Wisconsin accelerator program for food and farm entrepreneurs goes national

TrueMan McGee

From City Lights Brewing Co. and Valentine Coffee Co. to Funky Fresh Spring Rolls and Soul Brew Kombucha, the FaBcap Accelerator has helped 50 Wisconsin food and beverage companies find their footing.

Now, the state-sponsored accelerator is transforming into a national program that will provide business support, training and services to six times more food-related entrepreneurs every year.

The program originated in 2015 through Food and Beverage (FaB) Wisconsin, a Milwaukee-based industry organization. In 2020, the University of Wisconsin System-affiliated Food Finance Institute (FFI) took over the program. It receives funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The revamped FFI Fellows Program kicked off earlier this month with a cohort of 15 food and beverage businesses, according to a Tuesday announcement.

Although the program is now open to businesses across the country, 13 of the 15 companies in the first cohort are located in Wisconsin. They include Milwaukee-area businesses Pete’s Pops LLC, The Pink Bakery Inc., Crumbles Confectionary LLC and Mama Bev’s Bakery LLC.

Madison-area companies participating in the first cohort include Banzo LLC, Bonnie’s Balls LLC and Keene Garlic. The non-Wisconsin companies participating are Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies of New York and California oat milk maker Oaterra.

Under the new model, FFI will run four cohorts per year with 15 companies in each group. Previously, the FaBcap Accerlator ran one cohort annually, each with 10 participating companies.

“Through our new model, in one year, we will touch more businesses than in the last five years combined,” interim FFI director Sarah Larson said in a statement. “That means more businesses primed to excel, raise money and contribute to their local economies and communities.”

Two of the four cohorts will focus on food and beverage companies, one cohort will be for value-added agriculture businesses, and one is for food processing and supporting technology businesses.

Applications for the agriculture and food processing technology cohorts are open until Jan. 30. Applications for the second food and beverage cohort of 2022 will open later this year. Interested entrepreneurs can learn more about the programs and apply on the FFI website.

Each cohort will run for six to eight months and cover topics including sales, operations, accounting, finance, food safety and marketing. Participants also receive one-on-one coaching, access to industry connections and an opportunity to pitch to potential investors.

Collectively, the 50 companies that have gone through the FaBcap Accelerator have raised nearly $10 million in equity funding and surpassed $36.7 million in total annual sales, according to the announcement.

Teddy Nykiel, Wisconsin Inno

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