By Francess K., camper
My initial thoughts about the food industry were narrow in the sense that I only imagined selling food in a store or restaurant. Chez Innovation not only changed my idea, but gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the business. We first visited Hope and Main, in Warren Rhode Island, where we met small business owners and learned about the economies of scale of farmer’s markets. Even with the glamorous kitchens, catchy slogans, and superb products, what intrigued me the most was the story behind each company. I found that it was more valuable to hear the stories of the people who had initiated change because they identified an issue that was dear to them. For example, a woman whose son needed to lose weight decided to make very healthy cookies and still managed to make them taste delicious. As I walked from booth to booth, I found myself leaving each and every one of them with a sense of understanding and connection.
On day two of the camp we were fortunate enough to visit Baffoni’s Chicken Farm. I had expected a simple farm model. However, we were presented with a complex business model that depended heavily on the thorough maintenance of the products and the facilities being used. Even though bringing the product to market isn’t automated, relying on the work of pluckers and butchers, Baffoni follows strict protocols for food safety. At Daniele we were able to see first hand the technology that produces the meat products. In contrast to the small operation at Baffoni, Daniele was a huge, automated plant run by people but also robots made by Ferrari. It was an example of how American ingenuity continues to inspire confidence in the economy. Our next stop of the day was at Farm Fresh Rhode Island, where we were given a tour of the multifaceted non-profit organization that delivers fresh produce to citizens and gives small businesses an opportunity to showcase their products. Their business model is in fact quite similar to my group’s original pitch. With refinement we were able to use knowledge that we acquired in various business class sessions to develop an idea for an event planning service that promotes small businesses and makes cultural connections across Rhode Island. Chez Innovation has inspired me to think of the industry as “more than just a meal,” as Amos House articulates in their mission.