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Interview with Sho Islam
Rutgers Food Innovation Center
Interview by Jeff Yoskowitz, Jessie Riley and Kathryn Gordon
Jeff: Hi Sho, can you tell us about the Rutgers Food Innovation Center here? It seems like it is located in the middle of nowhere.
Sho: We have been Bridgton since 2000, and are a Center of Rutgers University. This area in Southern Jersey is historically “the garden” of the “Garden State,” but agriculture and the economy in general has declined over the decades and we are here to increase the economic activity in the region, specifically as it related to food businesses.
We’ve had the incubator facility open for about 4 years. We help with all aspects of starting and expanding a food business, from concept to commercialization. We offer a unique incubator center where food establishments can come to get all the support they need to become successful, profit sustaining businesses.
We have 4 production bays, and can schedule up to 4 simultaneous production runs if necessary. Our facility is USDA and FDA approved.
Jessie: What kind of staff do you have here?
Sho: We have marketing, business development, and regulatory specialists, a food technologist and production and plant operators on staff. We also work with other organizations and companies on as-needed basis to meet the need of our clients. For example, clients may work with SBDC (Small Business Development Center) if they need help writing the business plan, or a private company/consultant for logo design; but we’d be there to guide the client through the process.
Kathryn: How do you charge for the consulting you do?
Sho: We work on a cost recovery model and prices are customized for the need of the client. Our business and technical mentoring rates are priced at $100 per hour (for smaller start ups) and $150 (for larger companies). Our production facility rates vary by the room that is being utilized and the frequency of occupancy but rates vary from $750-$1250 per day.
Jessie: How many people a year do you assist?
Sho: Typically we deal with about 250 unique companies/individuals inquiring per year to determine how they can be best assisted by us. To date we’ve assisted over 1400 companies/individuals.
|One of the 4 production bays at the Center, with walk in blast freezers, walk in freezers and refrigerators behind|
Kathryn: Is there a typical length of time companies are here working with you?
Sho: No. The length of time varies based on many variables; some of our clients work with us on very specific short-term projects (food sensory for example), some have been working with us for years and others have moved on to co-packers or built their own facility (Schar USA for example).
Jeff: What’s the main advantage you provide a business to work here with you versus at another incubator?
Sho: We are a one-stop shop. We work to make sure you have the best odds of success when the product is launched. We work with companies on whatever it is they need in terms of marketing, business mentoring, product development and/or production assistance.
Jessie: If I owned a burgeoning company who wanted to work with you, how would I go about it?
Sho: You would contact the Center, fill out our questionnaire and then we would have an initial consultation. Afterwards, we would develop a customized proposal that meets your needs.
Jeff: What’s your success rate of mentoring companies, and how do you define success?
Sho: Of the companies we’ve assisted to commercialize products, greater than 85% of our clients are still in business.
Jessie: This is an amazing facility, thank you so much for the tour!
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