Organic wheat farm expands offerings after competing in Mason County business plan contest

Reality TV shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice” have demonstrated that, for participants, it is not always about winning but more about what you do with the experience.

It is a very similar story for participants in last year’s inaugural $50,000 Momentum Business Plan Competition in Mason County, Mich.

In the 2015 competition, the winner was Andy Thomas of Starving Artist Brewing, but another participant and top five finisher has taken full advantage of the experience to move his business forward.

Stuart Family Organics, an organic wheat farm and bakery, is preparing to take the business to a new level. Jim Stuart, CEO, says the competition was very helpful in fine-tuning his business model. “Our organic wheat is a good product,” he says. “Participating in the Momentum Business Plan Competition  helped us ask ourselves, ‘What more can we do,’ and it showed folks we were serious.”

The business had up to that point sold baked goods, such as cookies and muffins, through local farmers’ markets. They also had a little pop-up business, The Stoop, in Venice Beach, Calif. (which was started and run by a family member), but ever since the competition Stuart says he is moving forward on other opportunities. “One fellow in Ludington approached us about renting a building and modifying it for our needs,” he says.

Stuart says they are in the process of opening a storefront at 215 S. James St. in downtown Ludington (tentatively to be named The Stoop, like the Venice Beach store) this fall, which will sell organic baked goods. Longer term it will also include an organic processing facility so the business can ship their products around the world with a USDA organic label and potentially help other food entrepreneurs move their products beyond what the Cottage Food Laws allow in Michigan.
 
Besides the expansion to a brick and mortar site in Ludington, Stuart says he is a top 10 finalist for the Archer Daniels Midland Food Innovation Challenge, for which they are developing a cookie using their wheat -- another opportunity related to his participation in the business plan competition.

The 2016 Momentum Business plan competition is underway with initial applications and plans due July 31 at www.momentumstartup.org (also includes details of rules and regulations). All West Michigan entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for this contest.

For more information about Stuart Family Organics visit their Facebook page or stuartfamilyorganics.com.

By John Rumery, Jobs News and Innovation Editor
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