At the Center of It All
Friday, April 21, 2023
By Wade Rupard
Thanks to corporate giving, Naturally Minnesota helps food entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality.
For more than a century, the state of Minnesota has been at the center of food and agriculture innovation. The state has several Fortune 500 food companies and is home to one of the highest number of food scientists in the country.
Naturally Minnesota, formerly known as Grow North, at the Carlson School’s Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship is becoming a go-to leader for small- and medium-sized food and agriculture businesses to grow and add to that legacy.
“We are here to help any business that needs help,” says Allison Hohn, executive director of Naturally Minnesota. “We make introductions and connections and give them the tools to build their business. We want to strengthen Minnesota’s natural and organic businesses to drive equitable prosperity for people and the planet.”
Naturally Minnesota works to create an interconnected, sophisticated, and invested ecosystem for entrepreneurs and innovators to accelerate business growth. The organization is the front door and starting point for those who want to be a part of, engage with, or know more about Minnesota’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in food and agriculture.
To power that mission, Naturally Minnesota partners with a variety of food and agriculture businesses across the state for financial support. Some of those partners include General Mills, Compeer Financial, and Hormel Foods, among many others.
These gifts help Naturally Minnesota provide the education, resources, and connections needed to accelerate the natural products industry in Minnesota. They help fund several monthly and yearly events, resource databases and tools created to support aspiring entrepreneurs, among many other initiatives. The newest and most unique of these is the Bold Growth Program, which is done in partnership with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) through the MBOLD coalition. The program is a small, but highly customized, accelerator for late-stage companies to help advance their goals through access to pro bono project teams and advisors over a 12- to 18-month period.
“We are thrilled to continue to support Naturally Minnesota and its initiatives,” says Bryan Kreske of Hormel Foods. “We want the state and the region to continue to be leaders in the food and agriculture space. What Naturally Minnesota is doing through the Carlson School is vital to making that happen.”
Members from Hormel Foods and Compeer also serve on Naturally Minnesota’s board.
“Naturally Minnesota is a vital part of the food and agriculture ecosystem throughout the state of Minnesota,” says Jason Goux, Naturally Minnesota board member and senior innovation strategy consultant at Compeer Financial. “[Hohn] and the rest of the Naturally Minnesota team are tremendous partners to us in helping find the next generation of agribusiness entrepreneurs.”
By encouraging an inclusive atmosphere, Hohn says Naturally Minnesota aims to be a hub of innovation for food entrepreneurs.
“We meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs a year and are connected with major companies across the state,” she says. “This space is a team sport. We’re always looking for collaboration.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 alumni magazine
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