As a food startup, you are likely running on limited resources. That’s why we’re tapping into the knowledge of Hannah Kullberg, an experienced food startup community consultant, on how to leverage your local community to connect with others, solve problems and propel your business forward.

Hannah has a rich background in, and a deep-rooted passion for, food business. After receiving a BA in Geography from Vassar College in 2010 Hannah worked on a non-profit educational CSA farm where she studied food systems. She later co-founded The Better Bean Company with her father, and since exiting from the company in 2018, has become a business consultant and adviser to food startups in the Portland area. She is also actively involved in BUILT Oregon as a mentor to the food companies in the BUILT accelerator.

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Any advice for connecting with other makers in the community?

Networking. A lot of Better Bean’s success was due to our networking. We were never afraid to ask for advice, and more importantly, share advice. I took other founders’ calls with pleasure and gave them real, focused time. It’s so easy to say you don’t have time for this sort of thing, as, after all, it’s not building your own business. But this is how deep relationships are built.

How can makers leverage these connections in their community to help grow their brand?

As Foodboro members likely know, shared kitchen spaces are an excellent resource. While at Better Bean we opportated from a shared kitchen for 5+ years, sharing supplies, ingredients and equipment with other makers. Shared kitchens allow you to connect with other makers on such an intimate level. This vulnerability and intimacy with other makers, likely in the same situation, can lead to long-standing relationships and cross-brand partnerships.

Vulnerability and intimacy with other makers can lead to long-standing relationships and cross-brand partnerships.

What success did you see with this while at Better Bean?

Through utilizing a shared kitchen space and networking the Better Bean team was able to secure partnerships with other brands such as Lotus Rice for a beans and rice bowl collaboration, chip companies like Jackson’s Honest and RW Garcia, and Mi Rancho to make bean tacos for demo events. One of our most successful partnerships was with Heidi Ho, where our two companies collaboratively ran a food pop-up at the Vegan Street Fair in LA. We made a couple of recipes with our products combined and sold those to the excited crowds – making money on our marketing efforts! 

How can makers scale while staying close to their community?

I am a firm believer in in-store demos. Not only are demos cost-effective, but they also allow you to connect with members of your community in a face-to-face interaction, gauge their reaction to your product and take their feedback back to the kitchen to iterate. 

As your brand grows, you may expand your demos into other regions. But there really is something to be said about demoing in your own backyard.

How can makers come together to support each other’s growth?

Currently I am a mentor at the BUILT Oregon Accelerator. Something myself and and a few brands are working on is coming together to collectively launch a fulfillment solution for samples and online sales. By networking with other makers, a common need was identified. All these small to mid-sized brands were either hiring someone for just a couple hours a day or making their marketing team manage fulfillment as well. Furthermore, these brands don’t have enough volume to justify a 3PL resource. But together, these companies are able to provide someone with a fulltime job and access economies of scale that will allow the shipping to be both more sustainable and more cost effective. Huge win! 

Connect with Hannah and learn more about her background, experience and how she can help your brand grow over on her website.

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