The food, beverage, bio and ag industry is truly an exciting Sector full of growth and new development. It offers a breadth of career choices in any number of disciplines and for those with entrepreneurial mindsets, the opportunities are endless!
It’s a constantly evolving and changing landscape that provides career seekers engagement in a boundless variety of roles from field to table and for those seeking to start a business – limitless possibilities and a plethora of resources to enable success!
Entrepreneurs and food enthusiasts are dotted across Ontario and throughout Canada. People of all ages are excited about introducing something new to the table. This is a Sector full of growth and development, innovative products and unique equipment, intriguing raw materials sourced locally and around the world, and finished goods that adhere to stringent food safety requirements – so much so, that in a study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada in 2014, our Country tied for number one for our food safety systems against 17 others. What a wonderful environment to consider exploring - one that is innovative and conducive to idea generation - with a breadth of fresh ingredients ready at hand - and a market that embraces many different nationalities and customs, flavours and tastes!
As a budding Entrepreneur in the tea landscape, it was a pleasure to have my Mentee from the University of Western Ontario, join me recently for a special Workshop on Starting a Business in the Food Sector.
This particular event was hosted by the Small Business Centre in London. The focus was to help potential entrepreneurs, such as my future Grad, gain a perspective on the requirements in this Municipality to ensure the foundational success for starting such an initiative.
It is safe to say, there is a lot to learn – definitely much to consider – and most importantly of all – help exists through many different organizations such as the Small Business Centre, your Municipality, Economic Development, OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs), Sectoral Organizations and of course – EMC!
We had three excellent presentations that covered different facets of business start-ups – from Municipality requirements, to Health and Fire Inspector needs, to labelling and packaging regulations with the CFIA. We learned about zoning, building, adding additions, and on the Health Unit side of things we talked about a number of different inspection items and subsequent severity ratings and potential business impact. Our CFIA Speaker shared information on the Safe Food for Canadians Act, highlighted a great tool on their website to determine Industry Labelling requirements, reviewed the ten priority Food Allergens, looked at the differences between Manufactured and Retail food requirements, and discussed the Food Safety Investigation Program.
This special Workshop certainly left three key concepts in our minds (I’m sure there are several more – but we’ll stick with three for now!):
1. Planning is key – think about where you are today as you create your business and where you want to be in five or ten years. Business plans are vital and can really enable your success.
2. Reaching out for advice, or to help with planning, is just an email or telephone call away. There are lots of community partners, sectoral organizations, consultants, government agencies, OMAFRA, and of course peer networking opportunities through EMC involvement to tap into.
3. Learning is ongoing. There will always be elements of your business that will require your attention: for example, the latest legislative issues or certification requirements, or hurdles relating to product, people or processes. The key is staying abreast of these and being proactive where you can. Embrace Workshops and Training Events that keep you in good stead in this regard.
It was great to see a full house for this session and to hear about the different types of food-oriented businesses that people are considering. Interesting approaches that I never thought of before which certainly makes you appreciate how innovative our industry truly is! It is equally exciting to see the number of young people, including my Mentee, eagerly embracing an entrepreneurial journey within the Sector – this is wonderful!
Special thanks to the Small Business Centre in London for Hosting such an informative session!
There are a number of Small Business Enterprise Centre’s throughout the Province who would be happy to connect with you. To locate one in your area, the link following may be helpful in that regard:
For additional resources, definitely check out OMAFRA’s website below to find general information relating to zoning, facilities, co-packers, regulations, health protection, insurance and labelling, etc.: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/industry/bdb-start/firststeps.htm
“The Guide to Food Processing in Ontario” is also on the OMAFRA site along with links to Starting a Restaurant or Catering Business: http://www.cbo-eco.ca/en/index.cfm/starting/how-to-start-a/how-to-start-a-restaurant-or-catering-business-in-ontario/
Should you wish to utilize a fully equipped commercial food processing facility, there are a number of incubators across Ontario that you might check out. They may also provide training for Entrepreneurs to aid in the development of some general business skills you may require:
Food Starter (Toronto) – www.foodstarter.ca
Niagara Presents Incubator Kitchen (St. Catharines/Niagara Region) - http://www.niagarapresents.net/services-of-niagara-presents
Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (Colborne) - http://oafvc.ca
Two Rivers Food Hub (Smith Falls) - https://tworiversfoodhub.com
Finally, there is also the Government of Ontario’s Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE)
These are just a few suggestions – there are many other resources available.
Finally, in the spirit of learning, broadening perspectives and connecting with peers and Community Partners, we invite you to participate in our next EMC GF2 Food Sector Networking Event on May 25th, 2017 at the Institute of Food Processing Technology in Cambridge, Ontario! This is an amazing facility in its own right with an 8,000 sq foot pilot plant equipped with beverage, baking and vegetable processing lines. At this Special Peer Networking Session, we’ll be exploring the current and upcoming regulations and legislative issues around “Packaging, Labelling and Innovation” with NSF International. We are also pleased to have Belmont Meats joining us to share their journey when it comes to marketing, product and packaging development and Raining Communications Inc. who will be providing a perspective on enhancing success in this arena. Definitely mark the date on your calendar, and come to network with others in industry, connect with key community partners such as the IFPT and our Guest Presenters and take in a great facility tour!
In closing, as I reflect on the information so willingly shared at the Workshop, the questions asked by participants, and discussions after our session, it is really exciting to see the interest in creating new businesses within the Food Sector and certainly, if you happen to be entrepreneurial-minded, there are so many wonderful organizations and resources available to help you get started!
As I celebrate my Mentees direction in this regard, please know there are many of us, who would be absolutely thrilled to watch your journey and to see you grow and succeed too!
All my best,
Bren de Leeuw, Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program Canada
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - firstname.lastname@example.org - 519-372-6009