Each month we will be featuring one of our consultants in the Consultant Spotlight. This will be an opportunity for you to get to know a little more about our consultants and how special they are to the Larimer SBDC, our clients and the community. Along with a short background bio on each consultant, we will also ask each of them our 5 Questions that give insight to their particular industry, experience or personal interests.
This month, we turn the spotlight on Sari Kimbell, Founder & CEO of Cultivate. Sari is one of our newest consultants and she specializes in the food and restaurant industry, as well as being a business owner herself.
Sari has combined her passion for the food industry with her marketing, event planning and graphic design skills to create a unique niche for her own consulting company working with startups, established businesses and non-profits. Her passion is working with food business start-ups, helping them navigate the business development cycle to launch successfully and business ready to grow and take their business to the next level.
2) Thoughts on the food/restaurant industry for 2018? 2018 will bring some big legislative changes for restaurants around food safety and food labeling changes for value-added food products. Aside from this, the future is bright for food businesses. Customers continue to want more transparency in their food whether it is local or non-processed, from scratch ingredients or menu options and they are willing to pay for it. Understanding your market and setting yourself apart with a defensibly unique stance is key to capturing sales in the food and restaurant industries.
3) What do you enjoy most about consulting? It is so rewarding to see growth over time. Some clients make leaps and bounds in weeks or months and some are on a slower timeline. Neither is better or worse, it is forward progress that is important. I love seeing many of my clients out in social settings, because food is social, and hearing the latest update. We are so fortunate to have a thriving local food scene and I am honored to be a part of it.
4) Favorite restaurants in Ft. Collins? Right now I am really loving Emporium in The Elizabeth Hotel. I love that they have duck liver mousse and a lardon salad. I lived in Paris for six months and the menu and decor bring me back to lazy afternoons spent in brasseries. You also can’t beat the view or cocktails after dinner upstairs in the Sunset Lounge with Mark Sloniker playing Jazz in the background.
5) One piece of advice for anyone looking to start a new food/restaurant business? As I said before, know your target market inside and out and be able to defend your unique selling point. If you are going to start a salsa company, which I don’t recommend, it has to stand out as different enough that people just have to try in an over-saturated market. Also, this is connected, people like to try new things in small doses, so help ease them into your unique product or menu by relating it to something they know. Don’t afraid to step out of the norm a little bit, but no so much that it is way outside of people’s comfort zones; only 10% of the population are early adopters and a food business will need more than that to make it. For example, don’t start a restaurant with the craziest trend in Korean street food like edible insects. Instead introduce one menu item that incorporates an element of that trend that is relateable. That said, when you can coax customers into trying something new, they LOVE to Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and tell others about the great new cricket meatballs they just ate. Finding the balance is not an easy task, but it is achievable.