Women Entrepreneurs and Food

I don’t think many people would disagree with me if I would argue that most women are the ones at home cooking up the family dinners on a nightly basis.  Then why are most of the top chefs around the world men?  Someone in the restaurant business once told me that many women tend to become pastry chefs because it gives them more flexibility when it comes to their lives at home.  You don’t have to be there at 11pm.  Interesting.  Just food for thought, no pun intended. 

This week I chose to write about two women who have found their entrepreneurial side through food.  Not surprising.  In a research paper, Edelman and Strategy One conclude that the millennium generation is highly dedicated in returning to brands they like. They also note that for women raising their kids is priority number one, family is key, and cooking a home meal and communicating that with the rest of their friends and family through social media is high on the list.  If the products are right for their family and friends, they are loyal to the brand. 

Co-Founder Emily Olson of Foodzie has always had a passion for food.  She graduated from Virginia Tech and found herself working at The Fresh Market in North Carolina after graduation.  Emily would go home and talk about how hard it was for the small time producers to break into the grocery store model.  Her boyfriend, now fiancé Rob, and their best friend Rick were two tech guys always thinking about how they could start a company using the Internet to leverage their idea.  The more Emily talked about ideas to connect small producers directly to their consumer without all the overhead including distribution channels; the idea of Foodzie was born. 

They built the platform, put together a business plan and were accepted into Techstars and in turn were able to raise capital around their idea.  Foodzie moved to Boulder and then on to San Francisco and the rest is history.  Foodzie is essentially a portal for small or medium-sized artisinal food companies.  Foodzie builds individual marketplaces for each independent brand and that gives ecommerce access directly to consumers. By aggregating these food vendors Foodzie’s marketplace has created a community for consumers who want to support these market places easily under one roof. 

I not only love the products that Foodzie supports (curates), I like that the founders are a mixture of men and women.  Emily had the vision, she understood the marketplace, and she understands the purveyors.  Her partners understand how to build a brand and a business online and how to run numbers.  That is invaluable. 

As of December 15th, Foodzie will have been up and running for two years.  Emily talked to me about the importance of mentoring that has come from the people behind Techstars and her investors.  She said “entrepreneurship is a process”.  She is absolutely right.  As much as she loves the food, and it is her first passion, she has learned to love her business even more.  That is a true entrepreneur who has been bitten by the bug of loving her own business and forging her own path. 

Another food story is Diana Hardeman.  Diana graduated from NYU Sloan Business School and began doing consulting work.  Her passion was ice cream.  She started playing around with a Cuisinart and coming up with interesting flavors.  On a whim, she put up a website and brought some ice cream to a party that her friends were throwing.  She was thinking she might just do small batches and sell them to friends. 

She was obviously at the right party.  This particular event was written up in New York Magazine and mentioned Diana’s ice cream and company, MilkMade, and before she knew it she had 700 requests for ice cream.  And so she ran with it. 

Currently she can only handle 150 requests a month for ice cream.  She makes two flavors each month and hand delivers them to your door.  There are over 1000 people on her list hoping to eventually get monthly ice cream delivered to their door too.  Could she be the next Graeters or Jenis?  Who knows?  The good news for Diana is she went to business school and understands how to grow a business and run the numbers.  That puts her way ahead of the game.  Now she is thinking about the next steps.  My guess is that it will be hard for Diana to turn back now. 

The ice cream?  She gave me three flavors to try.  Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Salted Caramel, and Pecan Pie A La Mode.  Honestly some of the most amazing ice creams I have ever had.  Everyone in the family dove in with a spoon and was rendered speechless.  That says a lot for this food-oriented household. 

Two interesting women both using different platforms for creating their own brand centered on their love for food.  Their journeys have just begun. 


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