Expanding equitable access to mobile food business development resources for Spanish speaking entrepreneurs in west Michigan.

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Relevance: Food entrepreneurs have challenging schedules. Online and on-demand course offerings can often serve as the best ways to provide this audience with information. In the early months of 2022, the Michigan State University Extension Product Center launched a “How to Start a Food Truck Business” online course in English, which is offered at no charge to the public. This course features speakers from the Kent County Health Department on licensing, the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association on business planning and best practices, Prep Space Kitchen on commissary kitchens and Grow on business financial and financing. By the end of 2022, almost 300 people registered for this online course. Product Center educators received a significant number of requests from Spanish speaking individuals to offer the successful course in Spanish.

Response: With grant support from the Wege Foundation and Carlos Sanchez, a Latinx business development specialist with Ferris State University contracted as the Spanish speaking instructor, Product Center staff modified the original, online course into a four-session, in-person workshop series. Grant funding also covered the cost of document translation, catering from food trucks and room rental at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan.

Results: The pilot series was planned for 20 participants and 26 people ended up attending. Two participants drove over two hours each week to attend, sharing that Spanish resources for food truck businesses were not available where they lived. Guest speakers during the series included representatives from: the Kent County Health Department, the Grand Rapids Fire Department, Grow, Michigan Woman Forward, the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Each week an evaluation form was requested of participants, and every week over 90% of participants said they found the information valuable and they planned to use it in their business planning for their mobile food business.

Public value statement: The Michigan State University Extension Product Center helps Michigan entrepreneurs and businesses to develop and launch new product and service ideas into the food, agriculture and bioenergy markets. Entrepreneurs who have successfully taken the “How to Start a Food Truck Business” course will finish with a completed business plan and the knowledge to initiate the licensing process for a mobile food business in Michigan.