Waseca Pizza Farm Part Of Smart Start Initiative For Food Businesses

By Deanna B Narveson
The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “The Feast! Smart Start Initiative” created by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, helps budding food entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground and running.


Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm owner Emily Knudsen said there are times when it seems like she and co-owner Bill Bartz feel like they are flying by the seat of their pants as they navigate the world of business.

“I sometimes feel like I don’t have all of the correct knowledge that it takes to run your own small business,” Knudsen said. She has an associate’s degree in business along with two bachelor’s degrees, but running a new business comes with hundreds of challenges for entrepreneurs to tackle.

Thanks to funding from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, food businesses like Knudsen’s pizza farm will have a chance to work with a business coach to help them get a more solid start through the Feast! Smart Start Initiative created by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, said Kallie Rollenhagen, SMIF communications coordinator.

Beginning this month through the end of the year, these 14 businesses in southern Minnesota will get advanced training courses and personal coaches from SMIF. The organization chose the Smart Start participants from a group of applicants who were part of SMIF’s other programs for business owners, Rollenhagen said.

SMIF is a nonprofit that works on economic development.

At the Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm, Knudsen and Bartz make artisan pizzas with homegrown ingredients in a 600-degree brick oven on summer nights, while customers bring their own beverages and seating and enjoy the outdoors. The farm, which opened two years ago, often schedules live music.

“I’m looking forward to the business coach,” Knudsen said. “I’m also looking forward to learning more about strategic planning and better bookkeeping.”

Other businesses selected were Carlson Roasting Co. in Houston, Curly Girlz Candy in Owatonna, Farmhouse Market in New Prague, Gardenaire in Rochester, Grandma’s Gourmets in Albert Lea, Mama Stoen’s in Owatonna, Metz’s Hart-Land Dairy, Honey and Creamery in Rushford, Perfect Day Cakes & Bakery in Owatonna, Singing Hills Dairy in Nerstrand, Stagecoach Brewing Co. in Mantorville, The Bee Shed in Oronoco and Whitewater Gardens Farm in Altura.

Farmhouse Market co-owner Kendra Rasmussen said she’s excited to be a part of the program. The Farmhouse Market sells only locally grown food and is open at all hours for members and has certain hours each week for the public.

“As a small business working hard to grow with a tight budget, it’s hard to tackle big goals we’ve set for the future,” Rasmussen said.

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