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Accountfully has the fortune of working with good people across the country who make cool stuff, and have great ideas. Over time, we’ve grown our network and amassed interviews and conversations with some pretty amazing people. We’ll continue to publish these entrepreneurial bad-asses so you can learn from them, be inspired from them, and connect with them.

Today we’re sharing a conversation with Allison Ball, who has her own consulting company that focuses on food businesses. She helps producers of packaged products figure out how to get on the retail shelf, and stay there, as well as assist retail stores with their product assortment, merchandising, and service skills.

Alison-Bell-Consulting-Portrait

Why did you decide to start working with food entrepreneurs?

As Head of Grocery at Bi-Rite Market, I worked closely with food businesses while they were in their first few years of growth. I saw time and time again that food entrepreneurs weren’t prepared to be on the shelves of our specialty retail store - despite having a delicious product they didn’t have their pricing worked out, or their packaging dialed in, or their sales pitch perfected. I saw, firsthand, that there were so many amazing producers out there, but they were failing because they didn’t see the full picture of selling to wholesale accounts. I started my business based off the idea that if I could help producers understand the behind-the-scenes of wholesale it would be benefit both sides- the producers would be more likely to have success on the retail shelves, and the Buyers would have stronger, more organized, more business-savvy product-lines coming their way.  

What’s the best part of working with food entrepreneurs?

Besides the delicious food, the best part of working with food entrepreneurs is working with clients who see their businesses beyond just making money - they often start their business as a way of sharing and connecting with their community. Food brings people together, and I love that. I get to see that every day.

Tell us who your ideal client is.

My favorite client to work with is someone who is in their first few years of business, has had some success in selling their packaged product, but knows that they can achieve more - they just don’t know how. They might feel stuck, or overwhelmed, and don’t know how to move forward, quickly and strategically. They are a self-starter, have a REALLY good product, and are motivated to work for success.

What advice can you give someone just starting out?

I have two big pieces of advice:

1) Get super, super clear on who is buying your product, and why, and use that to make decisions on your branding and marketing. The more narrow your target audience, the more loyal and connected of a following you’ll have. Here’s a five minute video on this exact topic!

2) You aren’t expected to be good at everything in running your business. Not a great graphic designer? Don’t make your labels yourself. Not a great salesperson? Hire someone part time to do that. Don’t understand social media? Take a class on Skillshare, or hire that out. You don’t have to be everything in your business, and if you can focus on what you are good at and can then outsource the rest, you’ll grow faster and save money in the long run.

What do you wish entrepreneurs knew about accounting or bookkeeping?

Don’t do it yourself! Trust me: all of my clients outsource it eventually, and wonder why they ever tried to tackle it themselves in the first place. You’ll save time, and money if you hire a professional, plus you probably won’t be as stressed or frustrated during tax season! (Remember my #2 tip from above!?)

What food trend are you most excited about?

Ooh, I love this question.

On the restaurant side of things, I am thrilled by the increase in really high-quality, quick-service restaurants that we’re seeing around the Bay Area (you know, those spots where you order at the counter, get a number, and have the food delivered to your table). It keeps prices lower & encourages higher guest turnover for the restaurants, and is a great way to get a fantastic meal at a fair price. Some of my favorite fast-casual spots doing this in San Francisco are Souvla, Barzotto, and Media Noche.

On the product side, I love it all - it’s too challenging to name a trend! Spicy condiments, thoughtful nut butters, cold brew coffee concentrate, shrubs of all sorts… I am fascinated and in awe by all these things. Perhaps that shows that the trend that I’m into is “variety!” It’s incredible to live in a place like Northern California which has such a diversity in product offerings. Now is the time to be an enthusiastic home cook!

Check out Allison’s website and follow along with her on Facebook and Twitter. Not only will you be inspired, you’ll grow increasingly hungry as you scroll through her feeds, you might get some accounting advice for food entrepreneurs.