Food is pretty darn wonderful. Not only does it sustain you to make it through your hectic day-to-day life, but it also has the potential to dazzle you with out-of-this-world deliciousness. Food has the potential to make a positive impact far beyond your taste buds and brain power, too. Food can foster a sense of community, allow someone to find their passion, improve physical and mental health, create new jobs. FoodLab Detroit is one organization that champions a movement towards such good food in Detroit and is paving the way towards making it a true sustainable reality.
Incepted in January of 2011, FoodLab Detroit is a network of triple bottom line food entrepreneurs who aim to share information, resources, emotional support, and technical and financial assistance in their efforts to build their businesses on Michigan’s good food principles. A triple bottom line business operates under three pillars (people, planet, profit) and measures its success through not only an economic bottom line, but on meeting ecological and social goals, as well. All of the entrepreneurs that belong to FoodLab Detroit function under that triple bottom line mindset.
The main benefit of the group comes from linking entrepreneurs who put relationships and the planet first, while still having a clear understanding of day-to-day business demands. Part of the formation of such an organization was establishing a charter, or set of principles to meet, and a steering committee (a rotating leadership team to provide guidance and input on operating under such a charter), as well as holding entrepreneurs accountable for their business principles.
In order to educate and inform local business people of their newly defined mission, the first FoodLab Detroit bootcamp was planned in August of 2011. The “Build Your Good Food Business” bootcamp aimed to reach out to local entrepreneurs in an effort to provide tools and strengthen relationships amongst the Detroit food community. The response was powerful; a diverse mix of young Motor City “foodies” and generational Detroit residents attended the bootcamp and made it a resounding success.
Having since been repeated and improved upon, the most recent FoodLab Detroit bootcamp culminated in a celebration of the organization’s graduating trainees. Individuals assembled booths representing their goals in moving forward as good food entrepreneurs, and nearly 100 attendees were able to sample their fare and discuss business ideas. Networking within FoodLab Detroit goes far beyond this one event. There are nearly 300 processing, distribution, and retail businesses and close allies that subscribe to FoodLab Detroit’s listserve, as well as over 100 Detroit based businesses and entrepreneurs who’ve participated in meetings and workshops.
If this idea sounds wildly intriguing to you, there are many ways to become involved, even for those not in the food industry. In addition to the “Build Your Good Food Business” bootcamps, there are also Food for Thought meetings on Mondays that the public are welcomed to attend (prior notice is required). FoodLab Detroit also provides suggestions for Motor City eaters on how to promote and support local, triple bottom level food businesses.