Startup Spotlight: BranchFoodJanuary 31, 2016
This week as part of our Startup Spotlight we speak to Lauren Abda, founder of BranchFood, which is a community for food entrepreneurs. Think Boston is not known for Food & Beverage? She highlights for us the fact that Boston is home to many exciting initiatives and individuals spearheading change in the food system.
LA: Branchfood is Boston’s leading community of food entrepreneurs and pioneers who believe innovation will provide solutions to our greatest food system challenges. As the largest group of food innovators in New England, our location at 50 Milk St in the Financial District of downtown Boston is a unique place where passionate food entrepreneurs come together to connect and build solutions for a better food system. We host events, provide coworking space, and offer marketing services for Boston-based food startups.
GH: How did Branchfood get started?
LA: Branchfood was launched as a meetup group in 2013 under the very alluring name of “Boston Food and Tech Entrepreneurship Meetup”. I created the group as a way for people to connect and share what they were working on related to food and innovation in Boston. At the time, I was also helping organize events around similar topics. I started promoting these events to the group, and as the group grew, we started doing events of our own based around the work of our members. Fast forward to today, we are 865 members, we’ve done over 40 events, have launched a coworking space in partnership with the CIC and offer marketing services to high growth food startups in Boston.
GH: What was an obstacle you had to overcome?
LA: For a long time we were a networking group that hosted free events including panels, meetups, etc. This was great for brand building, but difficult to sustain without a source of revenue. Once we realized there was an audience that truly valued what we were doing and wanted to participate in our events, we started to charge, not much, but enough to separate the folks who really wanted to come from the free-food enthusiasts. Overcoming the hurdle of offering free events and resources to making people pay transformed our group and revealed a host of folks who truly valued our work. Just because people support your mission doesn’t mean they are your paying customers.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
LA: Many of our earliest members still regularly attend Branchfood events today! Our members are inspired by innovative solutions to food system challenges and are consistently interested to learn about what others are working on.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
LA: Massachusetts has a rich history of agriculture, food, and innovation. Boston is home to many exciting initiatives and individuals spearheading change in the food system. We haven’t had to venture far to identify projects to highlight or entrepreneurs to feature through our events.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
LA: Best: Do what you have energy for
Worst: Raise money to start a meaningful company
GH: What does the future hold for Branchfood?
LA: Entrepreneurs, anywhere in the world, looking to innovate for the food sector will seek out Branchood as the go-to organization for growing their food business.
Want to know more? Join The Capital Network and Branchfood on February 8 for Funding 101 – Pathways for Funding Food Beverage Startups