Chris Nemeth is the president of Hopeful Harvest and senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest, one of the nation’s largest fresh food rescue organizations.

In his current role, Chris is responsible for the development, launch and growth of Hopeful Harvest, a full service small food business accelerator serving metro Detroit. He is also responsible for the development and launch of Forgotten Harvest’s branded and co-branded food products, which will be available in retailers throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Chris also oversees a workforce development program based on the food industry, serving veterans and employment challenged individuals throughout metro Detroit. Nemeth has thirty-five years of business and leadership experience in a variety of areas, including organizational development, marketing, sales and social enterprise.

Forgotten Harvest is a Metro Detroit based non-profit dedicated to the rescue and delivery of fresh food to those in need. This year, the company will rescue and deliver 42 million pounds of fresh food to 283 partner agencies. Three years ago, Forgotten Harvest made the decision to expand into social enterprise.

As Metro Detroit works to re-invent itself and its economy, food has quickly become one of the cornerstones of its renaissance. Local and state governments, along with public and private businesses and organizations, have created an environment to support the emergence of hundreds of small food entrepreneurs. Small food manufacturers launch their food businesses in homes, churches, restaurants and community kitchens across the Metro Detroit area. Available space for food manufacturing quickly fills, and the need for more space and services is evident.

After identifying the need and opportunity in the market, Forgotten Harvest launched a social enterprise dedicated to supporting local food entrepreneurs. Initially, the company planned on providing food processing and dry, refrigerated and frozen storage. The response was so amazing and so significant, Forgotten Harvest ended up re-writing its business plan four times over the first nine months.

The opportunity to quickly evolve into an incubator, co-packer and commercial kitchen became a viable option. However, this potential growth came with a number of challenges and decisions.

Ultimately, after conducting a thorough financial analysis, completing another business plan, vetting plans with local organizations, advisers and potential partners, and with much discussion and deliberation, the company moved forward. Hopeful Harvest, a social enterprise C Corp, was born. The company named its officers, developed the board and rapidly expanded to a team of ten. The company built numerous partnerships and collaborations with businesses and organizations throughout Metro Detroit and expanded the client base to over thirty clients utilizing a variety of services in less than eighteen months.

This piece is part one of a two-part series exploring how one business owner successfully started a small business in the food industry.

Part 2: Demand Encourages Altruistic Small Business To Become Social Enterprise

This article was written by Michelle Guilbeau for Small Business Pulse
For more tips and inspiration for small business owners, visit Small Business Pulse Detroit.


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