The Twin Cities area offers a number of business-accelerator programs for startups, but it's often when taking the next leap in growth that new companies falter.
Some of the local food industry giants are lending their expertise to ensure the entrepreneurial pool of innovation doesn't evaporate.
Now in its second year, MBOLD's Bold Growth program pairs small food and beverage businesses with mentors and advisers from companies like Target, General Mills and Cargill. Those chosen for the "post-accelerator" program have over $5 million in annual sales but are also facing barriers to further growth.
AURI and Grow North manage the Bold Growth program, which launched in 2021.
"It's really tailored and specialized — no company's program will look exactly like the others," said Shannon Schlecht, executive director of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI). "We saw some great results overall last year, with high double- to triple-digit sales growth."
While Minnesota boasts the best five-year business survival rate in the country, the state's food firms face a number of challenges in moving from mere survival to sustainable growth.
"We know that small businesses and large businesses need each other. There's a symbiotic relationship needed for the whole ecosystem to work," said JoAnne Berkenkamp, managing director of the food and agribusiness coalition MBOLD. "But small companies often have a hard time getting e-mails answered."
Sentera, So Good So You, Bizzy Coffee, Katana AgriScience and Peace Coffee were last year's cohort. This year's group includes Local Crate, Step One Foods, HidrateSpark and another round for Bizzy Coffee.
Schlecht said the brands could get help reaching new markets, developing new products, finding manufacturers or navigating persistent supply-chain pressures, depending on their needs.
While businesses of all sizes can benefit from that kind of help, Bold Growth focuses on those that have made it past the startup phase and are more likely to reach a much larger scale.
"We've got such a large ecosystem in Minnesota in terms of food and ag, and there are ways companies and others are engaging that I didn't see five or six years ago," Schlecht said.
John Haugen, managing partner at Semcap Food & Nutrition, said at a Grow North panel last week that all the pieces exist to make Minnesota's food and ag sector thrive.
"A lot of times people just need a leg up, they need answers to certain questions," he said. "We have got more food, manufacturing, technical, retail and consumer expertise in this market. ... We just have to activate it."