Investing in the Future of Food: Sharing an office space can transform & accelerate startups’ growth

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Investing in the Future of Food startups Entrepreneurship Network marketing

After weeks of working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, some companies are rethinking the value of central offices, but for the founder of Seed + Mill sharing space with other entrepreneurs at WeWork’s Food Labs in New York City before the outbreak began created organic networking opportunities that she says transformed and accelerated her business.

Rachel Simons, who co-founded Seed+Mill four years ago to make sesame-based foods, was one of the first companies to join WeWork’s vertically integrated Food Labs flagship ​in New York City and was one of eight disruptive companies that participated in the shared service provider’s inaugural accelerator program last fall.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food​, Simons explains how having an office space and working side by side other like-minded entrepreneurs at WeWork not only helped take her burgeoning business to the next level but also provided her with much-needed emotional support while navigating the ups and downs of startup life.

A shared room of one’s own

In the short time that Seed+Mill has shared space at WeWork’s Food Labs, Simons says, the business has change in ways she never imagined and has done so far more quickly than she expected.

Simons explained that she joined WeWork’s Food Labs to meet people and other entrepreneurs who could collaborate with Seed+Mill and take the company to the next level. And, so far, the strategy has paid off with Simons meeting in the WeWork’s shared space a new bookkeeper, a video production team, another startup that could help her analyze sales and marketing data and countless others who have helped and who she has helped in return.

Likewise, she said, the educational events hosted by WeWork FoodLabs for its members also helped Simons identify what she didn’t know that she needed to know – a challenging blind spot that she says plagues many entrepreneurs without formal training or previous experience in the food industry.

“Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know … and the curriculum that Food Labs has really curated and put together for us has been incredible in its diversity. So, every week we have a different service provider or specialist or somebody who isn’t there tell us things that honestly, I never would have though of,”​ she said.

The most inspirational session was the founder of the juice company Apple & Eve who advised the entrepreneurs in the room that running a business is not like climbing a mountain, but rather climbing multiple mountains with many rewarding highs but also many challenging lows.

For Simons, walking that path with others at Wework Food Labs has been easier than going it alone. But at the same time, she said, she said she also remains focused on her individual goals, including her dream of taking Seed+Mill from a single brick and mortar store to a nationally distributed CPG brand in the next five years.

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