(L–R) Bob Harmon, Ben Phillips from Mamachari Kombucha and Todd Jensen at the 2019 awards ceremony.

Harmons Kickstarts Local Businesses Through Their Community Grant Program

Food: Interviews & Features

The Harmons’ Local Supplier Development Grant has been helping small Utah businesses connect with wider audiences since 2016. The idea was born when the Harmons team noticed a local entrepreneurial energy. Marketing Vice President Lindee Nance says, “We began the program five years ago after hearing many stories about ideas for local food startups.” After seeing the potential for so many small businesses in Utah, they realized that Harmons—as a local company itself—was in a unique position to support these small businesses and be a part of the Utah food community’s growth.

Drawing inspiration from their own beginning as a startup in a competitive field, the folks at Harmons put together the grant to not only offer financial support to up-and-coming local brands, but find “creative ways to bring these products into our stores.” By highlighting these artisans in their store, Harmons promotes their products and attracts a larger audience. Every year, they look for new and exciting niche producers to support through the grant.

To apply for this grant, a small business must be a Utah-based Harmons partner. Each applicant must fill out an application and submit it by the designated due date. The Harmons operating board also works to remind current Harmons partners of the grant program and encourages their partners to apply. Once the due date has passed, the board reviews the applications and chooses a winner based on the answers each participant included in their submission packet.

When sifting through applicants, the review board looks for businesses that are committed to creating high-quality products that bring value to customers and storefronts alike. It’s not just about making things locally—it’s about creating things that are unmatched in quality and exciting to the community.

“This grant allows Harmons to connect our partners with a growing customer audience.”

Of course, the goal is to provide funding to small businesses in Utah, but Harmons also maintains a grounded focus on creating a community of local businesses that support one another. To meet this goal, the board looks for grantees who strive to collaborate with other community members and participate in the local culture. They hope that by highlighting artisans who are invested in supporting the greater community, they will form a more locally focused future. This emphasis on community building helps the recipients forge connections with other local companies and the customers they serve.

While the overarching mission is to aid the success of local business at large, each recipient has different goals and needs for the grant money. Within the application materials, applicants are asked how they would use the funding should they receive the grant. Like many like-minded entrepreneurs, these small business owners aim to improve their processes and create products they can stand behind. Whether they plan to use the grant to buy new equipment, expand their product line or improve day-to-day operations, their primary objective is often to deliver more products to their customers.

In addition to providing funds, Harmons also highlights the grant-winning brands through marketing, introducing them to local consumers. In the past few years, winners have included local favorites such as The Chocolate Conspiracy, Hollow Tree Honey and Kodiak Cakes. Helping these local companies become household names in our community is an integral part of Harmons’ mission. As each small business grows, it becomes easier for customers to buy local products.

“Reinvesting in local business through this grant program makes us stronger as a collective food community.”

The Harmons team strives to provide for their community, and as Nance explains, “We know that there is a great demand from our customers for unique local products. This grant allows Harmons to connect our partners with a growing customer audience.” With every grant offered, the products Harmons’ customers want become more readily available. As local products become as easy to access as less community-focused national brands, customers can make choices they feel good about.

Another community-focused goal Harmons strivess for through this annual grant is sustainability. The grant can help its recipients to build elements of their business that will support their growth well into the future. The more successful each business is, the more they contribute to the community’s success.

In the long run, the Harmons’ Local Supplier Development Grant serves more than just the specific recipients each year, and that’s a big part of the plan. Nance says, “Reinvesting in local business through this grant program makes us stronger as a collective food community.” As more people both inside and outside of Utah learn about the exciting products being made here, new businesses will be inspired to startup and create even more opportunities for the next round of entrepreneurship. All together, this makes Utah a more diverse and creative environment for small businesses and consumers.