Resource Spotlight: The Food Loft

Oct 23, 2016

Resource Spotlight: The Food Loft

Oct 23, 2016

This week we talk with Casey Hogan, community manager at The Food Loft. The Food Loft focuses on helping food and beverage startups and entrepreneurs in Boston by providing coworking space, events, and an extensive community of similar-minded people.

GH: What is your name and your role?

CH: I’m Casey Hogan, the Community Manager at The Food Loft.

 

GH: What is the Food Loft?

CH: We’re a community of entrepreneurs and small companies forging a future for food.

 

 

GH: How can startups and founders benefit from the work you do?

CH: We’ve designed a few ways to help food startups and entrepreneurs. We have our coworking space, where companies can work out of and get access to printing and shipping supplies, conference rooms, and the community within the Loft. Our founders have been working in food for over 30 years, so we also spend a lot of time both mentoring food companies and connecting them with resources, investors, and other people who can help them across both the Boston and San Francisco food ecosystems.

GH: What are you learning from Boston area startups?

CH: The people in Boston make it such a strong place to grow a business. Whenever I meet a challenge, or need help thinking through a project I want to start, there is always someone I can reach out to who can either help me or connect me to someone who can. It’s an ideal ecosystem for someone who wants to start a company – there are a lot of really smart people here and many of them will grab coffee with you if you’re thoughtful about the ask and how you use their time.

GH: What is your view of the Boston food and beverage startup scene?

CH: There is so much happening! I set out to find a job in food almost a year ago, and I had no idea how much was going on here. I got so excited about it that we put together a Boston Food Map to show all of it off. With more companies working to change our food system, more resources – from kitchen space to investment funds – are popping up across the city. It’s a very exciting time for food that is going to bring meaningful change to the industry.

 

 

 

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

CH: I’d love to see more collaboration within the innovation ecosystem in Boston as a way to attract entrepreneurs and startups from outside the city. Boston is fantastic in that the community is supportive, but it seems like many small companies opt for NYC or San Francisco.

 

While startup innovation has grown as a focus in the Boston community, it needs more visibility and more support. There are a number of incubators, coworking spaces (The Food Loft included) and other outposts, but a comprehensive approach could help to demonstrate how entrepreneur-friendly the city is. This would include more emphasis on investors, more involvement from local government, and backing/support from corporate entities that can help play a role. We’ve seen some of this: the Food + Future CoLab put on in partnership with MIT Media Lab, IDEO and Target is a great example. We need more of those kinds of experiments and we need bigger buy-in so that Boston is even more recognized as a collaborative network for new startups.
And we need to talk about it more to the larger startup community. To me, there’s so much that Boston offers that other cities do not. I’d rather see us have innovation, support and community that is uniquely Bostonian, rather than just trying to be the Silicon Valley of the east coast.

GH: What is the best/worst piece of advice you were given?

CH: This is going to sound cheesy, but it was definitely people telling me “if you’re excited about something, just do it!” Going to school in Boston, I went to talks and panels by crazy smart people and accomplished entrepreneurs like Robin Chase, Paul English, Sheila Marcelo… They were at the top, and I was convinced those kinds of people are special, and I could never do what they did. But what I’ve learned from others is that one of the biggest pieces is having the guts to try. With their help I started doing what I love this year – working in food and learning more about food and its systems.

 

GH: What does the future hold for Boston innovation community?

CH: I think we’ll see further diversification of the kinds of companies and stage of companies operating in Boston. Healthcare is obviously a big area of innovation, and then there’s plenty of representation of “general tech” startups out there. But what I’m starting to see is startups tackling areas outside of the norm in Boston. Food is a great example of this and there are plenty of networks supporting food and foodtech in Boston. Clean energy is another, with Greentown Labs in Somerville helping to create a groundswell around that sort of innovation. I’m hopeful this represents a shift where Boston can become known as a hub for startups tackling problems in very specific market segments, with related services and resources to help them in those areas.

Over the long-run, I also think we’ll see a continued shift in the kinds of companies that Boston attracts. While NYC outpaces Boston in terms of M&A activity, Boston’s IPO track record leads the market (we’ve had 7 IPOs so far this year). I’d like believe that this demonstrates that entrepreneurs can build companies that last here in Boston. And while that’s true in other cities, perhaps the direction the market is headed is that Boston will become more of a beacon for serious entrepreneurs who are focused on creating lasting solutions.

GH: What does the future hold for The Food Loft?

CH: We’re fired up about the innovation happening in food and want to support the entrepreneurs making it happen. We hope to continue building our workspace and adding resources that will allow these companies focus on their growing their businesses. We also want to help strengthen the community around food in Boston. With everything happening here, we should be coming together to celebrating the big wins and figure out how to help each other achieve more of them.

Learn More about The Food Loft at  thefoodloft.com

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