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Exploring personal, business, and community barriers and opportunities for food entrepreneurs




Colpaart, Ashley M., author
Bunning, Marisa, advisor
Thilmany McFadden, Dawn, advisor
Auld, Garry, committee member
Harmon, Alison, committee member
Miller, Jeffery, committee member
Carolan, Michael, committee member

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Specialty food businesses, characterized as local, craft or artisan, produce unique and highly differentiated food items often made in small quantities from high-quality ingredients. Nationally, the increasing market demand for specialty food is simultaneously spurring a growth in food entrepreneurship and food businesses that need access to licensed commercial space. Due to their unique values, a subset of food entrepreneurs may be considered 'social entrepreneurs' who use their business as a catalyst for social, cultural, or environmental change. This dissertation research model and hypotheses were developed as a triangulation of three innovative approaches to various fields of study influencing how the food sector is evolving to address emerging consumer and supply chain dynamics. These include; a) a new management behavioral concept, Perceived Business Effectiveness, b.) previous research on entrepreneur characteristics, and c.) potential experience and opportunities that may influence food entrepreneurs based on the Community Capital Framework. The primary objectives of this research are to determine the unique mission, values or community capital-based attributes of food entrepreneurs and to evaluate how this set of factors may affect a food entrepreneur's interest and key criteria when searching for commercial kitchen space. The primary methods included a national survey of food entrepreneurs (n=140) and a pilot program resulting in 4 case studies from Northern Colorado. Multidisciplinary empirical analysis was applied including gamma correlations to compare and contrast various factors and a 2-step probit regression analysis and the calculation of marginal effects from that model. Survey results found that food entrepreneurs in search of commercial kitchen space had dissatisfaction with finding appropriate space (p=0.04), availability of enough days/time to rent (p=0.00), location (p=0.07), availability of equipment (p=0.02), and parking (p=0.07). Results also found significant gamma correlations for questions related to food safety, social fairness, and resource mobilization indicators like sourcing locally and participating in the sharing economy. Further, respondents looking for commercial space were 9% more likely than those not looking for space to use a theoretical sharing economy technology to help them find and access commercial kitchen space. The three-month pilot program successfully placed four food entrepreneurs searching for production space in four different commercial kitchens in Northern Colorado. The kitchens included a school district, church, commissary kitchen, and functioning pizza parlor. A major contribution of this work is in the identification of key drivers for food entrepreneurs in the emerging access economy, suggesting that "access" to goods and services may becoming more desirable than "ownership" of them.


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