I spent much of last week at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. It was a rainy, blustery few days in the city, but that did little to dissuade those in attendance.
I took one thing away from the show. It had nothing to do with the brands on the floor but rather, the people in the halls. Events like this serve as a great coming together of the ecosystem. Being at a show like Fancy Food presents founders with a huge opportunity to make meaningful connections.
I often write about my deep belief that there is a threefold path to growth for early-stage and emerging CPG brands. And, one of the three parts is being surrounded by the people who can affect and influence the growth of a brand. To do that, you must be plugged into the ecosystem that is this industry. There is no better place to make that happen than at a gathering point like the Fancy Food Show.
On the last night of the show, we hosted a dinner and a casual pub. We brought together founders, leaders, investors and more. Our work was done the moment we all gathered around the table.
I just sat back and watched the magic of collaboration unfurl before my eyes. People moved around the table, conversations sparked ideas, advice was asked and offered. The value of what was happening was palpable.
A friend, who is with a brand that has been in our portfolio for a few years remarked, “I’ve never seen you smile for that long of a time.” Those who know me well recognize how rare it is that I smile. That’s not because I am a curmudgeon. Rather, it’s because I have small teeth and puffy cheeks and smiling does little to enhance either. But on this night, vanity be damned, I couldn’t help myself.
What was happening at this dinner was also happening, on a much larger scale, within the aisles and halls of the Moscone Center. Choosing to be an entrepreneur in this industry guarantees a tough road and a hard slog. There is just nothing easy about it. Yet, it can be softened significantly by having the right people around you.
This industry, like most others, is known for the overuse and exploitation of certain terms. That said, I want to be clear that I use the term ecosystem specifically and intentionally. An ecosystem requires homeostasis. That means everyone must do their part to sustain its health. As you reach up for help, it is incumbent on you to simultaneously reach back to lend a hand. That’s how this works and how we ensure its health. Why am I adding this admonishment to this article? Because an event like Fancy Food is as much a time to give and offer as it is a time to ask and take.
What we have is special. Many, in other industries, look through the lens of a competitor, while most, within the walls of the Moscone Center during these rainy days in January, looked through the lens of a collaborator.
My takeaway from the Fancy Food Show? We have an ecosystem of amazing people who are creative, smart and driven. When we gather, magic happens.