Bodega Bootcamp Teaches Business Skills to Michigan's Startup Grocers

fruit stand
By Amy Haimerl for the Michigan Good Food Fund
 
An original version of this story was published at MIGoodFoodFund.org and can be accessed here
 
Inside a small brick building in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, a plan is hatching that will turn the former Bagley Trumbull Market, which was more liquor store than market, into The Farmer’s Hand—a year-round farmers market and café offering fresh, healthy, and locally grown food. 
 
Co-founders Kiki Louya and Rohani Foulkes met earlier this year and decided to team up. While they both had food industry experience, they lacked retail savvy, so it was fortuitous when they heard about Bodega Bootcamp, a one-day crash course provided by the Michigan Good Food Fund. 
 
The Fund had heard from a number of startup grocers and wanted to help them accelerate their business planning because such enterprises fit with the Fund’s work providing financing and business assistance to good food enterprises in Michigan. 
 
The Fund brought in James Johnson-Piett of Urbane Development to host a Bodega Bootcamp for five startups: The Farmer’s Hand, Chene Street Grocers, and Detroit People’s Food Co-op in Detroit, The Local Grocer in Flint, and a new store in Jackson supported by Bridgepoint Development. 
 
“Since the Fund launched, we’ve received a number of inquiries from start-up grocery projects committed to putting healthy food at the center of their stores,” said Oran Hesterman, CEO of Fair Food Network, a core Michigan Good Food Fund partner. “Through the Bodega Bootcamp, we were able to help these entrepreneurs build their business acumen so they can translate their ideas into success in the marketplace.” 
 
The Bootcamp takes entrepreneurs through the nitty gritty aspects of running a store, from reading income statements to predicting expenses to properly pricing and determining profit margins. 
 
“When I talk to nascent-stage entrepreneurs, they have this grand vision of what they want to do,” says Johnson-Piett. “The question is whether or not your vision has been defined by the marketplace.”
 
Malik Yakini is taking this question seriously. As the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, he is working with the community to open the Detroit People’s Food Co-op in Detroit’s North End neighborhood to provide a community-owned outpost of healthy food plus a gathering space in an otherwise underserved area of the city. 
 
Such expansive thinking tied with alternative funding and ownership models makes Detroit unique. 
 
“Detroit has one of the best infrastructures for support in this space,” says Johnson-Piett. 
 
Foulkes and Louya are counting on that. The Bootcamp helped them develop their benchmarks for financial success, see where they will be able to connect with other resources, and fully understand their value proposition to the consumer. 
 
But most importantly, they liked being in a room with other entrepreneurs and understanding they were not alone. “Something that came out of the bootcamp was the fact that there was a need for [this training] to exist,” says Foulkes. 
 
To learn more about the Bodega Bootcamp program, visit the Urbane Development website here
 
Launched in summer 2015, the Michigan Good Food Fund is a public-private partnership loan and grant fund created to finance healthy food production, distribution, processing, and retail projects that benefit underserved communities throughout Michigan. Learn more about the Michigan Good Food Fund at www.MIGoodFoodFund.org and join it on Facebook and Twitter @MIGoodFoodFund
 
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Healthy Food Access Portal.