Avoiding common food startup pitfalls

Jul 10, 2018

Mike Bouchard has done it all, from banking to charity work and cooking for kids. He’s dabbled in most things. Currently, he’s Managing Partner at Rabaska Partners, heading up their consumer, agri-food & retail group. 

Mike happens to have a skill for zeroing in on the challenges that vex entrepreneurs most and offers great advice on how to overcome them. He was a judge at FoodBytes! Montreal, where we caught up with him for a chat about how young businesses can stay ahead of the most common conundrums and avoid the classic pitfalls in the food industry today. Check out the highlights in our video below!

What’s the one piece of advice you find yourself giving to startups most frequently?

The most common problems are generally the most obvious.

With FoodBytes! pitch companies it tends to be about how the individuals pitch their business and sell their ideas. Delivery is key, not just because it could mean the difference between winning the competition, but because being able to present yourself and your business well is a life-long skill, so it makes sense to master it early.

I find myself asking a lot of entrepreneurs to strip slides back, say more with less, and most importantly – highlight the problem they solve from the get-go. If I need to wait until the end of your pitch to understand what you do, I’m going to ask you to rethink things.

What are the most common challenges food entrepreneurs face?

For some, it goes back to pitching, whether it’s for investment or simply selling your product or service to a willing audience. Raising capital can be tough, and developing a commercial mindset is essential because a business can’t thrive on great ideas alone.

Investors, distributors and even customers will take you to task on the big questions, so you need a confident handle on your numbers, facts and figures.

Managing high levels of growth sounds like a nice problem to have, but it’s something many startups struggle with. Everyone hopes for success, but it will be very short lived if you over promise and under deliver.

About Mike Bouchard

As a veteran Investment Banker, Mike currently heads the Consumer, Agri-Food & Retail Group at Rabaska Partners. Formerly with CIBC World Markets, TD Securities and RBC Capital Markets, Mike’s experience includes raising equity and debt capital on the public markets for Canada’s largest corporations as well as Cross-border Mergers & Acquisitions advisory work for a vast array of companies, both large and small. Over the last decade, Mike has focused his practice on the food sector.

Mike is a longstanding member of the Board of Directors of the Cancer Research Society, a national organization that funds basic cancer research across the country. Mike is passionate about food tech and sustainability. He is also an award-winning chef at home as determined by a panel of his children! Mike graduated with an LL.B. from Université de Montréal and practised law for 2 years prior to attending the Ivey Business School in London, Ontario where he graduated with an MBA.

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