Investing in the Future of Food: NextGenChef connects ‘foodpreneurs’ with mentors, consumers online

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Investing in the Future of Food Entrepreneurship startups

No longer able to rely on conferences, in-store demos or serendipitous meetings to raise awareness of a new business or product, entrepreneurs increasing are connecting with each other, mentors and consumers through subscription-based online platforms that offer curated virtual events and targeted networking opportunities.

San Francisco-based NextGenChef​ is one example of this hybrid-platform that bridges professional networking and consumer outreach through a combination of online office hours, lunch and learns and more relaxed mix-it-up Monday presentations that seek to bring together “foodpreneurs,” thought-leaders and consumers interested in local, affordable and regenerative food.

NextGenChef founder Justine Reichman explains in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food​ that her online platform brings together “both the resources and the entrepreneurs as well as the end consumer so that people can not just listen and make it a spectator sport, but really participate in the conversation and share their specific issues or concerns or experiences.”

In particular, she said, NextGenChef focuses on growing concerns about how food is made, its impact on people and the planet.

“More than ever, people are paying attention to where their food is being sourced, are people being paid a fair wage, what is the impact on my health and on the planet. People have families and kids and they are thinking about the future of this planet because the planet is begin affected by the choices we make. So, the best way I know how to provide access to these resources is by what I have done, which is build and online community,”​ she explained.

Members of NextGenChef gain access to other entrepreneurs, mentors and consumers who are “mission aligned and what to build a better-for-you-food business,”​ Reichman said. She added they also are offered opportunities to promote their products, companies and missions in a way where the platform, and Reichman personally, can magnify their reach and message.

The ability to tap into this type of community and generate these results is especially important to entrepreneurs and startups now that COVID-19 has derailed many of the traditional ways that they would have raised brand awareness and support, Reichman said.

For example, she said, before COVID-19, entrepreneurs regularly would pass out samples of their products in stores and even at NextGenChef events​. Or they would be able to work the room at a well-curated event hosted by NextGenChef to meet others in their sphere or who had been where they were before and might be able to help.

“Now, here we are with COVID-19, we can no longer have the experience in person and we are no longer doing those kinds of events where you get to touch [products] and feel [products] and take [them] home,”​ Reichman said.

So, instead, she explained, the company hosts online events and sometimes shares products before they begin so presenters and attendees can better understand what a product or startup has to offer. In addition, NextGenChef, now promotes their reactions and details about the products across its social media platforms.

Membership fees temporarily waived

Recognizing that even though COVID-19 has increased the need for online networking, it also has prompted many entrepreneurs to pull their purse strings tight and restrict spending to only the essentials.

As such, Reichman said, NextGenChef has temporarily waived membership fees until 2021 and is making its content available for free or on a sliding scale to industry members. The trade off is that the platform isn’t currently able to give newcomers the same one-on-one attention that it gives paying members, but Reichman said she is still doing her best to make connections and provide pivotal content.

To effectively and efficiently do this, NextGenChef recently launched a new app and will be publishing a series of ungated white papers with key industry information and research.

Ultimately, Reichman said, “we want to be looked at as a pinnacle resource for everyone in food.” 

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