Catalyzing Food Entrepreneurship

Despite the pandemic, the SE program continued its commitment to working with social change organizations. Three students, Claira Schiffrik, Eraj Sikandar, and Keegan King advised by Professor Moledina worked with FoodSphere: the Entrepreneurial Center at Local Roots¬†for the 2021 local SE seminar. FoodSphere is a new start-up organization. FoodSphere aims to cultivate economic growth and sustainability by supporting local farmers and entrepreneurs of value-added agricultural products in Wayne County. The student team researched the structure and operation of U.S. food incubators to understand “How successful food incubators organize and fund themselves”. Over the course of the Spring semester 2021, students conducted interviews on Zoom. They compiled their findings in a report that they presented to the Board of Directors of Food Sphere and other community members who are part of the local food movement in Wooster.

Keegan, Moledina, Eraj, and Claira

The findings stressed the importance of grants in the early stages of food incubators. As our students wrote in the final report: “Incubators operate with a combination of grants, philanthropic contributions, and fees for services. Incubators always rely heavily on grants in their early developmental stages. Many of them move away from grant reliance as their producers become more profitable and the Incubator earns more from fees. Revenue from fee-for-service can be maximized by providing a diverse range of services above and beyond training programs, such as using the kitchen space for co-manufacturing.”

The student research was part of $70,000 grant from the Ohio State University. To read more about the grant, see this news story. Stay tuned to this website to find out when the SE program will be recruiting students next.


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