When people ask about Food Sol – the first question is usually: What is an action tank? We call ourselves an action tank (versus a think tank) because our True North is positive action for food-system change. We were born out of, and live in a school of business and entrepreneurship, so we see the change as stemming from the marketplace.
As Gary Hirshberg says: "We vote at the cash register. We vote with every purchase."
Food entrepreneurs provide new options – e.g. grass-fed beef parked next to corn-fed – to the growing numbers of eaters who are fed up with status quo food.
There’s plenty of food education out there, but what good is it if we can’t eat our lessons?
Food Sol aims to help young entrepreneurs anchor themselves in the answers to two questions:
- What do I care deeply about changing in this world?
- What is the bite-sized action I can take now to begin?
Answering the first requires getting in touch with the heart. No matter who you are, what you know, or where you come from: you are an eater first. So Food Sol opens new conversations with inquires like: “What is your earliest food memory?” and “Where are you on your food journey?” Responses tend to tap into food meta-values, the personal and primal convictions wired into all of us – e.g. desire for health, variety, flavor, connection, community, and culture.
Answering the second requires Entrepreneurial Thought and Action™, which students practice extensively in their coursework. In simplest form, the method is Act, Learn, Build. You act your way into a new way of thinking – not the other way around.
This approach is challenging for the food-focused entrepreneur because so much of the thought-leadership on food depicts vast, stalemated, complex messes. Knowing how to disaggregate the “mess” into deeply valued, bite-sized actions is how the entrepreneur moves forward, learns, and continues to build the change she wants to see in the world.
Bringing both love and business lenses to the table is a powerful one-two punch. It bridges the passion-talent gap, and assures both profit and purpose orientation. The entrepreneur cannot overlook the economic model if her offering is to become relevant to the marketplace.
Babson Entrepreneur in Residence Andrew Zimmern said in a recent Facebook chat with food entrepreneurs all over the world: “If I can help inspire new ways of thinking about old problems, bring some of what I experience [with Bizarre Foods] to the student body, and help Babson incubate ideas, then I am happy. I am approachable on any topic and am not going away after this year. Babson is stuck with me forever like a bad fungus."
Photo Credit: Rachel Greenberger
Rachel Greenberger is the Director of Food Sol at Babson College.