Prepped accelerator program welcomes School of Sustainability among its collaborators
Update: At the Oct. 18 Prepped Showcase, Sana Sana Foods owner Maria Parra Cano won the $5,000 grand prize and Cantaguas owners Elva Covarrubias and Irene Gonzalez the $3,000 second prize. Churro GoNUTZ won the $2,000 people’s choice award. See photos from the evening in the slideshow below.
What the food industry needs now is more players in a circular food economy — one that improves rather than degrades the environment.
ASU School of Sustainability Professor Arnim Wiek proclaimed this to a rapt group of about 20 on a recent Wednesday night at the HEALab entrepreneurial space on the Downtown Phoenix campus where they had gathered to participate in Prepped, a free, early-stage food business accelerator program designed for ventures owned by women and underrepresented minorities.
Founded in 2016 as a collaborative effort between Entrepreneurship and Innovationa unit of ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Health Solutions, Prepped welcomed a new partner into the mix this semester with the addition of the School of Sustainability.
The school’s inclusion in the program felt like a natural move, said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at Arizona State University.
“Entrepreneurship and Innovation is always looking for ways to uphold ASU’s design aspirations,” she said. “Prepped already does a good job of valuing entrepreneurship, leveraging our place and being socially embedded. And since sustainability is such a key throughput in all things we do in the university, it just made sense that it should become a core aspect of Prepped.”
The program is geared toward owners of emerging food businesses that are beyond the idea stage, in revenue and seeking the tools to scale. Now, in addition to the already established curriculum that includes food costing and financial literacy, small business marketing and communication strategies, and permits and licensing, participants of Prepped are learning green business operations so that sustainability is built into their company from the start.
Prepped holds weekly classes each fall and spring, allows for interactive peer learning and provides financial support and one-on-one mentorship with industry experts.
During a recent class taught by Wiek, who contributed largely to the development of the new sustainability-centric curriculum, participants learned about food sourcing — local, seasonal, organic and fair trade.
“We’re trying to teach food economy, not just food enterprise,” said Wiek, who also serves as director of the Sustainable Food Economy Lab. “We want Prepped to be an accelerator of the sustainable food economy, which is slowly emerging across the state.”
That evening, he and guest lecturer Kristen Osgood, program manager for the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, shared a variety of helpful tools with participants, including a seasonal availability guide and a sourcing template that can be used to identify green, local sources for ingredients.
The benefit of green, local sourcing is a factor some participants already know well. Hedda Fay, co-owner of Masa’s, a Prescott, Arizona, purveyor of homemade baked goods, attested that not only do some farmers markets require vendors’ products to contain a certain percentage of Arizona ingredients, but “if your packaging is plastic, don’t even bother showing up.”