One-Stop Shop for Aspiring Art, Food Entrepreneurs Coming to Pender

PENDER - Local food and the arts are emerging market opportunities for rural communities, and the Center for Rural Affairs is hosting a one-day conference on October 10 in Pender designed to offer aspiring entrepreneurs a leg up.

Sandra Renner, farm and community director with the center, said the event will help connect small food- and arts-based businesses with the tools they need to be successful, and with resources usually only found at larger conferences in urban areas.

"A lot of the resources just aren't known to aspiring or existing businesses," Renner said. "So we see that need and that gap, and we want to make sure that people can come together under one roof and make it a one-stop shop."

There will be sessions focused on how to access start-up funds, how to create a business plan and on small-business basics, such as accounting. There will also be presentations on developing cooperatives, and how to start a food hub to make it easy for local businesses to get their locally grown foods at wholesale prices without having to track down individual producers.

Participants also can get tips on how to market and sell their artwork, and learn more about how local foods and art can bring communities together.

Michael Fortunato, founding partner with Creative Insight Community Development, is the conference's keynote speaker. He said at a time of deepening partisan polarization, investing in arts and food entrepreneurship can strengthen local communities and civic life.

"Food and art seem to be two things that really bring people together," Fortunato said. "And it gives everyone a common sense of community and a way to really start conversations that are meaningful at the local level."

An optional post-conference session will be held the same day, where people can meet one-on-one with panelists. Pre-conference sessions also will be offered Wednesday, October 9, in Walthill and Winnebago.

Funding for the conference is provided by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant. Registration information is available at CFRA.org.

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