NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. December 20, 2023 - Mani Niall wears many hats. He’s a chef, a baker, a “curious culinary tinkerer”,  an omnivore, a cookbook author and a honey ambassador, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mani Niall

This January and February he’ll wear the hat of class instructor when he travels to Nevada City to share his knowledge of food and his passion for helping others during Sierra Commons brand new five week course, the Food Entrepreneur Accelerator.

Niall is the founder of Mani’s Test Kitchen - an Oakland-based research and development project for food brands. He’s also a former bakery owner and since 2018, a part-time advisor for Sierra Business Development Center (SBDC). He has traveled up and down the north state helping hundreds of entrepreneurs rock their business game.

From vegan fish sauce and kimchi, to drinking chocolate and heirloom pasta sauce, Niall’s helped his clients find the winning edge to product development and includes big names like Numi Organic Fair Trade Tea and Dave’s Gourmet.

“I love contributing to a local food system. I like the enthusiasm of new entrepreneurs and the challenge of helping them figure out what they want,” said Niall.

During the Food Entrepreneur Accelerator course, Niall and other leaders in the sustainable food movement will teach fundamentals of starting and scaling an artisan food business, with an emphasis on navigating rural and regional food systems, helping food businesses start and grow and ultimately creating a more resilient Nevada County.

Niall will teach two classes - “Manufacturing for Scalability” on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and “Sourcing, Storage, Packaging and Shelf Life” on Thursday, Feb. 1.

Niall’s skillset is helping entrepreneurs find the tools they need to succeed. What he has learned over the years is that each client has unique gifts and needs whether it’s researching loans, navigating permits and fine tuning ideas.

“Everybody’s goal is so different. A lot of it is listening to them, doing research and helping them navigate.”

Over the years, he’s learned the tried and true building blocks that give his clients the winning formula, like consistency, creativity and high standards.

“I really learned over the years that running a business is part passion and part repetition,” said Niall, adding it’s a balancing act of tapping into the creative side and being organized.

Early Bird Registration is now open for Sierra Commons’ Food Entrepreneur Accelerator and seats are in short supply for the course that will be held Jan. 16 - Feb 15.

Like the popular Business Ignitor Course, the new food curriculum will cover core topics and provide 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.

Topics include Food Permits, Processed Food Registration (PFR) and Food Safety; 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.

Other instructors include Amy Irani, Director of Environmental Health of Nevada County, Chris Maher General Manager at BriarPatch Food Co-op, Arno Hesse Co-founder Investibule, Dana Frasz Founder of Food and Chelsea Bialla - Chief Marketing Officer at BOBABAM.

The curriculum of the Food Entrepreneur Accelerator course emphasizes food production but anyone with a food business stands to benefit from the course, including caterers, restaurant and food truck owners, say organizers.

Learn more and register at

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.