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Monetary Resources Key to Entrance Into Food Business

November 01, 2000|KAREN E. KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q: I want to manufacture a chocolate product and I don't know where to begin. Where are the beginner's resources that teach one how to create a food product?

--Eileen Leigh, Los Angeles

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A: Launching a commercial food product without an existing venue, such as a retail store or Web site, and an established brand name is an extremely tough proposition for anyone, let alone a beginning entrepreneur.

Huge corporations spend millions on new-product development, distribution and marketing, and most of the time their new products do not make it out of the gate and onto store shelves, let alone into consumers' shopping carts. It takes tremendous monetary resources to develop a commercial recipe, do the required test marketing, set up manufacturing or arrange for a "co-packer" (a federally certified and inspected commercial food production company that will produce your product for a fee), establish distribution channels, and get the product shelf space in retail grocery or specialty stores.

Assuming you get to that point, you would need additional resources for marketing so that you could sell your product in high-enough volume to make it profitable.

Food consultants are available to help you navigate the process. Consultant listings can be found at the Food Consultants Group, http://www.foodconsultants.com. The National Confectioners Assn. and the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., both based in McLean, Va. (http://www.candyusa.org), also can provide valuable information.

Check entrepreneurial education programs at universities and community colleges in your area. Some small-business educational programs offer classes on how to bring a food product to the marketplace.

Another very good idea would be for you to attend the Fancy Food & Confection Show scheduled Jan. 21-23 in San Francisco. This trade show, sponsored by the National Assn. for the Specialty Food Trade Inc., attracts thousands of exhibitors and includes a schedule of seminars and workshops on specialty food products. If you attend, you will get an excellent picture of the industry and how it works, plus a look at what kind of competition you face. You can get information on the NASFT and the trade show at http://www.fancyfoodshows.com.

--Denise Vivaldo,

food consultant,

Food Fanatics, Los Angeles

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Q: I have just completed a "heart work," a one-handed typing manual and Web site for people who have lost the use of one hand. (I learned to type on a standard keyboard in the 1960s after an accident took a great deal of my hand.) Can you give me some ideas for promotion? I want to let parents and teachers know about this resource.

--Lilly Walters,

Walters International

Speakers' Bureau, Glendora

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A: There are two main avenues that you can go down in promoting this kind of specialized resource. In your outreach to disabled adults, you could work with the directors of social services or patient counseling in local rehabilitation centers. You also might want to do a mailing to physical and vocational therapists who work with people recovering from industrial or auto accidents.

Job counseling services that deal specifically with the disabled would be another venue--start with the International Assn. of Jewish Vocational Services, http://www.iajvs.org, and Catholic Charities USA, http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Do a Web search for specific Web sites and general Web portals that serve the disabled community, then contact the relevant sites you locate and ask their Web masters how to get your book included in their resource catalogs or online bookstores. If you have the funds to do banner advertising, these sites would be ideal places to start.

Your second major area of promotion would be schools, where you could try to place your book as a resource for special education programs. Start by contacting school nurses through the California School Nurses Organization in Sacramento, http://www.csno.org. Ask if you can rent its membership list to do a direct mailing. A good mailer positioning the book primarily as a classroom tool for disabled students is a great idea. You may want to try a similar mailer to special education teachers.

--Gay Silberg,

Graham, Silberg, Sugarman,

advertising and marketing,

Los Angeles

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Q: I have a small business that is incorporated. Sales have been very sluggish in the past couple of years and I find I pay a CPA what I think is a disproportionate amount of money to handle the taxes. Can I handle the taxes myself? Are there tax software programs you might suggest? I am the only employee.

--Donald Monroe, Los Angeles

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A: Since your company is incorporated, you have built-in tax issues that are more complex than the typical sole proprietorship with no employees. So doing the taxes yourself with packaged software is probably not a good option for you. There are special tax considerations that come with a corporation, and you need to have them addressed properly or you will wind up losing out in the long run.

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