Exactly What is The Business of Food?

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Some people have said they don't understand what we do. I'm here to clarify that.

We're The Business of Food. We help people in food businesses in a variety of ways. We call those varieties pillars, and we have four of them: Mill River Cookery; Mill River Harvest; Mill River Marketplace; and Mill River School. Put it all together and we have an incubator for small and growing food businesses.

Let's start with who we serve. Our clients include farmers, chefs, home cooks, and holistic wellness entrepreneurs.

For Farmers

For farmers in Northern Illinois, the growing season is fairly short. We enjoy local products through the summer and early fall. The rest of the year our produce comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Mill River Harvest provides a way for local growers who don't have a commercial kitchen or the capacity to freeze their own vegetables to extend their season and offer minimally processed flash-frozen vegetables year-round. That bi-color sweet corn you enjoy in August is now packaged in its own juices for multiple farmers so you can enjoy it anytime. The process we use locks in flavor as well as nutrients. Mill River Harvest started processing corn in 2019 and now can accommodate broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and fajita mix.

For Chefs

Chefs and cooks of all types can become members of Mill River Cookery. The Cookery is a shared kitchen outfitted with commercial appliances to accommodate large volume food production. We have an entire room dedicated to refrigeration, dry good storage space, a custom-made venting system over two 6-burner gas stoves, and convection ovens like those used in bakeries. The Cookery is arranged into four stations, two for sweet and two for savory.

Members can rent space in the kitchen based on the specific number of hours they want to be in the kitchen and schedule weekly kitchen time in one of our stations. The Cookery allows chefs to focus on their business and grow without the distractions of home, like kids and pets. The goal of small food businesses is to grow, and they often max out in their home kitchen. Using the Cookery is a more affordable way to grow since investment in commercial equipment can be expensive.

For Farmers and Chefs

Both farmers and chefs need a venue to sell their food products. The Mill River Marketplace offers food products grown or produced locally with fresh ingredients. For the purposes of the Marketplace, local means in a 150-mile radius. The Marketplace allows our food entrepreneurs to hone their skills and gain an understanding of what consumers like, will spend, and how to make them repeat customers.

We want our marketplace vendors to succeed so we offer mentoring to answer questions, and help them with menus, packaging, and production. We give them the platform so they can take their dream and put it out into the world.

Farmers know farming and chefs know how to bake or cook. But some still don't fully understand the basics of business. Our answer to that is Mill River School. We offer classes and seminars in everything from registering a business entity to managing inventory, product pricing, packaging, marketing, and financial statements. At each step along the way, our school helps clients better understand their business in order to manage and grow it.

Case Study

Our pillars are distinct offerings meaning that food entrepreneurs can pick and choose the options that best suit their requirements for growth. Here's a perfect example of how a food entrepreneur can use our services. Let's call our entrepreneur Jane and her food business is the Bakeshoppe. Jane bakes at home under the Cottage Food Laws and sells her products at local farmers' markets. Jane offers 15 different items for sale.

Jane comes to The Business of Food to sell her products at The Mill River Marketplace. She does pretty well selling her tasty treats, but one day she laments that she has no idea how much money she's making. She thinks she's covering her costs, but that's about it. Jane decides to enroll in a 3-part business planning workshop at The Mill River School. She realizes that she's not charging enough money for her products and some of the products are losing money. With some one-on-one counseling, she gets her finances in order, changes her pricing structure, and revises her menu.

Now with her new revised menu, she is selling out of her items each week and is having trouble keeping up with demand. That's when Jane decides that she needs to move her food production to The Mill River Cookery so she can spend less time baking, but bake more product. Now that Jane understands her financials, she can see exactly what her net income is each week and is ready to adjust prices if the prices of her ingredients increase substantially. Jane can now plan more than a week ahead. She even has a bit of extra time to create new recipes and perfect her old ones.

That's just one example, and there are numerous possibilities. We work with each food entrepreneur to figure out what's best for them. We'd love to hear about your dream and see if we can help make it a reality. Contact us to learn more today! 

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The Business of Food, LLC
1330 E. State Street, Unit B
Sycamore, IL 60178
815.991.5053