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S2: Hopeful Harvest with Chris Nemeth serving Detroit Food Manufacturing#44

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Chris Nemeth of Hopeful Harvest


Romy interviews Chris Nemeth of social enterprise Hopeful Harvest on Season 2 episode.  Chris gives an important look inside his operation and openly discusses the challenges of launching this type of endeavor and the challenges that arrive when growth happens quickly. Learn about his grand plans, the broader partnership with Forgotten Harvest, and how he has overcome by serving the food entrepreneurs in Detroit.


Full transcript:

Romy: Hey, thanks for tuning in. This is Romy. I’ll be your host for this episode of the Bonfires of Social Enterprise. Today, I’m interviewing Chris Nemeth in Oak Park, Michigan, which is just outside the border of Detroit. Hopeful Harvest is a food manufacturing company that helps food entrepreneurs with some of the “bottlenecks” to production when you’re just starting out. You’ll learn how Chris came up with the idea to begin to use the facility and how he grew so quickly and what some of the barriers are he’s facing today. It’s a very interesting story. Before we meet our future guest, we have a little something called the Fun Facts Fuel.

Jentzen: Hey, everyone. This is Jentzen. I have some fun fuel to spark this episode. Chris from Hopeful Harvest inspired me to check out some history on some of the first types of food manufacturing. Before I tell you what I found, I have a little fun fact about chickens.

Did you know wild chickens naturally produce roughly 15 eggs per year? However, farmers have bred chickens to lay 200 to 300 eggs per year. Wow, fascinating.

Now, back to my fun fuel. Today, I would like to share with you the top 10 most significant inventions in food and drink according to Megan Garber in the September 14, 2012, article in the Atlantic magazine. Okay. Here we go with the top 10. Number 10, the plow. Number 9, grinding and milling. Number 8, selective breeding. Number 7, the process of baking. Number 6, the threshing machine. Number 5, irrigation. Number 4, the oven. Number 3, the process of canning. Number 2, the process of pasteurization and sterilization. The number 1 food and drink invention was the refrigerator. All right. That’s all, folks. Hope you enjoy the show.

Romy: Thank you, Jentzen. I want to give a shout out now to all of our patrons that are supporting us on Patreon. We appreciate you. If you’d like to support us on Patreon, please go to our website for the link to great supplemental content and connections.

All right. Let’s listen in to my interview with Chris Nemeth of Hopeful Harvest.

Welcome, Chris. Would you begin by telling us about Hopeful Harvest?

Chris: Thank you very much. Hopeful Harvest is a for-profit social enterprise that is an outgrowth from Forgotten Harvest, our non-profit. Forgotten Harvest is 1 of the largest fresh food rescue operations in the United States. We have 35 trucks that go out every day, six days a week, rescue fresh, healthy food from over 800 retail outlets. Then, we turn around and deliver that food to over 283 agencies throughout the metropolitan Detroit area.

Where social enterprise got it start was that there was a sense of building on the mission that we had with Forgotten Harvest: How can we go beyond what we were currently doing and not only address the problem on a daily basis but begin putting some things in place to fix the problem long term. The idea with social enterprise was to focus on three areas. We were going to focus something with food, something with workforce development and something with product development. My goal was to go basically out and get into the community and find out where the opportunities were and what was needed in the metro Detroit area. I grew up in Detroit so for me; this is also a labor of love because there was an opportunity to get back in and make a difference.

As I talk to a lot of small food manufacturers, businesses, entrepreneurs, government officials, non-profits, for-profit businesses, what I came to understand was that one of the huge differences in Detroit was that when I was growing up, it was all auto industry. Our economy was built on the auto industry, and careers were built on the auto industry. It’s just what you did. Obviously, Detroit has gone through major changes. The reality now is the auto industry is never going to be what it was before. What Detroit has embraced is the entrepreneurial mindset and the idea of we’ve got to create new opportunities, new ventures. Food is one of the areas that’s taking off in metro Detroit.

Being that Forgotten Harvest was a fresh food oriented-type of business, I automatically was drawn to talking to people that were within the food industry. What I found was there wasn’t a lot of support out there for small food manufacturers. They were using church kitchens. They were using basically whatever they could find. A lot of these places were less than desirable. They had to work around the schedules of the facilities. What was available to them was limited. They had to haul their equipment back and forth. It just seemed to me that there was a tremendous opportunity and need there where we could make an impact. We had a warehouse. We had refrigerated storage. We had freezer storage. We had a very rudimentary processing area where volunteers come in and repack fresh food.

As I began to explore it, I got into some conversations with some great local entrepreneurs. One thing led to another. We got into discussions. I started talking to more businesses. Where we decided to go was focused initially on food processing and storage. Basically, what we were looking at when I say processing was very basic, take the fruits and vegetables that they use to make their products and wash it for them, clean it, package it, store it, refrigerate it, freeze it, whatever they needed so that they could then take it and make their product.

One of the small businesses they said you should talk to a friend of ours, Jess McClary of McClary Bros Vinegars. She’s in a situation where she’s growing her product, and she’s running out of space to do it and is looking for somebody to do processing for and maybe more. I got into a discussion with Jess. We decided we would start off with processing. Within a month, we realized that we could do more than just process for her. To make a long story short, over a period of 2 months, we went from just processing to manufacturing her product for.

What’s exciting about it was the phones started ringing. Word got out that we were looking at doing those kinds of things. I joined a lot of local organizations, talked to a lot of people. The interest started to develop to do more and more of this. The other thing that became very apparent to me was that there was a real need for a top-level commercial kitchen in the area. From a Forgotten Harvest and Hope standpoint, we went back; we talked about it, and we said, “Yes, we could build on the facility we have right now. Forgotten Harvest would make the initial investment in the facility, and then we would need a separate entity that would run it and then pay back Forgotten Harvest for the investment that they make.”

We had some discussions and decided that it was probably best to set up a separate operation or for-profit operation. I was also beginning to get some pushback from local processors who were concerned that we had found a niche that we were getting into that could potentially take business away from them. The idea was separate it from the non-profit, make it a legitimate for-profit, run it as a for-profit but always run it with the idea being that it was going to be a social enterprise. We threw around some names, and that’s where Hopeful Harvest came up. After doing some research, we decided that we would set it up as a C corp. The stock would be 100% owned initially by Forgotten Harvest, but we would run it as a separate company.

Along with being the senior director of social enterprise for Forgotten Harvest, I became the president of Hopeful Harvest. Then quite frankly, the sales background and marketing background I have kicked in. We started talking about different businesses. We started growing the business. Before you knew it, we had over 30 clients of all different types of products. While that sounds like a dream, it also can create some challenges because we found out that when you have many different products, there’s a lot of complexities that go along with that. When you’re dealing with start-up businesses or small businesses that are going from cottage to incubator stage and something beyond that, there we have a lot of ups and downs, too.

We were going to do business plans. We were going to do website development. We were going to offer them everything. After helping build a couple of business plans and develop a couple of websites, we realize we were getting spread way too thin, and we had to get focused, and we had to focus on core aspects of the business. The way we addressed that is with partners. The idea was we didn’t have the payroll to take out all this expertise, but there were a lot of people out there, a lot of small businesses out there that had this expertise that was looking for referrals and partnerships. When somebody comes to us, and he says, “Look, I have no idea how to build a business plan. I can set them up with this company, this person. They’ll work with them.” That is a value-added service that we offer, but it does not cost us anything, but it’s helping our client. We’re taking that approach and growing it that way.

Romy: That was a great history and catch-up. What are your products today? Then I know you’ve gotten some clarity. I know from talking to you and many other social entrepreneurs, sometimes clarity comes from space restrictions and things like that, things that you want to do a lot of products and services. What are the few products that you know for sure you’re doing today before we move onto some other things?

Chris: Sure. People didn’t know me [inaudible [00:10:34] because there’s 2 words they say I don’t know, one is no and one is can’t. What I learned early on was that I tried to bring in as much business as I could. If somebody came to us, I said, “Figure out a way to do.” What happened was our initial product line was very extensive. Everything from cakes to cannolis to drinking vinegars, to salad dressings and everything in between.

As I was getting my education, because I really don’t have a food background, what I learned was you have to really narrow your scope and find that sweet spot, those areas where you have like types of products that complement your skill sets and your equipment and that you feel comfortable you can meet the needs of your clients. We went and really began to trim down our commercial kitchen. We have all different types of businesses in there. They come in, they have a license, they use the kitchen. That’s the service we provide, but obviously, that doesn’t put a real strain on our personnel from a skill set standpoint.

What we did from a product standpoint is we’ve decided to focus on a couple of key areas. We focused our salad dressings. We focused our mustards, drinking vinegar, which is a unique product that I can talk about down the road. We do some hot sources right now. Those are pretty much the types of products that we’re co-packing or co-manufacturing at this time. We’ve learned to narrow that down. That helps us from an equipment standpoint; that helps us from a personnel standpoint. Again, it’s just that cold reality that hits you that you can’t be everything to everybody as much as you want to be, particularly as a social enterprise because you’ve always got that in the back of your mind, “How can I help this business, how can I help the community,” but you’ve also got to be realistic in what you can and can’t do. Those are the types of products we’re focused on right now.

Romy: Smart to laser in on a couple and do those real, real well and expand. Chris, you said some commercial businesses will come in and use the facility. Now, are they paying you per time? Or did they pay a monthly rent or membership? Will you just tell us a little bit more about that part of your revenue model?

Chris: Sure, I’m a big fan for my marketing pick, and I’m a big fan of bundling. I like to take like services or someone’s services and package them together. One of the things that I know is that if these individuals are running small businesses if they know every month what something is going to cost them, if it’s a fixed versus a variable cost, it helps them tremendously from a budgeting and planning standpoint. What we do with the commercial kitchen, we have everything in here from raw juices to popcorn. We have someone in here from France that makes lava cakes and everything in between. What we do is we determine how much kitchen time they think they’re going to need and what additional storage they may need. We have the ability here to offer refrigerated storage, freezer storage and secure dry storage.

For example, if a client says, “Look, we’re going to need the kitchen for 10 hours a week, and we’re going to need x amount of storage and we’re going to need this support,” typically it can either be broken down by an hourly rate, so we may say it’s going to be $20 an hour. Or what I like to do is say, “Okay, you’re going to be in here approximately 40 hours. You want storage. Typically, it would cost this amount if it was done ala carte. If we do the whole thing as a bundle, I can give it to you this rate on a monthly basis.” They know, and we’re trying to help these businesses.

If they’re scheduled for 40 hours, and it turns out they need 42 hours or 44 hours, we’re good with that because goodwill is a part of this, too. They know that they were going to pay x amount of dollars for that every month. We get that agreement upfront. They’re good with it. If their business grows and expands, then we can revisit whether we need to raise that rate or change the structure. Or if their business downsizes, we work with them on that.

Another thing that we do that’s unique is what we recognize was when we furnished our kitchen and our space, we tried to focus on equipment that we purchase that is universal to a number of different types of clients. What we found was because of the food background, a lot of these businesses have very specialized equipment. They have certain electrical requirements or water requirements or air requirements. We also work with them from that standpoint, too. That’s unique. There’s not a lot of people that do that. They can bring their specialized equipment in. Our people, when they know their schedule to come in, will make that equipment available to them in a designated room that has everything that they need, they can produce their product and then we’ll take that equipment when they’re done, put it back in storage for them, so they don’t have to haul it back and forth. They don’t have to worry about it from a safety and security standpoint. They love that service. That’s something we’ve learned and customized as we went along.

Romy: It seems like you’ve almost added on this almost concierge level of services that you’re paying attention to these customers. That’s really exciting. Now, that makes sense to me why you’ve picked and mastered the drinking vinegars and some of those elements because those are probably the equipment that you have right now, which is really smart. Is it too early to talk about the branding potential?

Chris: No, not at all.

Romy: Because I know you’re now going to add on another service line. Perhaps you could share some of that, what you’re able to share right now.

Chris: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. This will be part of Forgotten Harvest, but it has Hopeful Harvest tied into this as well. Basically, the idea is along the lines of Newman’s Own. Our concept is Forgotten Harvest is a very well-known name in the metro Detroit area, actually state of Michigan. We deal in fresh food, healthy food and obviously make that available in a lot of food deserts to folks who don’t have that opportunity necessarily to get at that food. What we determine was that, that why couldn’t we take that brand, that Forgotten Harvest brand, identify some partners, co-brand or brand those products, and then talk to local retailers who were very involved with at our boards, so on and so forth popular, about putting those products on their shelves.

What we do basically is we have 14 partners right now. They have certain products that they’re partnering with Forgotten Harvest. It could be a full branding. For example, a company called Mucky Duck is our salad dressing. We have four flavors of Forgotten Harvest salad dressing. They produce [sandwich [00:17:19] now, we’re going to produce, which I’ll talk about in a minute. Then we also have partners that are going to do everything from cookies to salad dressings to [gems [00:17:29] and jellies, so on and so forth. We’re building that right now. We have our partners. They have their special labels that are made that feature Forgotten Harvest item.

The way we work that agreement is that Forgotten Harvest gets 7.5% of net product sales. For that 7.5%, what the client gets is, obviously, the boost in recognition partnering with Forgotten Harvest. They certainly get the philanthropic opportunity to donate back, but also, we’ve agreed to help from a marketing standpoints. We have a whole marketing plan we put in place that we’re going to support and help these products as well. We’re starting off with 14. We’re going to have anywhere from 90 to 150 SKUs, depending on the number of products we have. We’re very excited about this.

I did want to add the other unique part of this is some of these products will actually be made by Hopeful Harvest. We’re making them with our social enterprise, and then any profits will go to Forgotten Harvest. Then in turn, when they’re sold, that also will go back to Forgotten Harvest. We’re hitting it from both sides. It’s a great opportunity for everybody.

Romy: I love it that it’s got your marketing background in here, too. Now, there’s a flavor of you, Chris, start coming in.

Chris: Yes.

Romy: Before we keep going on the business growth and challenges, could we circle back just for a minute and talk about the social mission element, too, for a minute because you touched on it in the beginning? I know that you have really not just made a full circle financially, but you’ve also put in some directives and initiatives for workforce development and some of those other pieces. Would you mind touching on those before we keep going on the business thing?

Chris: Absolutely. We are totally dedicated to the people, plan and profit approach to social enterprise. Our mission is to take what the nonprofit does fundamentally and grow it. It’s great to go out and feed somebody [inaudible [00:19:27]. It’s the concept of I can give you a fish or I can teach you to fish and feed you for a lifetime. This is our approach to what we’re doing. With the Hopeful Harvest piece, what we’re doing is we’re helping small businesses to grow, that’s creating jobs and opportunity for those small businesses, which is putting more revenue into the marketplace.

In Detroit, one of the areas of major focus is community redevelopment. A lot of these businesses that we work with are located in Detroit and are hiring people in Detroit. These individuals that we’re helping to grow their business, they’re hiring people, they’re putting money back in the economy, and they’re helping these individuals not have to stand in line to get our food because they have a viable job, a viable opportunity that they can support themselves. That’s one aspect of it.

Another aspect of it is that we have a workforce development program focused on the food industry. The idea is it’s a 13-week program. When they’re done, they have numerous certifications. We partner with Michigan State University, Southwest Solutions and the Veterans Administration, both from the state of Michigan and federal. The idea is we’re focused on veterans and employment challenge because Detroit does not have a rapid transit system. If you live down in Detroit, and you don’t have transportation, the bus system is very unreliable, and it’s very difficult for a lot of the individuals living down there to get jobs. This is taking the jobs of them. We’re giving them training. We’re also promising that we will help them get jobs once they graduate. Then what also is happening, a lot of the small businesses that we’re working with that need employees will have the opportunity to hire these individuals into their companies. We’re helping the small businesses, we’re helping the individuals, we’re creating jobs, and we’re putting everything back into the marketplace.

Our mission is really to complete the circle, to not only feed individuals, but also help them get jobs, helps small businesses, put money back into the community and complete that circle of redevelopment and growth back into the city of Detroit and beyond again.

Romy: Chris, is the 13-week certification program, is that through the Hopeful for-profit Harvest?

Chris: Yes, that is through the for-profit Hopeful Harvest. Basically, they receive four weeks of training on reading, writing skills, resume development, interview skills, so on and so forth. Then from that, they come into 2 weeks in logistics and warehousing training. They get a license on how to drive a forklift. They learn how to use electric pellets. They learn how to load properly and unload trucks, how to set up a warehouse, they learn logistics. Then, what’s really great is they go to our farm for two weeks. We also have a farm. It’s 115 acres. We farm that, Forgotten Harvest does. Then the crops that we grow on there come back to Forgotten Harvest. Hopeful Harvest helps process a lot of those crops. Then they’re put out, again, to the community to feed those in need.

They go out in the workforce development, and they get two weeks to the farm to learn basic farming. They learn how to drive a tractor. They learn how to put a crop plant together. They learn how to take care of crops. Then they will come back; they spend two weeks in our processing center, so they learn customer service, they learn how to make products. They learn how to work with these small businesses. They learn how to use the equipment. We do a final two weeks where we do customized training for the employers who are looking to hire them because we work to set that up ahead of time. They graduate. They’ve got a job. They’re back in the community. They’re earning money. We’ve helped them move forward. Again, we’re giving back to the community. We’re very excited about this.

Romy: To summarize, Hopeful Harvest is the for-profit alongside Forgotten Harvest. They’ve really married up and sharing of resources that add value to the nonprofit. Hopeful Harvest, which is the for-profit, there’s the facility rental and service fees of storage and all of those commercial kitchen. There’s some product lines, and then there’s a new branding service. Now, the social mission delivery is creating workforce development through this 13-week program. All to complete the circle of adding value, stopping it from continuing to go and adding financially to Forgotten Harvest as well. Okay, so let’s swing back now the other direction, back into the business, and we’ll finish this out.

One of the things that’s so interesting to me about what you’ve done here is you’ve launched Hopeful Harvest alongside Forgotten Harvest, and it’s taking off, it’s like three years ahead of where you thought it would go. I’m wondering if you’d be able to speak into what you think went well that allowed it to go that fast. Maybe transition us into some of the challenges that come with that high-level growth of a non-tech company, right?

Chris: Yes, that’s a great question. There have been many challenges. As you mentioned, we’re grown very quickly. We’ve taken on a lot of services that we didn’t expect to have for maybe three years. That came as a result of grants. That came as a result of gifts from groups and organizations and companies that saw the value of what we do and wanted to help support it. Because, for example, the workforce development program, the state of Michigan sees that as an opportunity to create a template that they can franchise out into other areas. The challenges have been, again, with the sales and marketing background, I love to sell. I’m fairly good at it. I have a passion for what we do. One of the challenges we had was we grew probably, I won’t say we grew too fast, but we were probably too broad in how we grew. Knowing what I know now, I would have narrowed my focus a little bit in terms of the types of businesses we work with, the types of services that they offered and it stairs stepped our growth.

When we started off, the idea was that we were going to be strictly processing in a very basic business, cutting, washing, packaging, freezing, refrigerating. The opportunity was there to grow, so we got into cold packing relatively quickly. Again, for anybody that doesn’t know, cold packing means literally that you are producing those products for your customer. You’re co-manufacturing for them. We moved into that very quickly. The commercial kitchen was probably the single smartest investment we made because that reaches the highest number of people and has the, from an operational standpoint, probably the least number of [headaches [00:26:18] but any time you’re dealing with equipment is a challenge. Part of what we found was having the right equipment, estimating what type of business we were going to bring in, what kind of equipment we were going to need, what type of personnel we needed from a skill set standpoint. From that standpoint, we grew too fast because we had all this business sitting here and we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get it done efficiently and correctly.

The other thing in learning was building … Whenever you’re relying on construction, that time schedules and time frames go out the window. Where we thought we would be ready in November, then it was December, then it was January, then it was February, then it was March. The other thing I learned was in terms of forecasting as well, too. You’re looking from a revenue standpoint, and you’re saying, “Okay, I think in December, we’re going to be able to generate x revenue,” but that was all based on the construction being finished. When that didn’t happen, that pushed everything back. We’ve learned through this process to make sure that when you’re doing work that we’re doing now, you try to really be realistic and build in a fudge factor to make sure that you’ve got all that taken into account.

As I talked about earlier, the other challenge that we had was facility growth. We share our current facility with Forgotten Harvest. Quite frankly, in a year, we literally have outgrown this facility. That’s a major challenge for us now. Fortunately, we are able to add a second shift and a third shift when Forgotten Harvest really isn’t operating. That gives us a little more space, but really we’re at a point now where we have to look for another facility. We didn’t think we were going to have to do that for at least 3 to 4 years. That brings another opportunity but another challenge with it as well.

Then another challenge we had was underestimating how quickly individuals could be trained and particularly when you’re looking at a more diverse product line. I worked on the assembly line of Cadillac to put myself through college. You had four different models of Cadillacs, but they were fundamentally the same. When it went down the assembly line, you basically did the same job for every car. You knew that in that hour, you had to produce 59 Cadillacs, but there wasn’t a lot of variances. Here, we have tremendous amounts of variance. That has created a lot of challenges for us.

When we bring consultants in from other companies, manufacturing companies, they’re stumped to help really us because they’re in areas where they build like types of products. In our case, we’re doing mustard, and then right after that, we’re doing a salad dressing. Right after that, we’re doing drinking vinegars. Right after that, we’re doing a hot sauce. They all require different skills, different recipes, different time frames, different food and safety procedures. We’re meticulous about our food safety and security. All those factors have to come into play, so that can impact from a scheduling standpoint, timing standpoint.

The other probably biggest challenge we’ve had is actually pricing, establishing the right prices because not knowing early on, and you’d take out a pencil, and you do some work, but there was nobody that we can really go to, to model from. Nobody that was doing what we were doing to say, “Our experience tells us you need to do this.” We’ve had to learn in terms of proper pricing. We talked to a lot of small food entrepreneurs. When you really sit down … First of all, they never put a value on their time. Time is never factored into value. It’s never factored into their pricing or their costs. We’ve dealt with small food entrepreneurs. When we sat down and broke everything down, every time they made product, they lost money because it was costing them more than what they were selling it for. We certainly didn’t want to do that, but I would also tell you, I know we did. I know that we made some mistakes early on.

Now, adding a bottling line like we’re adding, that’s another whole area to get because your productivity and your efficiency goes way up, how do you price that properly? You’re going to need fewer people because some of the work we do was labor intensive. Our highest cost, our biggest challenge has been labor. That’s where our cost has been. That’s where our biggest challenge has been. We’re beginning to get really a handle on that. It’s taken 12, 14 months to begin to really understand that. My other caution to anybody getting into business is making sure you’re accounting for that when you start your business, you’re not just going to start turning in over dollars immediately. There’s a learning process that goes into play. Depending on the type of business you have the more complex that can be.

In our case, it’s been very complex because we have nobody to model. There’s nobody doing quite what we’re doing. We’re learning as we go. They create some heartburn, a lot of sleepless nights, but we’re getting it. We’re understanding it. We’re moving forward. Again, you have to know what you don’t know. I say that all the time. There’s a lot that I don’t know, but I know I don’t know it. You try to find out which individuals can help you, what resources … I’m on the Internet every night, reading, understanding. It’s just a continuous work in process like any new business would be. Those are the challenges we face.

Romy: I love it that you hit on 2 of the ones that come up over and over and over again in just a horse of a different color. Really when you’re talking about the space restrictions, I’d say not even specific to manufacturing or even a lot of our service-orientated social entrepreneurs, you can almost only grow as fast as your skill sets and personnel allow and your space allows and honing in. I always try to give the device of honing in on 1 or 2 products, so that really goes to a level of excellence and quality and your name recognition before you add on the other ones just as you said. That’s a pain point that goes away when you’re over a certain size. It’s that you’re good enough to be having a lot of activity, but you’re not giant enough yet to have assembly lines of all the things. You effectively are using all of your equipment and resources, your multi-purpose scene, almost all of the pieces of what you have, which it takes a lot of strategic thinking around that. Do you want to make a comment about that? Yeah.

Chris: I was going to say, one other thing we learned, too, is that initially we would sit down, and we would talk to the client. We find that out about the product. We’d put a price together. Now, what we do is we’ll pilot for everything that we do. We don’t give one price until we literally manufacture the product once or twice sometimes and get a real feel for how many people is it going to take because we’ve also found variances with equipment. We’re fortunate to have some really good equipment here. A lot of the places that the food was made before we came here or the product was made has substandard equipment or an older equipment. We do pilots now as well too, to make sure that we have the right information before we give a price.

Romy: That’s a smart tip for those of you who did it. Lastly, the other piece there is on the fact about living wage and personnel. When we’re talking about staffing personnel, the people part of our business as a social entrepreneurs, you can really get caught in the shenanigans of that at times because you think, “Gosh, I want to use part of the profit to give towards a cause. I want to pay a living wage.” It’s that fine balance of when you add up all the things that your product is going to need to be priced at, do you price yourself out of the market? It really is a core issue for social entrepreneurs that we are all figuring it out. Sometimes, what we have found where that lands, everybody’s truth is you do what you can for what the market will pay for your products. If you really want to charge $100 for that product to do all of your social mission but the market won’t bear it yet, you charge $60, and you do what you can.

I say that in closing as we wrap this up for social entrepreneurs to release themselves. Do what you can and let your mission and your impact grow as your business is growing. It’s such a unique characteristic of social entrepreneurs. Chris, thanks for speaking so beautiful into that because you’re another example of working through this so humbly and honestly.

Chris: Thank you

Romy: It’s encouraging for everybody else. Would you take a minute, and if money or resources weren’t an issue, and you let yourself really dream big today, what could this grow into both from a business side and a social impact side?

Chris: Let’s start with the social impact side. I love the idea that our goal is to create anywhere from 35 to 48 jobs a year through our workforce development program. Our goal was this year to have ten employees with Hopeful Harvest by the end of the year. I’m proud to say we’re going to make that ten employees. Those are jobs that we’ve created. That’s huge. I think the other thing is the success of the businesses that we work with. One of our businesses was just on Shark Tank. We’re very proud of them.

We’ve seen a lot of these businesses grow significantly. We know we’re helping them get there. That’s very satisfying. The pride of helping those businesses and partnering with those businesses is something else. That’s a real significant goal for us. We want to see that increase. I think realistically, we want to get to a point where we had 100% occupancy of our kitchen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We would love to continue to grow. We’re about 35 clients now all in the kitchen in and co-manufacturing. I’d like to see that number go up somewhere by the end of next year to 50 to 60. We know we’re helping those small businesses.

Then the other thing that we really want to continue doing is just help organizations. We talk to a lot of groups. We’re getting very involved with colleges and universities and helping to mentor students to judge a contest, to help with classes being developed, to speak about the reality of what social enterprise really is. We want to continue and grow that as well too. I think those are the things that continue to be our focus and help Forgotten Harvest as much as we can by generating cash that we can put back and to help further that mission as well.

Romy: That’s a lot. You’re the right guy for the job.

Chris: Yeah, I hope so.

Romy: Would you help us learn how we would find you on social media? Any websites and the best way they’d reach you?

Chris: Sure. You can find us on social media at That’s our website. You can reach me directly either through or Those are probably the best way to reach us. We do have a Facebook account as well. We’ve done a lot of local publications. Those are probably the best ways to find us and reach us.

Romy: Thank you so much for this today. It’s been awesome.

Chris: Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Destanee: It’s time to reveal the mystery sound. Here is the sound we gave you last week for Hopeful Harvest. This is the sound of bottles clinking more specifically, McClary Bros. drinking vinegar bottles. Visit our Facebook page where we will announce the winners. This is Destanee. I will talk to you next week on our episode with guests from Assemble Sound.

Romy: It’s that time again where we close out our episode with the sounds of the Detroit artists curated by Assemble Sound. Here is JR JR with As Time Goes By.

End of Transcript



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