To boost economic recovery during the pandemic, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation collaborated with state and regional partners to host the U.P. Food Processing Pitch Competition last year. Value-added producers were invited to pitch their business in front of judge via Zoom. Eleven Upper Peninsula businesses were selected to receive a variety of services ranging from marketing to business development.
Covid-19 made digital literacy an overwhelming imperative, which seemed daunting for many small businesses. Through this competition, Taste the Local Difference provided services to some of the winners to boost their digital presence and confidence. Gino Venditti of STAG Farms shared, “The process was easy to understand and I felt like TLD listened to understand my needs and worked hard to meet them with the budget we had to work with.”
Here’s a follow up with a few of the 2021 MEDC Pitch Competition Winners:
Mackinac Bluff Maple Farms
Located in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Bluff Maple Farms is the largest Maple Syrup producer in Michigan. They provide a wide variety of maple products, including sugar. TLD provided photography, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) assistance, social media strategy consultation, and newsletter template design and strategy support.
Based out of Marquette, Rozie’s RelSa, a gourmet pepper blend, makes good food taste great. We consulted with owner Rose Pietila on social media strategy, provided SEO recommendations, and gave her existing website layout and flow a overhaul, both updating it and freshening the design.
STAG Farms of Iron Mountain is a small scale honey and maple syrup producer that offers a wide range of flavored maple syrups. We worked with Venditti at STAG to develop a brand identity by creating a new logo and assets for his business. The branding was used to update recipe cards that are included in his variety pack packaging. Additionally, we helped STAG grow their photo library, so they can one day build a full website that tells the story of their operation.
Coming to Northeast Michigan
This year, a similar opportunity is open for businesses in Northeast Michigan! Small food businesses are encouraged to apply to the Northeast Michigan Food and Beverage Processing Support Pitch Competition, hosted by the MEDC, in partnership with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MSU Product Center, Taste the Local Difference, Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, and Small Business Development Center.
They are seeking food and beverage businesses looking for support to start or scale operations. This opportunity is specifically for folks in: Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Crawford, Oscoda, Alcona, Roscommon, Ogemaw or Iosco counties.
Deadline to apply to this competition is April 29, 2022. Selected applicants will be invited to pitch their business on May 23rd.
You can learn more about who is eligible and what is being awarded here.
We can’t wait to see the businesses that participate this spring!
Alex Palzewicz is a contributor to Taste the Local Difference and was a part of the 2021 U.P. Food Processing Pitch Competition.
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