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Good Food Gazette

Your January news from the front lines of
Detroit's good food business movement.

Sofia's Selection

Entrepreneur Highlight

Sofia's Selection has seen an amazing year. They "more than doubled sales, more than doubled the number of stores that carry Sofia's Selection products, introduced 3 more products, tapenades with 3 different flavors, and increased their fan base on Facebook and other social media outlets." 
Based on recipes perfected over 15 years of serving olives and tapenades to family and friends, owner Naseer AbdulNour's business has a lot of heart. He has been a consistent face at FoodLab meetings and events for over a year and always chips in to share resources, experiences, and ideas. In his words, "I joined FoodLab to connect with other food entrepreneurs to start a grassroot effort to help bring good food and social equality to the people around us." Naseer uses environmentally friendly practices and focuses on the health of his employees. 
The company is looking forward to reaching a break point this year and donating portions of their sales to Detroit hunger-fighting nonprofits. Thank you, Naseer and Sofia's Selection for all you do.

Feet on the Street

Ally Highlight

Like many of our FoodLab businesses, entrepreneur Linda Yellin first started offering her talents to fill a need she saw among friends and family. After nearly 10 years of organizing informal gatherings and tours to help folks experience, explore, and enjoy Detroit, Linda decided to turn her hobby into a business and form Feet on the Street Tours. 

According to Linda, Feet on the Street is not only about "showing Detroit off to visitors, but also to people in the suburbs who want to connect or reconnect with the city." One of the main features of the city that Linda loves to highlight is food. The walking tours that started it all took place in and around Eastern Market. Now, Delish Detroit is the gastronomic side of the business, with progressive eating tours that feature local restaurants, cafes, bakeries, markets, and other food establishments, and introduce people to new specialty food products and the chefs and artisans behind the scenes. Recently, Linda also worked on developing a special tour targeting social workers interested in continuing education that focused on projects around Detroit addressing issues of food access and public health.

Besides her work growing awareness and appreciation for our thriving and diverse local food system, Linda has been a solid friend and supporter of FoodLab, offering her experience, detailed knowledge, and extra water bottles during our December 9th entrepreneur exchange and tour of Eastern Market food businesses, as well as helping us arrange for a meeting space at her Techtown office when we were in a pinch for our January Food for Thought meeting.

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Dear Friends,

Moving into a new community can be a precarious thing, and Jess and Anna have been nothing short of incredible sherpas in these first few weeks, guiding me along and making sure I have everything I need in my pack (and that’s as far as I am going to take this analogy). I'll be stepping into some big (figuratively, not literally) shoes, coming on board as the Community Programs Manager while Anna transitions into new adventures. It’s been a lot of observing on my part, looking for patterns, trying to feel out the different rhythms of FoodLab, and discovering its many wonderful idiosyncrasies while slowly letting on to some of my own. That’s not to say I’ve been sitting around all glassy-eyed for the last three weeks, I swear. I’m excited to be putting together some new workshop offerings for the near future, teaming up with Anna to bring together our third installment of BASE, sitting in on the first Operation Above Ground team meeting, and meeting some of our partners and steering committee members, among a bunch of other things. 

To rewind a little (for the many of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet) - I grew up in Connecticut, about seven-hundred-some-odd miles from here. Then I left there and came to the University of Michigan for my undergraduate days. Since then, I’ve been on the move: first, leaving for two and a half months to India after graduation; then, living in Chicago for a time, spending a year in the Rocky Mountains, and most recently coming to Detroit. In that time, I worked with 826CHI, where I could be 10 years old again and make up stories with students. I worked as an advocate for runaway youth, had a brief affair with improv comedy, and became a dog-runner (much like a dog-walker, but faster). I worked at a school in the mountains and passed the days climbing big rocks and playing basketball with students. No surprise, I’ve realized a passion for community and youth development, which I am intent on putting towards exploring how we can engage youth in the story of FoodLab.  

A curiosity and tendency towards new things has me looking forward to meeting all of you and (like a stone that’s not rolling) gathering a little moss in this new position. I couldn't be more excited to join the team and put what I know to use in new ways. What an awesome community to be a part of in the new year!  

There's a lot to come next month: BASE applications go out this week; a new workshop for website development  is on its way; we'll be putting our heads together with Fiona and Detroit Community Markets to bring you a workshop on how to improve your application to the market; and, be on the look out for upcoming field trips. If you'd like to get in touch in the meantime, you can respond directly to this email or join me for coffee. I'll be around Green Garage (most) Friday mornings from 8-10am for Office Hours, with a full pot and some mugs for sharing, ready to chat.

Much love,


Top January Good Food Stories

1) Did you know that over 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste? From dumpster diving to food banks that utilize food just beyond its expiration date, we're trying to change our habits and mentality around "waste". This is what the former president of Trader Joe's is doing to address this dynamic issue.


2) In January, after participating in a 5-week business intensive, Akilah Muhammad was announced as a recipient of a micro-loan from LaunchDETROIT! She learned about the opportunity via the FoodLab listserv. Check out her business, SunflowerMama's Vegan Catering & Gluten-free Soups!


3) Michal Nodel & Marcia's Munchies took their pickles all the way to San Francisco to claim their spot as a winner in the 2014 Good Food Awards. Thanks for representing FoodLab across the country, too!


4) There's been a lot of talk around Detroit about a "sharing economy" and alternative business models, particularly about co-ops and worker-owned businesses. As part of its "Open City" series at Cliff Bell's, D:hive hosted a panel to discuss the opportunity for growing new alternative businesses in Detroit. Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) also hosted a meeting this week about its future co-op grocery store that will be going into the North End.

5) The Detroit Zen Center in Hamtramck reopened its organic cafe. Did you know Steering Committee Fresh Corner Cafe partners with them to offer kale salad and other snacks? Good food is key to happy people!

6) Operation Above Ground, our initiative in 2014 to address food business licensing and regulation in the city of Detroit, has officially kicked off. Not unlike other cities around the country, we're set to take a deep dive into the processes for licensing and new models for our range of businesses. Check out the work being done around mobile vendors in Los Angeles.

7) FoodLab and Detroit Kitchen Connect were featured in the Capital Institute's Field Guide to a Regenerative Economy. It highlights the backstory of DKC and offers some perspective on the role of community connection in building a more just and resilient economy.

8) Anybody like pie? How 'bout special days? Even though it wasn't a day off, yesterday, January 23, 2014, was National Pie Day. Hopefully you got yourself a free slice!
9) Keep Growing Detroit kicks off its education series this Saturday, January 25, with a class on growing common herbs; and, applications for its Garden Resource Program are out! Find the application here. Read their winter newsletter here.

10) If you're looking for some new eats in the area, the folks of the much loved El Guapo and Mac Shack have launched TukTuk-TukTuk Truck; and, in West Village, Craft Work is now open!

Upcoming Events and Key Dates



Monday, February 10th - Happy Hour (5-6pm) and Food For Thought (6-8pm) Location TBD

Join us for our monthly Food for Thought conversation hosted by FoodLab Steering Committee member and Kitchen Connect coordinator, Devita Davison. The topic this month is Tough Love: Balancing Passion and Realism in our Businesses. You'll have a chance to mingle 5-6pm, the main program will start at 6. 


Friday Mornings (8-10am) - FoodLab Office Hours 

Come ask questions, learn more about us, or just hang out at FoodLab Office Hours, Friday mornings 8-10am at the Green Garage: 4444 2nd Ave., Detroit, MI 48201. The next three Fridays (1/24, 1/31, and 2/7) are also great opportunity to come in and meet our new Community Programs Manager, Colin! 


Tuesdays & Thursdays, Feb 11th - 25th (6-9pm) -  DIY: Building a Website 3-Week Workshop Series

We're hosting a 3-week series where you'll learn to build and manage your own fully functional Wordpress website to promote your business. The workshop will be led by Janel Yamashiro of the Allied Media Projects, with support from our friends at the Fair Food NetworkApps are due January 31st. Download the application here, or email Colin for more information: Be sure to get in quickly as we only have 12 spots available!

Saturday, February 19th (5pm) - BASE 2014 Applications Due

FoodLab BASE started in 2012 as a volunteer effort organized for Detroit-area food businesses by small food entrepreneurs. We wanted to create a space where food businesses who cared about community and environmental impact could learn with each other and from others in our community.  It was such a success that we decided to make it an annual event. 2014 BASE will run from March 25th - June 3rd and includes an orientation, eight interactive workshops, eight office hour sessions, and a final celebration. Workshops will be hosted in the evenings 6-8pm.  If you’re an energetic, go-getting entrepreneur in the process of starting up a food business, consider joining our 2014 cohort! Applications are available here. Please don’t hesitate to call or email Colin with questions: 616-263-1950,


all of this month's events

Food Photography Workshop.

This past Saturday, January 18th, a group of FoodLabbers, eager to bolster their skills with a camera, participated in a stellar workshop on food photography and making their products look good. For two hours, they had the great light of the gallery space at Hannan House along Woodward Avenue to frame all the good eats and drinks they brought along with them. 

In the first hour, Adina St. John, our fearless workshop leader and talented photographer (who, by the way, makes coffee at Cafe Jorge in Plymouth, too), led the group through the nitty-gritty of creating beautiful images. She explained different types of cameras, which lenses to look for, what exactly the aperture is, what the shutter can do, and - maybe most importantly - lighting and how good lighting can make all the difference.

The second half of the session turned all that potential energy into kinetic energy. Everyone grabbed their cameras - from DSLRs to smartphones - and their products and got to work. Sal from Chavo’s Tacos brought sopas covered in colorful deliciousness to photograph; Sarah staged a picturesque glass of Voigt’s soda to frame in the sunlight of the gallery; and, Martha found just the right angle for the bottles of her Belly Brew Kombucha. All the while, Adina coached participants through plating their products, framing, and using the light just right.  

By the end, the only thing they didn’t have enough of was time. The room was buzzing with chatter around new ideas for photo shoots and set-ups, everyone excited to put their new skills to task. Keep an eye out for more workshops like it in the future! Thanks to all who attended!   

We'd love to see your photos from the day! Here are some of ours. Special thanks to Adina St. John for making the day possible and to the folks at Hannan House for lending us their space.

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