🚀 The Producers Growth Program is Open for Applications. Check if You Qualify for the Program Today! 🌟



Ready to take the next step toward your business goals? CAIC is proud to present the Producers Startup Program: a free six-week course designed for farmers, value-added producers, and entrepreneurs. During the virtual weekly meetings, you’ll learn the skills and tools you need to begin and successfully manage your company’s operations. 


There are multiple Startup Program cohorts throughout each year. Please register below so that we can notify you as soon as the next course is scheduled.


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, develop a pricing strategy, and connect with customers. Instructors 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. You’ll also learn about the numerous resources available to agricultural entrepreneurs in our region, through CAIC and our partner organizations—from funding to support with market research. 

Who is eligible to participate?

CAIC hosts multiple Startup Program cohorts throughout the year, with each capped at 15 participants. Each cohort member will be asked to commit to attending a weekly 1.5-hour class for six weeks, along with completing weekly hands-on assignments.


To qualify, participants must meet the following criteria:

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.

Course Schedule

  • Doing your research—who are your customers, and what do they need? 
  • Developing a pricing strategy—how much are you going to charge for your product, and where will you be selling it?
  • Finding 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?

  • Articulating your mission and vision—how do they connect to your business goals?
  • Building business and operations plans—finding your team, and conducting SWOT analysis.

  • Getting your product to your customers—tracking industry trends, finding distributors, and creating a marketing plan.


  • Understanding and navigating common business challenges—what problems do small businesses typically face, and how can they be managed?  



  • Financing your company—what are some of the different options available to founders? How can you most effectively manage your company’s finances?


  • Understanding contracts—what are the different types of contracts, and what legal and regulatory requirements do business owners have to consider?


  • Creating a business model canvas—understanding the components, and building a canvas for your business.



  • Working toward profitability—how can you make your business more profitable? How do you navigate balance sheets and forecast cash flow?


  • Knowing the “key ratios”—working with costs, inventory, and more.


  • Understanding the components of the lean model canvas—what does it involve, and how can you create one for your company? 



  • Testing and validating products—navigating the minimum viable product stages, setting up experiments, and testing ideas.


  • Assessing customer preferences—what do your experiment results tell you about your customers?


  • Understanding market segmentation, targeting, and positioning—why they’re important, and how to execute them for your company.



  • Creating a marketing plan—what should it include? How can you effectively use social media for marketing, and how can you monitor your online presence?


  • Perfecting your pitch—how can you use the business model canvas to develop your pitch?


Here’s some of the feedback that Producers Startup Program alumni have shared.


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.


Please contact Emiliano Espinosa at 410.770.9330 (ext. 4) or [email protected] for more information.

Preference will be given to participants in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Applications from outside of the region will be considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to availability of space in the program. 


Mini-Grants up to $5,000 are available for:
– Market Research and Validation of Target Market
– Customer Acquisition
– Product Development Initiatives
– Food Safety Classes
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.


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.