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Start Your Business Journey Here

Ready to take the first step toward your agribusiness goals? CAIC is proud to present the Producers Startup Program: a free course designed for farmers, value-added producers, and entrepreneurs. From doing effective market research to formally establishing your company, and from avoiding pitfalls to raising capital, you’ll build a foundation for success. 

 

During the six-week program, our instructor will blend educational information and real-world experience to help guide you through all of the decisions involved in opening a business. At the end, you’ll graduate with a business model that can easily be converted into a full business plan. 

 

With multiple Startup Program cohorts offered each year, the program is designed for flexibility. Register today to get started!

THE PROGRAM EXPERIENCE

Start with an idea, and set yourself up for success with the Producers Startup Program.

  • A comprehensive curriculum, starting with the basics. Learn to better understand and define your target market, highlight your competitive advantages, and connect with customers. The instructor will also walk you through some common funding challenges and strategies for overcoming them, along with legal, regulatory, and contract considerations for new businesses.

  • Build the right business plan, and learn from the experts. Our instructors have experience starting and running successful companies, and they’re here to help you craft the right business plan. You can also request a one-on-one coaching call to get further feedback and answers.

  • Ask questions, and test out your ideas. Class sessions are interactive, and give you lots of opportunities to bring your own challenges and questions to instructors. Along with your fellow cohort members, you’ll also be encouraged to brainstorm and workshop your business ideas, and get valuable feedback.

  • A wealth of resources to tap into. With each cohort capped at just 15 participants, you’ll have the chance to connect with and learn from entrepreneurs at similar growth stages. Through CAIC and our partner organizations, you’ll also learn about the numerous resources available to agricultural entrepreneurs and value-added producers in our region—from funding opportunities to support with market research.

Program Schedule

  • Idea generation. What do you want to do?

  • Understanding/analyzing your market and customers. Who are your customers, and what do they need? How big is your market? What are the latest trends?

  • Defining your competitive advantage. Why is your product better than all of the others on the market? How will you articulate that message, and how will you convey it to your customers?
  • Building business and operations plans. What are the elements of a strong business plan?

  • Articulating your mission and vision. How do they connect to your business goals?

  • Getting your product to your customers. Learn how you can plan to reach the different segments of your target market.
  • Understanding and navigating common business challenges. What problems do small businesses typically face, and how can they be managed?

  • Financing your business successfully. What are some of the different options available to founders? How can you most effectively manage your company’s finances

  • Understanding contracts. Learn about the different types of contracts, and the legal and regulatory requirements business owners have to consider.
  • Creating a business model canvas. Understand the components, and build a canvas for your business.

  • Planning for profitability. How can you make your business more profitable

  • Balance sheet basics. How do you navigate balance sheets and forecast cash flow?
  • Basics of lean operations and experimentation. Understand the components of the lean model canvas—what does it involve, and how can you create one for your company?

  • Experimenting and testing products. Learn to navigate the minimum viable product stages, set up experiments, and test ideas.

  • Business startup requirements. What are some of the requirements businesses have to fulfill?
  • Understanding market segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Learn why they’re important, and how to execute them for your company.

  • Selecting the right platform for your target audience. How can you best connect with your customers? 
     
  • Monitoring your marketing efforts. How can you keep track of your marketing efforts, and what should you be tracking

  • Pitching your business. Learn to perfect your pitch.

Who’s Eligible?

CAIC hosts multiple Startup Program cohorts throughout the year, with each capped at 15 participants. To qualify, participants must meet the following criteria:

 

  • Be a farmer, value-added producer, or food-industry entrepreneur with an early-revenue or pre-revenue businesses, or an entrepreneur in the ideation stage.

 

  • Operate your business in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, or D.C.

Be a farmer, value-added producer, or food-industry entrepreneur with a company anywhere from the idea stage to the startup stage

Operate your business in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, or D.C.

Producers Startup Program Instructor

Program Instructor

Kat Pascal

 

Kat Pascal is a business consultant and social entrepreneur based in Roanoke, Virginia. Having co-founded successful companies in the cleaning and restaurant industries, along with a regional nonprofit (the Latinas Network) that seeks to empower Latina professionals, Ms. Pascal is passionate about supporting the growth of emerging entrepreneurs.

Testimonials

HOW TO ENROLL

The first step to enrolling in the Startup Program is to fill out the registration form linked below. After submitting the form, you’ll receive an email from our program director, who will ask you a few additional questions about your company and business goals. Approved participants will then be added to the class list, and will receive further details about the program start date and other course logistics.


For more information, please contact Amanda Kidd at amanda@caic.org.

Participant Commitment

  • During the six-week program, you’ll be expected to attend weekly Zoom workshop sessions. 
  • You’ll also be responsible for completing the weekly hands-on homework assignments.

MINI-GRANTs

Mini-Grants up to $5,000 are available for:
– Market Research and Validation of Target Market
– Customer Acquisition
– Product Development Initiatives
– Food Safety Classes
Eligibility
Value-added producers and companies with traction ($20,000 or more in yearly revenue) in Maryland and Delaware are eligible to apply for Mini-Grants. Participants may apply once for each of the categories. Applicants must demonstrate that they have a unique and differentiated product or service that incorporates an aspect of innovation or technology in its production, processing, distribution, or other element of the food supply system.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Award decisions will be made and funds will be available no later than three weeks following the receipt of a completed application.
Application Process
Applicants must submit Mini-Grant proposals by filling out the form at this link. Copy(ies) of quote(s), proposal(s), estimate(s), or any other supporting documents.

ACCESS TO SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS (SMES)

CAIC offers access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who can offer authoritative advice based on their deep knowledge and experience in a specific area. See the ADVISORS page of this Web site to learn more about the SMEs who are available to CAIC participants.