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A Keene food lab graduates a new class of entrepreneurs

NHPR Staff

Another kind of graduating class is celebrating this season, as they wrap up their studies at a local food lab.

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

This year's class completed an eight-week round of skill development, classes and other training.

Cynthia Kelley is one of four people to give a pitch now that they’ve graduated from the program. She says she had been in the restaurant industry for years when a friend, Brandie Wells, suggested they go into business together. The two created the Shadow & Soul Emporium, owned by Wells. They sell teas and ice cream, along with jewelry and "witchy" things from local artists.

They got the idea when they were carrying out paranormal investigations and psychic readings. Wells envisioned a location on Main Street in Keene. When their current location became available, they created a tea shop that reflects their interests and friendship.

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

“Just because you're an entrepreneur doesn't mean that you know how to manage,” Kelley said. “So what are the characters that play into each other and how do you work together?”

For a business of 12 staffers, Kelley said making sure people know their job roles and responsibilities is important.

Not undercutting the business with prices that are too low was another lesson from Hannah Grimes. Along with less appealing aspects of management, like securing proper insurance and lawyers, and scaling a business to stay successful.

Owen Miller, owner of East Alstead Roasting Company, also participated last year. After some traveling and working in the beer brewing industry elsewhere, he decided to come back home to New Hampshire and open up a coffee roasting business.

Miller said he was a bit hesitant when he first signed up for the the food lab. He knew his business, having built it by himself, and was concerned that the center couldn’t help him without having extensive knowledge of the coffee industry. But the food lab helped him clarify his goals and brand — something he said he lost sight of while focusing on day-to-day operations.

“I was sort of at a period of time where I kind of plateaued with what my abilities were,” he said. “And I knew that I had some weaknesses, business wise and I decided to go for it.”

Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.

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