Barry's Tempeh is a food business in Brooklyn, New York that makes and sells small batches of tempeh made from local, organically grown beans and grains. Food entrepreneur and Barry's Tempeh partner, Gordon Bennett, gives us some invaluable advice for startups preparing to enter the local food business space.
Why did you decide to launch Barry's Tempeh?
Our business was started because we had four very important things in place: Each partner had expertise in an area the other didn't. The consumer, location and timing of the business was perfect for the product. We have a fantastic product that will be very hard for anyone to compete with at our level of production. We have a very diverse customer base so the business is not dependent on any one group. That guarantees stability and growth. We sell our tempeh retail direct to the consumer and also wholesale to retail stores, restaurants and caterers.
What shocked you the most about the food startup process?
The amount of details that have to be dealt with on a daily basis, manufacturing, marketing and business operation. Also each time we grow, much of what we do has to be rethought, it feels like we're starting at square one at times.
What business tool/concept was the most eye-opening as you launched your startup?
The internet is a critical tool as a direct link with our customers. It allows us to build personal relationships between them and our brand. People actually get to chat with Barry on a daily basis.
Which professional or personal individual(s) were the most crucial as you grew from idea stage to pilot stage?
We use a food business incubator kitchen called The Entrepreneur Space. The kitchen manager has been incredibly helpful and has deep knowledge of the food business which we draw on from time to time.
What did you learn from your customers that surprised you?
We offer free samples of our tempeh every weekend at several outdoor markets from May until December. What was most surprising was the lack of knowledge of tempeh and how good it is for you. We feel like we have to do a lot of consumer education, but the taste of fresh tempeh helps break down resistance a lot.
What are your plans for growing Barry's Tempeh?
Using tempeh as a base product has allowed us to develop a whole range of unique brand extensions such as tempeh tamales, tempeh burgers and tempeh dumplings. We are also developing a line of sauces that go great with our tempeh as well.
What advice do you have for food entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Prepare to be under payed and overworked for several years. Always be open to new ways of doing things and new product ideas but don't lose focus on your core business.
Anything else you would like readers to know?
A final bit of advice, you have to really believe in the product your making. People can really sense when you have excitement for what you're doing and they reward you for it.