Filling a modest plate, sweetly, at startup Foodcubate

It only starts with the right ingredients: There's a process to turning a great food idea into a bona fide business, and consultant Anna Kotler knows the recipe.
By AMY ONORATO //

The food industry is Anna Kotler’s bread and butter.

The 20-year marketing veteran built her career working on brand development for food-focused Fortune 500 companies like Campbell’s Soup Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. – but when it came to defining her own recipe for success, Kotler wasn’t satisfied with the corporate climate’s structured lifestyle.

“After working for those big packaged-food companies, I wanted a little more flexibility in my schedule,” Kotler told Innovate LI.

So, the entrepreneur decided to cook up her own consulting business, starting it out of her Roslyn home. In 2016, Kotler officially launched Foodcubate, an advisory and resource mecca for food startups.

Foodcubate is, essentially, a network hub connecting nine regional kitchen-focused incubators and organizations (including the Amagansett Food Institute and Stony Brook University’s Business Incubator at Calverton) – a focal point for incubator associates and others to share resources, trade ideas and strengthen bonds through panel discussions and meetup events.

The website also includes a resources page listing academic and non-academic food incubators, packaging companies, food-focused media and investor sources around the country – a prime Rolodex for early-stage foodpreneurs looking to branch out.

Outside of the main network, Kotler applies her consulting savvy to paying clients under the Foodcubate brand, focusing her efforts on strengthening their ties with the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, for instance, while sharpening their business plans and pitches.

Anna Kotler: Just a taste.

“There are a lot of people out there who have an idea for an interesting food product, but they don’t have the business knowledge,” Kotler noted. “And in some cases, they just don’t have enough understanding of the marketplace, how to launch a product into the grocery store and what it takes.

“What I do is try to keep things as lean as possible, since they’re in startup mode and have limited budgets,” she added. “I just put together what they need and help manage the process.”

Kotler’s budding business was built on the strength of her networking ties and industry experience – no startup capital required, she said, noting plans to keep the business in-house, literally.

The entrepreneur’s focus is on servicing a select handful of clients and, most importantly, working for herself, rather than building Foodcubate into a larger, full-service agency.

“One of the benefits of working at a home office is that you don’t have to commute, and I’m working for myself, essentially,” Kotler said. “I make my own hours, I manage my own workload.”

That doesn’t mean Kotler doesn’t have her hand in other pots. The entrepreneur is also the cofounder and head of marketing at Kimchify, a 2016 Long Island City-based startup focused on Korean-American packaged foods.

“We’re working on launching a line of products based on the Korilla brand, and a lot of products based on the Mokbar brand,” Kotler noted. “It’s a kind of mashup – a way to introduce American consumers to Korean food.”

Even after leaving the corporate world, Kotler has a full plate – but without that bloated corporate feeling, she said, allowing her to focus on what she loves most, on her own terms.

“I’m really passionate about this stuff,” Kotler said. “I love the food industry. I love the direction that it’s going in.

“That’s why I do it, more than anything else,” she added. “I want to be a part of that change.”

Foodcubate

What’s It? A food-focused startup consultancy/network hub designed to help early-stage enterprises start cooking

Brought To You By: Fortune 500-marketer-turned-DIY-entrepreneur Anna Kotler

All In: An investment-free launch, thanks to a home office and 20 years of industry experience

Status: Small and steady and loving it