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Making it in MI Conference Helps Ag Entrepreneurs
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“The conference was designed to help people who have an idea or recipe in their head and are thinking about creating a business opportunity from that, but have no idea what to do or where to start in making their dream a reality.”

Source: Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Matthew Birbeck, birbeckm@anr.msu.edu, 517-432-8753


Making it in Michigan Conference Helps Food and Agricultural Entrepreneurs Turn Ideas into Reality

For new entrepreneurs or established food companies thinking about creating and launching that next new food product or idea, the fourth annual Making It in Michigan conference can help bring that concept to fruition. Hosted by the Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, the conference is designed to connect budding entrepreneurs and established food businesses with the resources of the center. The conference includes multiple educational sessions, a keynote address from a nationally renowned expert on the consumer packaged foods industry and the opportunity to network with more than 150 vendors of Michigan specialty food products.

Conference attendees will leave the conference equipped with the practical knowledge and industry resources needed to move an idea from the concept stage to a finished and marketable product. Attendees will be able to corroborate and refine business ideas, connecting with industry experts offering insights and tips on managing the common hurdles often encountered by food companies, including food safety, production, working with co-packers, marketing and supply chain issues.

“The conference was designed to help people who have an idea or recipe in their head and are thinking about creating a business opportunity from that, but have no idea what to do or where to start in making their dream a reality,” said Matthew Birbeck, MSU Product Center’s marketing and supply chain specialist. “Especially considering the state of Michigan’s economy, support for new and existing small businesses’ success is critical to the creation of new jobs and sustainability.”

The Making It in Michigan conference takes place 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the Lansing Center, located in downtown Lansing. The educational sessions will bring together leading Michigan experts to help guide attendees through starting businesses in the following areas:

  • How to Start a Business: Going from Novice to Expert and Pointers for Production
  • Nutrition and Wellness: What it Means for the Food Industry
  • Getting My Product to Market: Direct Selling to Consumers and Meeting Demand With Production

The keynote speaker will be David Browne, senior analyst with the Mintel International Syndicated Reports team. David writes and edits reports on the consumer packaged goods industry targeting retailers, foodservice operators and manufacturers of foods and beverages, and household and personal care products. With more than 15 years in the natural products industry, he focuses primarily on the fast-growing natural and organic food market, identifying trends and leveraging them to foster innovation and new product development. Browne’s presentation will focus on the connection between consumer behavior and attitudes and new natural and organic product innovations that are meeting consumer needs.

Conference participants will also have time to network with this year’s featured partner Varnum Law who will present sessions on legal issues and insurance needs for food businesses. The center’s director Chris Peterson will present awards, such as Best Innovative Business Idea, to four Product Center clients. MSU Product Center innovation counselors and staff members, Product Center clients, business consultants, regulatory officials and food and farming groups will also be available to provide in-depth information and counseling.

In the afternoon, the Marketplace Trade Show will feature more than 150 new and existing businesses that will be showcasing their food products to the Michigan Grocers Association, buyers and conference attendees who can taste and purchase items.

The $70 per person conference registration fee includes breakfast, lunch, educational sessions, digital copies of all presentations and reference materials, and admission to the Marketplace Trade Show.

More information and conference registration materials are available at www.makingitinmichigan.msu.edu. Those interested in attending can also call Greta McKinney at 517-353-7185 or send an email to mckin134@msu.edu.

Founded in 2003, the MSU Product Center helps Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in the agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy sectors. The center’s statewide network of innovation counselors provide business counseling support to Michigan residents interested in starting or expanding a business or product line. The MSU Product Center is a collaboration of MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch. MSU Project GREEEN also provides major funding.

The Product Center’s assistance in launching 174 known new businesses and business expansions has had the following estimated economic impacts:

  • Increased annual sales: $309.7 million (cumulative first-year sales only)
  • Value of increased investment: $228.9 million
  • Jobs created: 750
  • Jobs retained: 364