Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Martin Canellakis, co-founder and CEO of Farm to Table Foods, located in Chappaqua, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We produce 100% organic, craft-made whole grain and oatmeal blends for both the food service and retail world.
Tell us about yourself
Years ago, when my daughter Eva was about 6, she went through a phase where she would only eat oatmeal. So in order to branch out, I started blending different grains together. I experimented with organic rye, hard red winter spelt, and Kamut. At one point, it hit me that there wasn't anything else like this on the market. From there, a business was born.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment was taking a business that only existed in my mind and bringing it through proof of concept to the point where it was profitable and successful. That's a great feeling. However, if I were to really think about what makes me happy every day, it's the respect I've earned from customers.
Some of my life's proudest moments have involved the recognition we've received from respected chefs in the food service industry. Our products have found their way to some of the world's finest. Laurent Tourondel and Jean-George Vongerichten, both celebrity chefs, have personally opened the doors for our products to be served in their restaurants. I've found that the more famous the chef, the kinder, more gracious, and more appreciative they are of someone trying to do something of quality.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest part for us is sales. We're great at making a great product, but getting the word out has been our biggest impediment. Our best sales tool has always been and continues to be word of mouth. For instance, we have not put one dime into advertising our product on Amazon, but we continue to experience year after year growth. Our return customer base is what drives us. They tell their friends, and soon we have more return customers.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I got into this business knowing nothing–only that I loved food and wanted to make it my life. If I were to proffer any advice, it would be to get a job in the industry you're interested in, learn as much as you possibly can, then take that knowledge and use it to venture out on your own. Be kind to people along the way. Remember who was good to you and try to do them a good turn when you can. As much as we'd like to think that the digital age has revolutionized business to the point where human involvement is not paramount, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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