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Free seminar series jumpstarts food entrepreneurs with advice from industry experts

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In March, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market will present its first-ever Recipes for Success series, a three-week program designed for food entrepreneurs. The free educational seminars are aimed at providing industry insight to budding and accelerating food entrepreneurs.

/Courtesy of the Downtown Market

Underwriting support from:

/Courtesy of the Downtown Market

Next month, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market will present its first-ever Recipes for Success series, a three-week program designed for food entrepreneurs. The free educational seminars are aimed at providing industry insight to budding and accelerating food entrepreneurs.

“There are common challenges that all food entrepreneurs face, and we selected the three most common to address in-depth with panels of experts from our partner organizations,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “Connecting food innovators with experts in the field will help bring those ideas to life and further develop West Michigan’s emerging new food ecosystem.”

Building off the success of the spring 2014 series hosted by Michigan State University Extension Services and The Downtown Market Incubator Kitchen, Recipes for Success is sponsored by SpartanNash as well as MSU Extension, and offers expertise in high demand areas such as breaking into the retail market, packaging & labeling, licensing, working with a food lab and marketing on a budget.

“A key component of our corporate responsibility is providing a ‘local flavor’ in our stores whenever possible, because we understand that our guests have a growing appetite for locally produced items, which also fuels the local economy,” said Meredith Gremel, vice president of corporate affairs and communications at SpartanNash. “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. We also work with emerging local entrepreneurs to guide them as they scale up their operations. Our vision is to be a best in class business that feels local, where relationships matter – and programs like Recipes for Success help us form deep relationships with local food entrepreneurs so they can navigate a distribution channel as large as ours.”

Panelists for the sessions include industry experts from SpartanNash, the MSU Product Center, GFS and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and 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.

“The MSU Product Center has the unique advantage of being able to develop nutrition labels, test products for shelf-stability through the Department of Food Science, access the School of Packaging and more,” said Kay Cummings, innovation counselor at the MSU Product Center. “We are excited to offer our services and advice to entrepreneurs through the entire creation process, starting with concept development and a business plan, and licensing, testing and packaging.”

Times, dates and topics for the three seminars are below. Pre-registration is required online at:

Seminar #1 - Food Start Up Essentials: Working with a Food Lab, Packaging & Labeling, Licensing

Tuesday, March 7 • 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.


  • 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 - MSU Product Center Innovation Counselor

Seminar #2 - Breaking Into The Retail Market (Plus, a “Meet the Retailer session immediately following the panel)

Tuesday, March 14 • 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.


  • Karen Bakewell - Director of Grocery, Frozen and Dairy Merchandising with SpartanNash
  • Monica Mitidieri – Founder, Monica’s Gourmet Cookies
  • Matt Birbeck – Senior Project Director with MSU Product Center
  • Moderator: Carlos Sanchez - Latino Business Development Director Ferris State University

Seminar #3 - Getting The Word Out: Marketing & Social Media on a Budget

Tuesday, March 21 • 7:30 - 9 a.m.


  • 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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