A blossoming food epicenter of the Midwest, Minnesota is rapidly gaining traction as the place to start a food business. A force behind this ever-growing food hub is Studio/E member Chad Gillard — passionate entrepreneur, innovative maker and co-founder of local food community Midwest Pantry. Chad and his partner Zoie Glass are working tirelessly to transform this fair state into the number one place to start and grow a food company. Why? Because “we’ve got it all here in the North!” Chad says.
We spoke to Chad about the “why” behind his company, where he sees the Minnesota food business in 10 years, and his Olympic superpower.
You’re helping to create a vibrant food community. Why Minnesota?
Chad: We’ve got a heritage of being a global food center. We’ve got farming and growing expertise. We’ve got people making an amazing variety of products. We’ve got more food scientists than anywhere else. We’ve got an educated population that cares about where their food comes from, and that has created more food co-ops than anywhere else.
Why do you want to help food entrepreneurs?
Chad: It’s a fact that people who love food are the nicest people, so working with food entrepreneurs is super fun. Plus, when startup food companies grow, they not only bring awesome products to market, they also create jobs really quickly.
What is a common food business problem that needs to be solved?
Chad: Early stage food companies struggle with production space and packaging that enables them to get shelf space. As companies grow, they struggle with distribution and scaling production. Managing cash flow and marketing are consistent challenges for everyone.
What are you reading?
Chad: I‘m reading the first book from an Irish Noire author, Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands. He’s from the city I used to live in in Northern Ireland. It’s an easy, yet fascinating read especially considering all the Brexit business.
If you weren’t a digital analyst at GoKart or the guy behind Midwest Pantry, what would you do?
Chad: I would definitely be a travel guide.
What is your superpower?
Chad: I can identify every country’s flag … it’s super handy during the Olympics.
Where will Midwest Pantry be in 10 years?
Chad: The NE Food District will be a vibrant hub of Minnesota’s food community, with food production spaces of all shapes and sizes, retail, restaurants and even housing that enables people to live in walking distance to their high-paying food jobs. We’ll also be traveling around the country sharing the success of Minnesota’s food ecosystem and helping other cities create their own success stories modeled after Minnesota.
Learn more about this business analyzing, flag identifying, consensus building entrepreneur and his adventure of launching Midwest Pantry at the Studio/E #ideaSLAM on Wednesday, February 28. You can get your tickets here. Bring your partner, bring your friend – bring anybody that likes ideas, entrepreneurs and good conversation.
Would you like to learn even more about Chad? He was the subject of our our column in Minnesota Business Magazine in 2016.