With a deep background in the wine industry, professional education in agriculture and business, and experience as a food researcher, Jill Beaman came to lead the Getting Your Recipe to Market Program at the PCC SBDC 7 years ago. This is her story.
What is your background in the food industry? I grew up in Napa Valley and worked in the wine industry there. I studied agricultural business and received my B.S. and M.S. from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I worked as a researcher at the Food Innovation Center prior to coming to the PCC SBDC.
Do you have a favorite part about being an instructor/advisor? I love connecting our food entrepreneurs to resources and opportunities that will help them successfully launch their business.
What challenges do your students face prior to coming to the Getting Your Recipe to Market program? The biggest challenge our students face is simply knowing where to start. They have a great idea or an old family recipe, but aren't sure where to focus their energy. This can lead to them making some costly mistakes. We are able to give them the knowledge they lack and point them in the right direction.
What kind of growth/transformation do you see in your students during the program? Our clients gain a real understanding of how the food industry works, including what actually goes into producing a commercial food product. It is usually much more complicated than they anticipate.
What skills are needed in order for someone to be successful in this industry? To start any business, and especially a food business, one needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Beyond that it helps to have organizational skills, be a self starter, and have a lot of persistence.
If you could give one piece of advice to future students, what would it be? Understand your cost of goods and get comfortable with numbers.
The food production industry has seen some significant changes in the last few years. What changes have you experienced and how do you keep yourself up to date on trends and industry standards? Some of the biggest changes I've seen are more fresh options, online shopping, loyal consumers following their favorite brands on social media. The recent Federal regulations applying to all producers through the Food Safety Modernization Act has been a big change as well.
We are able to keep up to date through our relationships with alumni and partners in the food industry (FIC, New Seasons, ODA, Specialty Food Association, and industry expert presenters).
What are some of the biggest benefits students get from the program? They get a pathway to profitable commercialization--literally a path to go from "grandma's best recipe" to being on the shelves in local markets. Through the program clients are able to make great connections to the local food network. They even get a chance to present their products to New Seasons Market buyers.
What do you do for fun? Biking, SCUBA, travel, and seeking out the next adventure with my family. Last year my husband took a sabbatical and the whole family traveled to Thailand, New Orleans, and the British Virgin Islands. What an adventure!