For the last six months Joel and I have been working through a business accelerator program at the University of Washington called the Jones Foster Business Accelerator. We had to set milestones for what we wanted our new business to accomplish and then each month we had to report back to our advisory committee on the progress we had made on each milestone. On Tuesday, they flew us to Seattle to give our final presentation. Waiting in the hallway outside of the boardroom where we were supposed to present was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking moments I have experienced. I've never had to give a presentation on anything with such high stakes! But once we were up in front of the room and going through our slides, I felt so calm and collected. All I could think about was how much progress we had made in such a short amount of time, and how thankful I was to have such a great business partner standing up there next to me.
As I think anyone who has ever started a business knows, getting something new off the ground is a roller coaster. Several times a day I am overcome with elation at how great the company we are building is, only to realize that we have so many barriers to overcome and that we are fighting against this huge crazy system.
We started LINC with no experience in produce distribution. All we knew is that there was this huge disconnect between all these great small farmers that we knew, and all these huge institutions with massive buying power, and we were going to try to do our best to bring the pieces together. We have had many victories and have experienced many, many frustrations. But at the end of the day, when I look back at the last six months, we have done so much. We have gotten local food at some level into nearly every single area school district. I never could have imagined we would accomplish that in the first year. We have experienced tremendous support from our area universities, particularly Gonzaga, who has been an amazing partner. We've heard from the top rated chefs in Spokane (and I am proud to say that we have quite a few now) that they see real value in what we are doing. And most importantly, I feel so much support from the farmers we work with. I am so incredibly proud to call these people not only part of my community, but my friends.
So as I stood up next to Joel in front of a room full of CEOs and venture capitalists and academics, who were all there to judge our worthiness and progress, all that apprehension about giving a good presentation melted away. I knew that no matter how many times we have had to pivot or relearn things in the last six months, we have made tremendous progress. We have already done so much to transform the food system in Spokane. And that came through in our presentation. I looked around the room and saw so many smiling faces and nodding heads. It really warmed my heart.
This money will go a long way towards helping LINC Foods be successful next year. We have started this business on a pretty shoe-string budget, especially compared to how many food hubs start. We are so excited to see how the next year unfolds and to continue to share our progress with all of you!
P.S. Another participating team in the Accelerator was OlyKraut, an artisan sauerkraut company based out of Olympia and founded by Sash Sunday, a fellow graduate of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute at Pinchot University, where Joel and I met. OlyKraut is freakin' delicious and you should go to Main Market Co-op and buy some. Like right now!