Operator Selection

A Feasibility Study is often initiated by a municipality or community organization with social or public good mission. We help these organizations analyze the market, garner stakeholder support, devise and vet potential operating models and identify possible funding sources, essentially laying the groundwork and establishing the business case for the private sector to enter.

The businesses which emerge from this process are rarely operated by the planning organization, so at some point the process shifts from municipality/coalition-led to entrepreneur/operator-led. New Venture Advisors strongly advocates that this shift occur prior to Business Planning, because the business plan must reflect the vision, strategy and financial capability of the entity assuming the business risk.

Sometimes the operator surfaces during the feasibility assessment. It may be an individual from the project team, a grower or buyer engaged in the market study, the operator of a similar business who seeks to expand, or a community member with the requisite business experience. Our research protocol queries interest in owning, operating or investing in the food business to uncover these individuals.

If an operator is not identified in the course of the study, we can assist our clients in identifying an owner/operator through a formal operator search. Our proprietary 12-part process is customized to the size of the market, formality within the community and the capacity and capability of the project team or planning organization. We lead our clients through each step, ensuring that by the end they have the information they need to choose the right operator to run the business.

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New Venture Advisors is a team of business consultants specializing in local food system planning and new enterprise development.

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Operator Selection Projects

Learn how a few of our clients have undertaken Operator Selection below.

Dane County Planning & Development

Madison, WI

The Operator Selection process we use today was first implemented by Dane County Planning after the Southern Wisconsin Food Hub Feasibility Study was finalized and uncovered the opportunity to create a financially-viable food hub. The Wisconsin Farmer’s Union was selected to take over the project from the County, and they launched the food hub as the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, a community and farmer-owned cooperative, in 2013. (2011)

HOPE Collaborative

Oakland, CA

We assisted this community nonprofit organization in Oakland in conducting a food hub Feasibility Study in 2013. The results indicated the promising potential to partner with an existing distribution company or food bank to operate the food hub. We assisted HOPE in identifying an operating partner, and as the partnership evolved, so did the strategy. Last Mile Foods was launched in 2015 as a mission-driven social enterprise that distributes healthy, nutritious, fresh food to corner stores in food deserts. (2014)

Field & Fork Network

Buffalo, NY

After completing a Feasibility Study identifying a strong base of production and demand in the Buffalo region, we assisted Field & Fork Network in issuing an RFI (request for information) to find an operator to run the business. Through the Operator Selection process an existing grower cooperative was identified, Eden Valley Growers, that piloted the food hub in 2015 and is expanding to serve more growers in 2016. (2015)

 Whatcom Local Food Campus

The Whatcom Community Foundation invests in activities and organizations that improve the ability of people to help themselves, increase connections among people, and take cooperative approaches to community issues. WCF is exploring the development of a local food campus on a waterfront property that would become a multi-tenant site, anchored by a school district commissary. The goal is to strengthen Whatcom County’s local food system by promoting health equity, forging tangible strategic connections between food production organizations, and helping farmers connect with institutional markets. NVA developed the business case for this ambitious project and continues to support its development. (2021)