OSU researchers help food entrepreneurs find sweet successes
The Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University is becoming known for the food companies it cultivates, including Suan's Foods, which makes Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly.
STILLWATER — Some have called it the food entrepreneur's “best kept secret.”
But that just makes the staff at Oklahoma State University's Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center want to shout: “we're here and we want to help!”
If you go
The 95,000-square-foot research facility on the OSU campus is becoming known for the successful food businesses it has helped cultivate, among them Suan's Foods, which makes Suan's Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly, and Ziegelmeier & Co., which produces toasted pecan butter.
Suan's Foods founder Suan Grant discovered the center after calling the university to ask about selling her jelly at the farmer's market and they recommended she take the daylong basic training workshop. After attending the seminar in February 2009, the wealth of information presented left her feeling both elated and scared to death, she said.
“You just never think of all the things you really need to do to take a product to market. It's not just making it and putting it in a container and selling it,” she said.
Basic training seminars are offered at the center five times a year for $150. Attendees learn how to plan their business, how much money they'll need, how to evaluate the market for their product, labeling requirements, health regulations, patenting and trademarks, processing and co-packing and legalities and liabilities.
It can be overwhelming to some, said Jim Brooks, the center's manager of business and marketing services, and out of each class, only one or two move forward with starting their food-based business. As of January 2011, 977 people had completed the workshop and formed 100 companies, 60 of which were still in business.
Suan's success story
For most, the basic training workshop is the beginning and those that go on to start food-based businesses continue to utilize the resources at the Food & Agricultural Products Center.