Nevada City, CA - Local food business owners signing up for the new Food Entrepreneur Accelerator program by Sierra Commons will grow their knowledge of county and state requirements and get the support they need from experienced leaders.

Amy Irani, the Director of Environmental Health for Nevada County, will teach the first class during the five-week course launching on Tuesday, Jan. 16. The class is called, “Food Permits & Processed Food Registration.”

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I joined the county. We are friends of industry and really want to support local food entrepreneurs,” said Irani.

Irani oversees permits, licensing, and certifications of food facilities, kitchens and more. She will be joined by a representative from the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture during the class designed to shed light on topics such as cottage food permits and labeling.

“We’re here to help you understand the regulations. It’s not as daunting as you think,” said Irani.

Irani will also be discussing the Platform Kitchen Operation (PKO), a creative option that allows food entrepreneurs to operate out of a permitted Commissary Kitchen for delivery and to-go customers. PKOs are an affordable option for entrepreneurs who are starting out and haven’t invested in a certified kitchen, brick-and-mortar building or expensive equipment. Minimum infrastructure can be a costly obstacle for many young food businesses.

“Those kinds of things can be daunting. A lot of people starting out don’t have that infrastructure. We wanted to come up with a process that would allow for folks who didn’t have a lot of money,” said Irani. Currently, four PKO businesses are operating successfully in Nevada County.

Through the years, Irani has seen it all. The most successful businesses start small and simple with consistency and hard work as the foundation.

“I always advise people to keep it simple. Start with something you’re incredible at,” she said.

Irani majored in biology and chemistry and after graduating college “many moons ago” she had dreams of a career in ocean biology. Instead, she landed a job in a USDA research department alongside other scientists, studying food and grains. This opened up a path in the environmental health field in Texas. She fell in love with the work that led her to meet many different people over the years, hear their stories and help them find success.

Just days into her post with Nevada County, she met and helped Jerry Cirino with his state permitting so he could turn his famous Bloody Mary Mix into a shelf-stable product. She’s equally proud of her work with Sierra Harvest, bringing fresh salad bars to local schools. 

Since 2009, Sierra Commons has been committed to creating a more sustainable and resilient local economy by helping folks turn their passions into jobs with a purpose.

The nonprofit’s Food Entrepreneur Accelerator course will be held Jan. 16 - Feb 15. Built on the successful formula of Sierra Commons Business Ignitor Course started in 2010, the Food Entrepreneur Accelerator course focuses specifically on starting or growing a food product business.

Students will learn core topics during nine class sessions led by expert instructors. In addition, students will have access to one-to-one advising through the Sierra Small Business Development Center (SBDC), industry contacts, accountability meetups, peer mentoring and a pitch fest with expert feedback.

Other topics include Non-traditional Funding Opportunities; Manufacturing and Scalability; Getting on the Shelf - Pricing and Distribution; Sourcing, Storage, and Packaging; Building Your Team and Streamlining Operations and Building Your Brand.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Scholarships are available. Registration closes Jan. 12.

Learn more and register at www.sierracommons.org

Questions? Contact Executive Director Robert Trent at robert@sierracommons.org 530-265-8443