Near constant construction and along an alley behind the Upfront Theater, a group of small-business owners came to The Hive in Bellingham to spread advice to local food producers.
The business-consulting group Small Biz Triage began their 10-city-long Food Biz Road Trip, an educational workshop on how food and beer related business owners can save money and fund and sell products more efficiently in Bellingham.
The Hive is a community workspace that provides people with a work area, equipment, and the knowledge to accomplish tasks and goals. By paying a small fee, customers can come together at The Hive to get what they need done.
Kendall Dodd, owner of the Hive, was excited to see the community come together at her venue.
“The space is really flexible,” Dodd said. “So it’s just easy to set up, meet some new people and make some new connections.”
One of the local businesses represented at the event was The Black Drop Coffee House, which has been serving caffeinated beverages since 2002. Ryan Siu, an owner of The Black Drop, considered the event to be fantastic.
“I learned a lot,” Siu said. “The speakers were really engaging.”
The Small Biz Triage was founded by Nate Wright in 2009 and is based out of Seattle with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles. With help from associates, he hopes to educate small-business owners on how they expand their business to the levels that they desire, Wright said.
“We teach,” Wright said. “Sometimes we just connect them with the right people. It’s when people are stuck or they’re freaking out, which happens a lot with small-business owners. Sometimes they just need someone to talk them off the edge of the cliff [and tell them] it’s going to be hard, but we’ll help them through it.”
Food business owners need help due to competition being increased and business being more expensive, Wright said. Food businesses are the anchors of most economies, and Bellingham shows that they are willing to “leave their caves” and network with each other, Wright said.
Kathleen Minogue, founder of Crowdfund Better and Crowdfunding Expert for Small Biz Triage, has raised over $250,000 on crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Websites like these put a product or service that a company wants to start or expand on and trade small rewards related to the service in ratio to what is donated to the cause. According to a statistic she used from Massolution, trends are showing that crowdfunding will surpass venture capitalism funding, or money raised by investors funding start-up businesses in exchange for a share of the companies they aid, by 2016.
“With crowdfunding it’s not about being everywhere,” Minogue said. “It’s about finding the people who care about what you’re doing. The very people who can transform their communities can’t get the initial capital. So [crowdfunding helps you] to be able to raise $10,000 and wholly own your business but to have the capital to do something.”
During the workshop, Wright taught mainly about marketing and Kathleen shared advice on her crowdfunding. Holly Verbeck, founder of Hey Chef!, aided Bellingham’s attendees on how they can manage their growth.
“This is my first [Food Biz] Road Trip, and this is a new group of people to meet,” Verbeck said. “It speaks directly to the people who are near to my heart which are chefs and food business professionals. Teaching is something that’s just part of my soul.”
The Food Biz Road Trip members look to receive the support they got from the community of Bellingham throughout the tour, Wright said. He said he hopes that Bellingham will see that it deserves focus and customized attention.
“I don’t ever believe that you are done learning,” Siu said. “There’s always something about business that you can learn. It’s an always-changing landscape so it’s just a good opportunity to keep tabs on where everything is going.”