GYRM instructor, Jill Beaman, supports alumni at their "incubator alley" booths at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show

Getting Your Recipe to Market celebrates fifteen years helping food and beverage makers get their innovations into retail spaces. 

Epicureans familiar with Portland’s celebrated food scene have undoubtedly cheered on numerous local brands that have grabbed headlines for their artisan approach and innovative products. 

What these food enthusiasts may not know is that a program offered by the Portland Community College Small Business Development Center (PCC SBDC) is guiding the business journey for food makers - and filling grocery store shelves and retail spaces with the passion projects created by many of these entrepreneurs. 

The PCC SBDC Getting Your Recipe to Market training is a 12-week program of instruction and advising that strips away the mystery and costly mistakes affecting many first-time business owners. The training offers a clear process from product development to market-ready implementation, with local industry experts ushering the most efficient path forward each step of the way.

“Fifteen years ago we identified a unique opportunity to assist artisan foodmakers with the challenge of bringing a product to the marketplace,” said Tammy Marquez-Oldham, Director of PCC SBDC. 

“Local industry leaders came together, invested heavily and selflessly, demonstrating the inclusive spirit of Portland’s business community and acknowledging that it is stronger when working together.” 

Shawnice Sellers from Nice Cakes shows her wares at the Fall 2019 Time to Market Trade Show

Celebrating the Diversity of Food Business

Jill Beaman, PCC SBDC lead advisor for the program, said she enjoys the diversity of products and working with passionate food entrepreneurs, plus the creative and supportive environment that’s created in each cohort. 

“Participants include new-to-Portland immigrants from countries ranging from Burma to India to Vietnam,” Beaman said. “We’ve had local hobby chefs and craftspeople who’ve perfected a family recipe and want to turn it into a business. We create an encouraging space where people come from all walks of life and learn from each other.”

Recognizable brands like Brazi Bites, Better Bean Company and Seely Mint are all graduates of the program. Many more food cart operators, food innovators and restaurateurs have used the training to successfully diversify their business model by expanding to retail sales, often originating from customer demand. 

As a mother of twins, Lisa Tran was struggling under the grueling schedule required by her family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, Tân Tân Café & Delicatessen.

“My parents are immigrants from Vietnam and my mother is the genius behind the food,” she said. “Restaurant customers always asked us when we would start bottling our sauces, and were the encouragement behind bringing our sauces to market.” 

After the birth of her children, Tran began seeking alternative revenue streams more conducive to her family needs. She said the Getting Your Recipe to Market training provided lessons and resources that became the solid foundation that her business is now built upon. 

“The connection to New Seasons Market, plus mentorship and networking has been invaluable,” Tran said.

Partnering with Local Industry Leaders

The Getting Your Recipe to Market program is a partnership with Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center and New Seasons Market. Together with the PCC SBDC, the organizations offer a full-range of learning that includes business development guidance, food science and product development expertise and a leading retailer perspective. 

“The combination of our programs have provided diverse entrepreneurs with the full suite of skills to move from concept to a viable product,” said Food Innovation Center Director David Stone. “We’ve seen firsthand the benefit of the program to prepare people for the next step in developing their product and achieving their goals.”

At the end of the program, participants have the opportunity to present to buyers at New Seasons Market during a product evaluation and presentation. The buyers review all products and offer expert feedback and answer questions before the entrepreneurs take their product to market. 

“As a retail partner, our customers benefit most when we can offer access to unique, delicious and locally produced items in our stores,” said Chris Tjersland, Director of Brand Strategy and Development at News Seasons Market.

“Our clients are really fortunate to also be supported by many local organizations, such as Prosper Portland, Portland Mercado, B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery, Market of Choice, Papermoon Creative, and Food Methods,” Beaman said. “The guidance of these industry leaders is priceless when helping program participants to successfully navigate the complex food business world.”

The final capstone of the program is the chance to share products with the public for the first time at a specialty food trade show. The event is an opportunity for other local retailers to discover Portland’s latest food innovations.

This partnership of business experts and creative entrepreneurs has led to more than 420 graduates of the program and helped more than 300 new business owners create a market-ready product. 

Lisa Tran displaying Tân Tân Vietnamese sauces

Roadmap to Starting Your Food Business 

For local food entrepreneur and baker Robyn Galbos, owner of Robyn’s Craft Bakehouse, her inspiration came first and the business concept - handcrafted crackers - followed. 

“I initially wanted to start a community bread share, so I got a job working at a bakery to immerse myself in bread,” Galbos said. “There I was, living my best life, sleep deprived and covered in flour, when I had an epiphany: people want better bread; why shouldn't we expect more from the humble cracker?”

Galbos said she literally built her business while taking the Getting Your Recipe to Market training program. 

“The step-by-step format was helpful to us as beginners, it was all laid out in front of us.”

Lisa Tran said she didn’t have any business goals entering the program, but her sauces are now in close to 400 retailers in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. 

“I'm proud that Tân Tân Foods is woman/immigrant/refugee/BIPOC-owned,” Tran said.

“Tân Tân means New Beginnings in Vietnamese, and that is exactly what this journey is all about.” 

 * * * 

The Small Business Development Center at Portland Community College offers Getting Your Recipe to Market during Spring and Fall Terms. Food-specific business training offered by the SBDC also includes Restaurant Business Builders, which helps prospective restaurateurs, caterers and food cart owners plan for all aspects of owning and running a food-related business.  

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