A food laboratory produces a new generation of entrepreneurs

This season, a graduating class is celebrating a very different occasion: completing their studies at a local food laboratory.

The Hannah Grimes Food Business Lab in Keene helps food entrepreneurs expand their services.

This year's class completed an eight-week skills development course, including classroom and other training.

Cynthia Kelley is one of four people who will give a presentation after the program is completed. She said she had been working in the restaurant business for years when a friend, Brandie Wells, suggested they open a business together. The two founded Shadow & Soul Emporium, which Wells owns, selling tea and ice cream as well as jewelry and “witchy” items made by local artists.

The idea came to them while they were doing paranormal investigations and psychic readings. Wells had a location in mind on Main Street in Keene. When their current location became available, they opened a tea shop that reflected their interests and friendship.

Kelley said she's old school and has years of experience in the restaurant industry, but even she learned a lot in the Hannah Grimes program.

“Just because you're an entrepreneur doesn't mean you know how to do business,” Kelley said. “So what characters are involved and how do they work together?”

For a company with 12 employees, it's important to make sure people know their roles and responsibilities, Kelley said.

Another lesson from Hannah Grimes was not to undercut the competition by pricing too low, along with less appealing aspects of management, like getting proper insurance and lawyers and scaling a business to remain successful.

Owen Miller, owner of East Alstead Roasting Company, also participated last year. After traveling a bit and working in beer brewing elsewhere, he decided to return to New Hampshire and open a coffee roasting company.

Miller said he was a little hesitant when he first signed up for the food lab. He knew his business, having built it himself, and was worried the center wouldn't be able to help him without extensive knowledge of the coffee industry. But the food lab helped him clarify his goals and brand – something he lost sight of when he was focused on day-to-day operations.

“I was at a stage where my skills weren't going anywhere,” he said. “And I knew I had some weaknesses in business, so I decided to give it a try.”

Anna Harden

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