protects processing facilities from contaminants while proving predictive analytics that can enhance operations.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Together Farms Diversifies into Agritourism

Stephanie Schneider discusses starting Together Farms with no prior experience and growing it into a thriving operation with direct-to-consumer sales and on-farm Burger Night.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

T4 Solutions Streamlines Grocery E-commerce

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #111, Brad talks with Steve Mehmert, managing partner at T4 Solutions, a Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based consulting firm that helps grocers and other food distributors map out profitable e-commerce programs, from ordering platforms through delivery. Brad and Steve have a fascinating conversation about key challenges, opportunities, and innovations in the rapidly evolving grocery landscape. Steve started T4 Solutions in 2019, shortly after selling his first company, Mehmert Store Services. He’d spent 30 years designing and developing grocery stores, focusing primarily on independents. Through his new venture, he could leverage his expertise and connections to continue serving that market. Prior to the pandemic, independent grocers were increasingly—but reluctantly—launching e-commerce just to stay competitive. Typically, their systems were inefficient and incapable of much volume. They’d lose money on every order, but since e-commerce represented a tiny percentage of total sales, they’d shrug it off. Anticipating where the market was heading, Steve knew, as did most of these retailers, that these systems weren’t sustainable long-term. But nobody foresaw COVID-19 or its impact on the food industry. With millions of Americans suddenly wanting to buy groceries online, brick-and-mortars had to up their e-commerce game STAT. Now Steve’s services were in even hotter demand. T4 Solutions helps identify, develop, and deliver the best technology, tools, and systems to make each client’s e-commerce program run smoothly and cost-effectively. For example, the firm offers technology-managed, temperature-controlled lockers that hold online orders for customer pickup, as well as temperature-controlled delivery vehicles to replace crowdsourced drivers. T4 also helps clients set up micro-fulfillment centers, onsite order storage, and other e-commerce infrastructure. Brad and Steve discuss how the food landscape has shaken out over the last two years. Today, grocers’ sales remain well above pre-pandemic levels, and many continue to do robust online business. Though most retailers have streamlined e-commerce, there are still kinks to work out and improvements to be made, especially amidst the challenging labor market. Next, they dig into Amazon’s grocery strategy and how corporate grocers are expanding e-commerce services. Steve says even the big guys don’t have everything figured out. He firmly believes independents can and should compete, and those willing to evolve and embrace technology can thrive. He envisions grocery stores big and small moving to more micro-fulfillment models, finding them more efficient and able to serve even more customers. T4 isn’t done devising solutions either. Steve loves a challenge, and in today’s food industry, new ones arise constantly. He details the latest projects he’s working on, including figuring out a merchandiser for impulse purchases to accompany the lockers. And while most of his clients are grocers, he’s also working with food banks and organizations serving rural and urban food deserts. This podcast is packed with many more insights, so be sure to tune in!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Flavor Temptations Finds Formula for Omnichannel Success

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #110, Brad chats with Sara Parthasarathy, co-founder of FillMyRecipe, which makes Indian spice kits, spice blends and sauces under the Flavor Temptations brand. She and husband Partha Sabniviss launched the business 10 years ago to share their joyful, vibrant Indian culture with Americans and make it easy to cook authentic Indian cuisine. Both IT professionals, Sara and Partha moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s and settled in Madison, Wisconsin. When their son went off to college, he wanted to cook Indian food but struggled to replicate his mom’s dishes, which Sara had learned from her mother. She set him up with recipes, sachets of premeasured spices, and step-by-step instructions—and it worked! Sara then realized that many people were in the same boat as her son. Wanting to help them connect with Indian culture, create joy in the kitchen, and take pride in their culinary creations, she started preparing cooking kits for friends and family. This was just a hobby at first, but a new business was brewing. In 2012, Sara and Partha incorporated FillMyRecipe, rented commercial kitchen space, and built an Amazon store, planning to sell exclusively online. But when a 2013 writeup in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supercharged their business, local grocery stores started picking up their products, then branded Ethnic Spicery. Through mentorships and entrepreneurship workshops, Sara and Partha honed their strategy and rebranded as Flavor Temptations. In 2014, they met FFI founder Tera Johnson. “She took us under her wing and walked us step-by-step through packaging, merchandising, how to approach distributors and retailers, and how to scale,” Sara says. “She helped us approach a copacker in India, which made sense because that’s where the spices come from.” With production now outsourced, Flavor Temptations expanded into 70 grocery stores throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also branched into food service, not a channel they’d considered, but one that made a lot of sense. Soon they got in with a Minneapolis school district, followed by some 50 school-district customers nationwide. During this period of explosive growth, Sara and Partha participated in the FaB Cap Accelerator (now the FFI Fellows Program). Brad remembers them traveling constantly to do demos, wearing many hats, and spreading themselves thin. Then COVID-19 happened, shuttering schools, suspending retail food service, and sending grocery shoppers online. Fortunately, about six months prior, Flavor Temptations had begun shoring up their e-commerce strategy, taking a course from Amazon sales guru Mike Fenrici, featured in Edible-Alpha® podcast #84. They pivoted their focus to Amazon, stepped up innovation, and expanded their offerings. Sales skyrocketed, which, along with some grants and loans, kept the company afloat through 2020. Then in early 2021, with foodservice customers still not returning, Sara and Partha considered closing up shop. But then an Edible-Alpha® Scenario Planning course helped them look at their business objectively, refocus, and set goals for the future. They decided to shrink their retail footprint to just Madison, freeing them up to drill in on the other channels. Now into 2022, the food service business has picked up again, and Sara is sharing her expertise in Indian cooking at conferences.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Doudlah Farms Organics Builds a Regenerative Legacy

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #109, Andy interviews Mark Doudlah, a fifth-generation farmer and owner of Doudlah Farms Organics in southcentral Wisconsin. The 1,625-acre certified-organic, regenerative farm grows 15 different crops for human consumption. Doudlah Farms Organics also has a value-added component, milling, packaging, and selling branded dry beans, seeds, and flours direct-to-consumer and at retail. Mark actually started out as a conventional farmer, just like his father, Earl. But then in 2008, Earl was diagnosed with lymphoma, likely caused by lifelong exposure to chemical ag inputs. Realizing the environmental and human health hazards of conventional farming, Mark grew determined to do things differently—safely for the planet and people. So, to honor his dad, he transitioned 40 acres to organic. This new way of farming had a steep learning curve, but Mark, along with wife Lucy and son Jason, was committed to figuring it out. They learned a lot over the next three years, working out best practices for planting, weed control, combining, cleaning, and storing. Then when Earl passed away in 2011, the Doudlahs began transitioning the rest of their acreage to organic and regenerative. Along the way, they’ve continually sought support and guidance from FFI, Rodale Institute, UW-Madison, MOSES, and other resources to help hone and grow their operations. Today, along with carrying USDA Organic certification, Doudlah Farms Organics is certified by the Real Organic Project and is in the process of becoming Regenerative Organic Certified. The farm is also Yahara Pride Certified, which verifies its efforts to enhance soil and water quality. Mark explains why these measures are so important to truly regenerate the soil, protect surrounding ecosystems, and ensure safe food. As for Doudlah Farms Organics’ consumer products business, Mark wishes he’d taken FFI training courses before writing his first value-added producer grant (VAPG). Our programs gave him a better understanding of various marketing channels, cash flow management, forecasting, and what it really takes to move a product from field to consumer. Now with more value-added experience under his belt, the business is growing steadily and expanding its retail footprint. To wrap up, Andy and Mark discuss financing. Most banks, even ag specialists, don’t understand the nuances of organic and regenerative, let alone value-added, so it’s important to find one that does. Then before signing off, Mark shares his vision for Doudlah Farms Organics and his hope for combatting climate change.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Field to Freezer Streamlines Meat Processing

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #108, Brad talks with Matt McCoy, founder and president of Field to Freezer, a Hartland, Wisconsin-based software as a service (SaaS) company that’s streamlining wild game and domestic meat processing. Matt’s story highlights the unsung importance of technology solutions to the food industry and serves as a guidepost for growing and scaling a viable tech-related food business. A few years back, Matt, an avid deer hunter, recognized that small-scale meat processing was rife with inefficiencies for both processors and customers. Having founded software company Lanex 23 years ago, he’d helped all kinds of companies solve business challenges through custom solutions, so he wondered: Could he build something to help this industry? He envisioned an app that connected hunters to an extensive database of meat processors, with functionalities to make ordering, drop-off, and pickup smoother for all parties. In 2018, Matt got to work on discovery. He visited meat processors nationwide to learn their pain points, show them sketches of his ideas, get feedback, and make tweaks. Though these #meatings, he learned that processors also needed solutions to help run their businesses, and that Field to Freezer really should expand to beef, pork and other domestic animal meat processing. The response to his proposals was overwhelmingly positive, so Matt filed a patent on the app. Then in fall 2019, Field to Freezer got accepted to gener8tor’s gBETA investment accelerator, where Matt met Brad. His advisor challenged him to develop a minimum viable product, or MVP, by deer season. Having the whole system ready would be a stretch, but Matt felt he could at least launch the search tool. So he started with a website that linked to some 1,500 processors and supported it with a press blitz. Word spread fast, and Field to Freezer took off. So far, Matt has mostly bootstrapped the business, which is more common in tech than in consumer packaged goods. He says investors often have their own ideas about the company’s direction, which can throw entrepreneurs off-target, making it crucial to dial in MVP and stay focused. Also, when bootstrapping, it’s essential to track all the time and money spent building the business to know what it’s worth down the line. Now that Field to Freezer is at a place to consider investors, Matt is looking for a partner who can help propel his vision, not just write a check. Digging deeper into domestic meat processing, Matt and Brad discuss how demand trumps supply and how Field to Freezer can help. Though this part is still in the design phase, ideally, the software will alleviate farmers’ frustrations while also streamlining processors’ work. Getting more domestic customers on board will also stabilize Field to Freezer’s revenue model. Finally, they circle back to discovery and how integral it is for all types of food and farm businesses. Going boots-on-the-ground early on helps to spread the word, ensure the product suits the target audience, and position the company for growth.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Exploring the Arc of Entrepreneurship with Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #107, Brad sits down with Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori, founder and CEO of Twi Pods, maker of single-serve hot cocoa and mocha latte enriched with mental wellness–supporting nutrients. The duo delves into the arc of entrepreneurship in today’s world, how it has evolved, and the tools founders need now to grow a viable food business. First, Kwadwo shares his unconventional path to starting a food company. While working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, he realized he’d rather create products that could help people directly than focus on research. This was around the time The Lean Startup was published, Shark Tank was becoming a hit, and there was big buzz around entrepreneurship. Kwadwo wondered if lean startup principles could be used to streamline drug development and health care access. He landed a spot in the Kauffman Foundation Global Scholar Program, which teaches academics business skills to focus their research on entrepreneurship. But rather than start a drug company as he’d planned, Kwadwo pivoted to food. Wanting to help the millions of people who grapple with anxiety, he designed a convenient way to deliver daily magnesium and other stress-busting nutrients: through canned coffee creamers. Kwadwo launched Satori Food Project on Etsy while also working full-time. After so-so success, he quit his job and went all in. Sales increased, but profits did not, and production got harder. With his Kauffman training, plus tools he’d picked up from FaB Wisconsin (where he met Brad) and various accelerators, Kwadwo knew to step back, do a postmortem, and re-strategize. He realized something huge that changed his whole attitude toward production and funding: Instead of deciding what he could achieve based on the resources he had, he should be asking, “what does this look like, finished and polished, and what resources do I need to create that?” With this “prime organization” approach, he knew he must sell on a bigger platform like Amazon, find a surefire way to keep up with production and raise enough money to get there. Kwadwo also realized that his product was odd and messaging too scientific. So he ditched the creamers, launched hot cocoa and mocha pods for Keurig machines, simplified the messaging, and changed the brand name to Twi Pods. These moves proved successful, and the company has now transitioned from startup to small business. From there, Brad brings in the three-year go-to-market arc he emphasizes in the Food Finance Institute Fellows Program, in which he helps founders map out their growth plans. Kwadwo mentions four key stages: sell a product, sell it reliably, sell it at scale, then sell it at profit. They discuss how entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s tend to excel, thanks to more industry experience and patience. Next, they discuss how cost-cutting, right-sizing, and outsourcing in corporate America have destroyed worker loyalty and created a lane for entrepreneurship. But without the skills development and network building that corporations used to provide, entrepreneurs must navigate their own path. This is where FFI, FaB Wisconsin, university programs, and economic development organizations can be a huge help.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Acuity’s Manufacturing Pro Unpacks Risk Management

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #106, Brad speaks with Michael Schlagenhaufer, manufacturing consultant at FFI partner Acuity Insurance, which provides property and casualty insurance to businesses. The two dig deep into risk management and why it’s so critical for food or beverage manufacturers. Uniquely, Acuity offers consultant services to all insurance customers at no additional cost. As the resident manufacturing expert, Michael helps producers large and small optimize their operations and curtail risks to their business, property, bottom line, and brand reputation. Whether related to natural disasters, food safety, product recalls, or cybercrime, he ensures that they’ve assessed their risks correctly and have sufficient mitigation in place. And while he doesn’t tell them which insurance packages to buy, he flags key issues and helps them understand the coverage they need. When working with a new client, Michael starts by asking lots of questions, including which risks it has identified and whether it’s possible to engineer those out. After visiting the facility and learning more about the business, he’ll often point out several additional risks the client hasn’t thought of. Next, Michael will ask how a manufacturer plans to address identified risks, and what are its recovery plans should a risk become reality. For example, has the company done everything possible to protect against natural disasters, such as building a tornado shelter, installing sprinklers, or ensuring the roof can withstand a windstorm? What are the communication and evacuation plans should such a disaster occur? And if the event causes physical damage or otherwise halts business, how will the company rebuild, when will it resume manufacturing, and does its business interruption plan cover all the bases? Michael also helps clients maximize operations. He’ll discuss various manufacturing methods and technologies, such as an ERP system or new robot for the production floor, and make recommendations. He’ll even sit in as clients talk with vendors to ensure they’re asking the right questions and getting the products and services they need. Although it’s generally true that the larger the manufacturer, the greater the risks, that doesn’t mean small and midsize manufacturers should take risk management lightly. It becomes even more important as brands scale and expand distribution. Michael cites cybersecurity as an example. Many large distributors and retailers require integration with vendors’ ERP systems, which exponentially increases small brands’ vulnerability to cybercrime, as well as the potential ramifications of a cyberattack. Michael and Brad also discuss the importance of quality control and supplier verification. By locking in processes and certifications around each, small manufacturers can preserve their integrity and preempt product recall issues. It’s all about taking proactive measures to head off future problems. Plus, when small brands have solid risk management practices and business continuity plans in place, they become more attractive to big distribution players. And as blockchain expands and full traceability becomes the norm, small manufacturers will definitely need to dial this stuff in. While risk management may seem complex, Michael stresses that no manufacturer needs to navigate it alone. There are plenty of resources that can help, including consultants like him, independent experts, trade associations, and institutions such as FFI.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How Rustic Road Farm Became a Community Treasure

In Edible Alpha® podcast #105, Andy talks with Marc Bernard of Rustic Road Farm in Elburn, Illinois. He and husband Luis farm 18 acres plus hoop houses, produce honey, and raise heritage-breed pigs, free-range chickens, sheep, and goats. They also run a thriving agritourism business and growing value-added brand. A longtime horticulture enthusiast and successful chef, Marc had always dreamed of farming someday. So in 2011, when he learned of a farmhouse on five acres headed for foreclosure, he and Luis snapped it up. Neither had real farming experience, but they looked forward to figuring it out as they went. Their initial plan was to produce food just for themselves and friends while Marc stayed with his restaurant group and Luis finished up his master’s degree. The Bernards started small, growing vegetables organically and pasture-raising chickens and hogs. Marc’s restaurant connections provided an automatic market for their meat and eggs, and they started a farm stand and CSA for the community. Over time, they expanded their farming acreage and now raise about 700 laying hens and 150 red wattle pigs, plus sheep and goats, inviting the community to come play with the goat kids. They partner with Amish farmers downstate for turkey. Rustic Road also makes an expanding roster of value-added products, including soup, sausages, entrées, and baked goods. Marc says they’ve made many mistakes along the way, teaching them valuable lessons and shaping their business plan. But they’ve stayed committed to organic, pasture-raised, non-GMO, and—most importantly, says Marc—producing delicious food. These tenets have earned their community’s support, so much so that they no longer sell anything wholesale. As suburban Chicago expands closer to Rustic Road Farm, more and more people come to visit and shop the onsite farmer’s market—plus, the pandemic boosted traffic. The Bernards, along with their well-paid, empowered, talented team, love playing host, espousing a “cherish the guest” philosophy. They’re also intent on expanding access to high-quality food, so the farm grows a lot of food for a local pantry. But of course, making this multifaceted business work requires keen attention to the numbers, something that Marc has always excelled at. Rustic Road tracks inventory and sales, uses data to determine harvests, works with an accountant, and is smart about financing. In the beginning, they received USDA microloans, FSA support, and a value-added producer grant. More recently, they’ve scored Compeer Financial loan to purchase a building for their own value-added kitchen, won a second Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to build up their soup brand, and got their first line of credit. Tune in to hear Marc’s journey in more detail, as well as his advice for starting, operating, and expanding a viable farm business.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Sweet Pea’s Succeeds with Small-Town Pie Shop

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #104, Brad interviews Rachel Smith, founder of Sweet Pea’s, a made-from-scratch treat shop in downtown Mayville, Wisconsin. Along with baking pies and other goodies onsite for its retail store, Sweet Pea’s has a growing wholesale business, an e-commerce site, and fundraiser partnerships. Rachel aka “Sweet Pea” started baking with her grandmothers as a child and envisioned owning a unique bakery someday. Back in 2009, while still living in Minnesota, she started doing take-and-bake pies and selling them at a local meat market, quickly turning it into a pie destination. As business boomed, her husband helped bake, and they’d pull in extra hands during busy seasons. They also set up a rudimentary website for online orders. Through the next decade, Rachel and her husband grew the business slowly. With full-time jobs and busy family life, they felt no pressure to move faster. Instead, they took advantage of what Rachel calls “a very long market research period,” which prepared them for their big move to Wisconsin and the next iteration of their business. Almost two years ago, the Smiths bought an old building in downtown Mayville, initially planning to renovate it into a manufacturing facility for wholesale. But upon learning the locals loved the historic site and wanted to come inside, “we realized we’d get the support of the community if we heard their request for retail,” Rachel explains. “That was the first of many changes to our business model.” Since renovating to retail standards would require more money, the Smiths connected with the University of Wisconsin’s Small Business Development Center, which led them to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for a Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant. They also secured financing from the city, plus a community-funded Kiva loan, and several townspeople donated their time and skills to the renovation. Sweet Pea’s started manufacturing in Mayville in July 2020 and opened the retail shop two months later. During this time, Rachel was also still producing pies in Minnesota, earning her MBA, and had “stumbled upon fundraisers” as another revenue stream. She also participated in FFI’s Scenario Planning workshop, which helped her see her next smartest move: professionalizing Sweet Pea’s online presence and ordering platform. Brad and Rachel discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, including the importance of knowing and honoring your talents rather than trying to be everything to everyone. That said, Rachel always stays abreast of market trends and aims to deliver the flavors and formats customers crave. They also touch on the value of having a strong financing team and supportive bank that understands the food space. As part of her master’s coursework, Rachel is currently evaluating whether the fundraiser channel makes financial sense. Meanwhile, Sweet Pea’s continues to navigate the ongoing pandemic and labor constraints, having just gotten accepted to UW’s work-study program. Moving forward, Sweet Pea’s will refine its business model, establish its wholesale capacity and determine how it wants to grow, whether by pitching to more grocery stores or opening more locations—or both. Regardless, Rachel is excited to create jobs locally, foster skills development, and empower others to do this fulfilling work.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Taste Profit Helps Businesses Strategize Digital Marketing

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #103, Sarah sits down with Noah Munro, MBA, founder of Taste Profit, a digital marketing and e-commerce consulting firm that supports sustainable farms and specialty food brands. They discuss the importance of crafting a marketing strategy that syncs with the overall business plan, as well as key suggestions, cautions, and benchmarks for growth. After founding an artisan fudge company and then earning his MBA, Noah launched Taste Profit to help food and farm entrepreneurs grow their enterprises. The firm offers specialists in e-commerce, SEO, food photography, blogging, PR, direct advertising, and other aspects of digital marketing to meet each client’s needs. Noah is also part owner of sister company Kitchen Table Consultants, which assists entrepreneurs with financial management and business planning (featured in Edible-Alpha® podcast #62). When thinking about marketing, Noah stresses strategy, as opposed to running random Facebook ads, as many young businesses do. He says a marketing strategy should be informed by business strategy, which should be informed by personal strategy. Thus, entrepreneurs should first figure out their vision for the company, margins, sales goals, and exactly what they want to market. Also, what is their marketing budget? Noah says each case is unique but offers some guidelines for budgeting as a percentage of sales. These percentages are often bigger than entrepreneurs expect—and yes, they’ll eat into profits early on—but marketing spend is crucial for growth. Next, Noah walks through Taste Profit’s framework for helping clients with marketing, which centers on the acronym SPEMA: S for strategy, P for planning, E for execution, M for measurement, and A for adjustment. Listen to the full podcast to get his detailed breakdown of each step. Sarah notes that many new entrepreneurs are intimidated by marketing and don’t know where to start. She and Noah discuss how farmers markets and other direct-selling events can provide invaluable market research in the early stages. Food and farm entrepreneurs can even test out different marketing strategies to see what works and what doesn’t. But no matter what stage a business is at, Noah suggests having a “marketing scoreboard,” a simple spreadsheet that tracks the number of strangers (total web traffic, number of farmers market attendees who don’t stop by, etc.), friends (email subscribers, social media fans, etc.) and customers (number of orders, average order size, etc.). Marketing’s goal is to funnel people from strangers to friends (aka audience) to customers to loyal fans. After talking nuts and bolts, Noah outlines his own fudge business’s marketing journey, complete with missteps, lessons learned, and triumphs. Then he discusses common mistakes food and farm entrepreneurs make, such as overfocusing on sales at the expense of profitability and gross margin. Finally, Sarah roleplays an entrepreneur seeking marketing help from Noah. He asks her crucial questions about her business and goals, and together they work through the SPEMA framework. This podcast offers even more actionable insights to get entrepreneurs on the right track with marketing, so tune in today!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Betterbin Leverages Data to Demystify Recycling

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #102, Brad chats with Michelle Goetsch, founder, and CEO of Betterbin, a data company that empowers consumers and brands to recycle and compost CPG packaging properly. An alumna of the Wisconsin FFI FaBcap Accelerator, Michelle details her journey of bringing an app to market, building a viable business, and laying the foundation for future growth. Betterbin was born in 2018 out of a pain point. As a consumer passionate about environmental responsibility, Michelle was frustrated by how difficult it can be to determine packaging recyclability or compostability since the rules are different everywhere. “You can Google anything, so why was it so hard for me to recycle properly in my community?” she says. “I thought there has to be a way to use data to solve this problem.” There was a way—Michelle just had to invent it. Knowing that CPG manufacturers and brands catalog their product specs digitally, “I realized there is nothing stopping us from leveraging that infrastructure of data that already exists to help people know what to do with waste.” Betterbin’s first product, a consumer-facing app, does exactly that, powered by proprietary machine-learning technology. Users simply scan a product barcode or snap a photo, and the app identifies the packaging materials, cross-references that data with local recycling and composting guidelines, and spits out disposal instructions. Users are then rewarded with points and gift cards. But a whole lot went into getting the product to market. Michelle first consulted with multiple stakeholders in the materials recovery sector to better understand the scope of this issue. Learning it was indeed massive and complex, she wrote a grant for her app idea and partnered with a data scientist to build it. Then, with financial help from several Wisconsin communities, Betterbin launched pilot projects nationwide. The COVID-19 pandemic paused the pilots, which was a blessing in disguise. “It gave us a moment, when things were moving so fast, to reflect on what our product was and what our goals were,” Michelle says. That’s also right when Betterbin got accepted to the Plug and Play Sustainability Accelerator in Silicon Valley, introducing the team to mentors, investors, and other support, and connecting them with CPG brands to learn their pain points. Currently, the app has about 2,500 users, and Betterbin is now talking with brands, municipalities, and larger systems players about how to scale. The company is exploring various B2B2C business models, such as selling to property managers and Airbnb hosts, who can offer their tenants the app for free. Moving forward, Michelle expects policy decisions to be a big growth driver, as state legislatures start cracking down on allowable on-pack recycling and composting claims. Such policies should push more brands toward Betterbin since the app gives them an easy way to disseminate localized disposal instructions—as opposed to designing 20 different labels for 20 different markets. Additionally, the app collects unique consumer-use data that can further benefit brands, so monetizing that intel will be Betterbin’s main focus in the future. Brad and Michelle conclude by discussing the nuances of launching a tech company as compared to CPG, including the level of collaboration required. Tech also needs different capital than CPG, and Michelle says it has been crucial to work with investors that understand Betterbin’s growth arc, performance metrics, and sustainability mission. She stresses the importance of networking, accelerator programs, and keeping an even keel through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.