Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Start-up helps Michigan food artisans grow their customer base

Two 20-something entrepreneurs in Royal Oak, Michigan, have found a way to allow food artisans from throughout the state to distribute their unique products to people all over Michigan and across the country. Their new company is called Mitten Crate LLC.

Both men have worked in the artisan food industry - one in Clinton Township, Michigan, and the other in New York City. They saw that the industry in Michigan was highly regionalized, with foods rarely making it out of the area in which they originated.

That's how they got the idea for Mitten Crate. For a monthly fee of $35, subscribers receive a box of artisan food products produced in various parts of Michigan. Their first shipment consisted of 72 boxes that went to customers not just in Michigan, but as far away as California and New York. Their goal is to get to 1,837 boxes - partly because 1837 is the year that Michigan became a state, and partly because they want these small businesses to be able to meet their demand.

The two men choose the contents of the boxes themselves. October's shipments included items from six different Michigan companies. They included nuts, granola, tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels and jam. Their estimated profit was $4 per box.

They want to focus on promoting the products made by small food companies in Michigan to give them needed exposure, as opposed to larger Michigan companies like Sanders Candy and Faygo Beverages. The partnership is good news for these local food artisans who have previously been limited to selling their products in their own region. Mitten Crate gives them a new statewide, and even nationwide, clientele.

The partners also believe in giving back to the community. They donate $1 of the money made from each box they ship to the Gleaners Community Food Bank. That $1 is enough for the food bank to serve three meals to those in need in the area.

This is an example of a Michigan small business that not only serves a consumer need, but helps other small businesses in the state - all while promoting products made in Michigan by Michiganders.

Source: Crain's Detroit Business, "Royal Oak startup helps Michigan food artisans spread their goods" Bridget Vis, Nov. 04, 2013

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