In the tech world, accelerators help small, seed-stage startups quickly grow to companies and services that we all use. TechStars Cloud, based in San Antonio, is designed to help small, seed-stage starups rapidly grow. “We tell people to build some sort of prototype or some sort of MVP (minimal viable product),” Blake Yeagar, Managing Director of TechStars Cloud, said.
However, when it comes to the culinary world there previously wasn’t an option for budding restaurateurs or artisan product makers to participate in such a program. “You really don’t know how they are going to be able to execute and manage the entire business until they do it,” Yeagar offered.
That was until now.
Break Fast & Launch is a local accelerator that was created out of Café Commerce. In fact, it was the product of a national competition of the SBA (Small Business Administration) to help find existing accelerators or launch new ones. In total, 832 organizations applied from around the country and 50 were selected as winners, including Break Fast & Launch.
To help accelerate local culinary entrepreneurs, Break Fast & Launch provides three main services: mentorship, training and support. Jody Newman, owner of The Friendly Spot in Southtown, is one of those mentors.
“[People] are so stunned that you’ll help them. Because they think they’re your future competition,” Newman said. “Well if I can make my competition great, it’s only going to make me greater, it’s only going to help the craft beer growth.”
With that rising-tide-lifts-all-boats ethos, Newman has enjoyed mentoring entrepreneurs in the Break Fast & Launch program. She said that when you are in the midst of starting a new food business “there’s not a lot of time to go out and seek out all these resources. If I would have had a one stop shop—like Break Fast & Launch—that could have helped me avoid things or at least know what I was getting into.”
But part of the mentorship is making sure that an aspiring restaurant or bar owner knows that there will be difficult times. Newman has those tough conversations—the risk of losing your life’s savings, employees stealing from you and the unfortunate task of unclogging toilets—so that her mentees don’t simply glamorize the business.
Ryan Salts, Director of Break Fast & Launch, said that mentorship is a two-way street and that the onus is on the mentee to extract value. “It’s all [about the] follow-up,” Salts said. “These guys are giving you their time and talent for free, you should really maximize and take advantage of that.”
Part of the training of the program revolves around daily tasks that don’t deal with food: accounting, marketing, securing a location and creating a business plan. LiftFund (formerly Accion Texas) provides services in these areas. Not only have the loaned over $159M in their 20 year history, they provide the tools and guidance to help increase their success.
“The [business plan] is an important element and I don’t want to disregard it, but I do think that theory is one thing, practice is another. [To] someone who is looking at their business plan and strategy, what I would say is go test it. Don’t just write it and say, ‘I’m done,’” Celina Peña, Chief Program Officer of LiftFund, advised.
Throughout San Antonio, I personally see many culinary entrepreneurs do this by selling products through the Cottage Food Law, hosting pop-up dinners and leasing out commercial kitchen space. “Get dirty with it and don’t just make it pretty,” Peña said.
Break Fast and Launch is a unique resource we have in San Antonio. If you aspire to become a culinary entrepreneur, be sure to check out their recently redesigned website for more information. In fact, applications are due by April 22, 2015 for the next cohort that kicks off in May, which deals with craft beverage makers. I’m look forward to seeing what new beer, coffee and juice options hit San Antonio in the near future.
For more information on Break Fast & Launch, visit www.breakfastlaunch.com