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Q&A: Championing women in the food industry

Having worked for companies such as Kellogg’s and Nestle, Chelsea Ford realised that women are underrepresented in the food and drink industry, especially at management level, and others struggle to support themselves. Chelsea started her business Females in Food as a network for women within the sector to connect, share and create. Chelsea is launching a podcast this week that will empower women to be successful in what is a very competitive industry.

Please encapsulate briefly what Females in Food is all about.

Right now women are starting food and drink businesses at a staggering rate. A large number are choosing to follow their foodie passions, while others are innovating new products that solve problems ‘unique’ to them.

The stats are creeping up, but there is an alarming trend emerging: globally, women are contributing larger numbers of new businesses, but are not taking home more of the profit.

So, I’m changing that with what I offer at Females in Food®, specifically with my coaching program, Foodpreneurs Formula. I’m helping women foodpreneurs who are looking to break through the profit barrier to overcome their business blockages and take their brands to new heights.

What is the biggest challenge foodpreneurs face in their start-up phase?

The biggest challenge foodpreneurs face is not knowing how to differentiate between creating a hobby and growing a business. And the challenges change as the foodpreneur is in the market longer. At launch, the challenges are part logistical, part sales. At this stage foodpreneurs can be very dreamy about their future prospects.

As the business matures, the foodpreneur begins to get momentum and then the real challenges begin. I’m referring to foodpreneurs who are making more than $5000 per month in revenue. These foodpreneurs face three primary obstacles; how to sell into wholesale accounts; whether or not they should find distribution partners; and how to sell to consumers that are not like them. Access to capital underpins the pace at which the foodpreneur moves now so it too is relevant.

And how should foodpreneurs strategise to overcome this challenge?

To help foodpreneurs compartmentalise and overcome the challenges at each of their growth stages, I named the stages to commercialise, activate and breakthrough.

Those foodpreneurs at the positive mindset stage I mentioned above are generally pre-commercialisation, or just hitting that stage. It’s at this stage where she needs to be thinking about how much revenue she is turning over and how to manage the difficult balance of product creation and making sales to sustain an income stream to pay herself and the bills.

For a foodpreneur at a more mature stage wanting to sell into wholesale accounts, she must generate consistent demand. A starting point here requires foodpreneurs to have their sales kit organised.  For a foodpreneur at this stage, the services of a distributor may be required. So the key question to weigh up is, am I willing to share my margin in exchange for winning new accounts further afield.

Lastly, and briefly, 41 per cent of women-led food and drink businesses begin so they can solve a problem that is personal to them. Such as their own gluten intolerance or their child’s nut allergies. This means foodpreneurs easily recognise consumers that have similar problems to them. Where the wheels begin to fall off is when the foodpreneur wants to sell via a wholesale channel and they don’t know how to transition their direct to consumer tactics to indirect marketing to their consumers.

Technology is such an important part of running a business today but isn’t necessarily a strong point for many small-business owners – how would you advise foodpreneurs to “demystify” tech and embrace it?

There is a lot of opportunity for foodpreneurs to simply embrace technology so they reduce their time on the tools and free themselves up to spend more time on sales and marketing. Two applications I recommend that have free versions are:

  1. Zoom: for video and audio conferencing. Foodpreneurs could use Zoom to conduct their online pitch presentations – regardless of where their buyer is located. This would help them gain representation further afield and overcome the current travel restrictions. I use Zoom to conduct all my live coaching sessions to make sure my members get the most out of the Foodpreneurs Formula program no matter where they are in the world.
  2. Upwork Global: a platform for connecting businesses with freelancers. Foodpreneurs with budget concerns could browse this application for no fee and source affordable talent easily. Upwork Global enables me to work with experienced freelancers from anywhere in the world.
You’re about to launch a podcast to help foodpreneurs formulate and realise strategies to succeed in the industry – what are the key points you’ll be covering?

I’m really excited about my new podcast, Foodpreneur with Chelsea Ford. I’m helping packaged food and drink brand owners know how to negotiate with buyers; know how to get stocked; and how to get into more consumers’ hands so they make more profit to reinvest in their business and pay themselves a great wage.

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