You only have to look to your local farmer’s market crowded with shoppers to understand how much Utahns value entrepreneurship. The local food movement is going strong, thanks to innovative foodtrepreneurs and customers with discerning tastes and a passion for supporting local companies.
The second annual Foodtrepreneur Festival is your chance to hear the stories behind your favorite local products and discover new favorites. Come with an empty stomach, the founders of each company will be sharing samples of their product. If you’re thinking of starting your own foodie business, get ready to be inspired (and to ask a lot of questions!). The second annual Foodtrepreneur Festival takes place on April 27 from 4:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at The Leonardo, 209 East 500 South in Salt Lake City. Admission is free, but an RSVP is required. To RSVP, visit their website.
Here is a sampling of the local food companies you’ll learn more about at the Foodtrepreneur Festival.
Sugared Caramel Candy
Michelle Wolfe, the owner of Sugared Caramel Candy, creates mouth-watering caramels and caramel sauce with natural ingredients and unique flavors. This will be her first year participating in the Foodtrepreneur Festival.
SLUG: Tell us about your caramels.
Michelle Wolfe: What makes us different is our three guiding principles. 1. Everybody should be able to enjoy our caramels. Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or can’t eat sugar—we have a caramel for you. 2. Our unique flavor profiles give people experiences that they don’t normally have with candy. 3. If great-grandma didn’t use a specific ingredient, neither do we with limited exceptions like in our sugar-free caramel which still uses all-natural ingredients.
SLUG: What motivated you to become a foodtrepreneur?
Wolfe: In my former career, I was a mental health and substance abuse therapist. When I finally landed my dream job, I was so happy. Later they told me to get a plan B, since they were unsure of their funding. My plan B was selling caramel since people love my hand-made caramels. We got our packaging together and were accepted to a few markets. Just as the market season was about to get underway, my day job called and said “You’re fine.” It never entered my head to NOT start a food business once I decided on it, so I worked full time and did the caramel business on the side for the first two and a half years of the business. Now, Sugared is my full-time job. I basically have the best job in the world. It is hard and stressful and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
SLUG: What challenges have you overcome as a foodtrepreneur?
Wolfe: Besides challenges with family, time management is difficult. I’m literally working all the time, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things.
SLUG: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a food business?
Wolfe: Stock up on your grit. Make sure your personal life is in order. Don’t expect time off. Be prepared to be consumed by your business.
SLUG: How important are events like this festival to your business?
Wolfe: I went to the Foodtrepreneur Festival as an attendee last year and was blown away by how this community will get behind their food producers. This event isn’t like a market, you can’t actually buy the products. It’s pure marketing and sharing our story. It’s a great way to get the word out about our caramels.
SLUG: How does social media and word-of-mouth advertising affect your business?
Wolfe: Thousands and thousands of people go to farmer’s markets, but nobody gets around the entire perimeter. We can be part of the market each week, but people still don’t know us. That’s where social media and word of mouth advertising come in.
SLUG: Where can people find your product?
Wolfe: People can order through our website. If there’s a farmer’s market, like Park Silly Sunday Market or the Downtown Farmer’s Market, or special food event in town, we’ll be there.