Updated on June 6, 2020.
In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of startup accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural products businesses. Here, Melissa Rouse, communications director for Food System 6, shares what this accelerator is all about.
What: Food System 6, a yearlong nonresidential program with possible $25,000 in funding.
When: Starts annually in December; concludes the following winter.
Notable alumni: Soñar!, American Ostrich Farms, Matriark Foods.
When are FS6 accelerator applications open, and when is the application deadline?
Fill out the FS6 website intake form at any time to be notified when the next cohort application process begins. Typically, this kicks off in early fall.
What is the duration of the accelerator?
The FS6 accelerator program is a one-year nonresidential program, which kicks off each year in December and concludes the following winter. The program includes four mandatory in-person sessions throughout the year.
What kinds of companies does FS6 assist?
The FS6 program is open to entrepreneurs from across all entity types that are innovating for a healthier, more just and sustainable food future.
FS6 supports early stage businesses and nonprofits. For nonprofits, that typically means an organization within three to five years of formation. For for-profits, that means seed or pre-seed funded, with some sort of revenue, product in market or significant proof of concept. In rare cases, the accelerator might work with prerevenue companies.
The materials requested in the stage 1 application will help to determine if companies are at the right stage to participate.
What’s your mission in doing this work?
Food System 6's mission is to support impact-driven entrepreneurs as they transform how we grow, produce and distribute food. FS6 provides entrepreneurs with the skills and support they need to successfully achieve business milestones and stands by their side as they navigate the ups and downs of taking their business to scale.
Organization leaders see its role as a coach and a community builder—connecting those who are changing the food system with the resources they need to build successful and resilient solutions in food and agriculture.
What kinds of financial assistance does the FS6 accelerator provide, if any?
Thanks to a partnership with the investment fund 1st Course Capital (1CC), eligible for-profit participants will receive a $25,000 SAFE note upon successfully completing the initial program. Nonprofit organizations are accepted into the one-year core program at no cost.
The investment fund will offer each eligible company a SAFE note to convert in the company’s next-priced round of equity financing. To be made eligible for investment, the company must complete the initial 16-week portion of the accelerator program and they must be incorporated as either a C corporation or an S corporation. The offer of investment is made available after the 16 weeks and will be open until 120 days later. 1st Course Capital reserves the right to determine final terms and eligibility for the SAFE investment.
What key attributes is FS6 looking for in applicants?
The FS6 program prioritizes working with entrepreneurs who are building a food system that focuses on health, sustainability and justice—whether through food tech, supply chain or access-focused solutions. It selects solutions based on their impact, business viability, the coachability of the entrepreneur and an explicit understanding of how FS6 will be able to help the business or nonprofit achieve the next milestone.
It supports innovation across four impact pillars: Healthy People, Sustainable Ecosystems, Vibrant Farms and Justice and Fairness.
What is one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
Find your community and learn to ask for help before you need it. As long as you are clear about the important and real problem that you are solving, people will be drawn to support your passion and purpose for being.
What is your favorite project to have come out of the FS6 accelerator?
"As a program focused on systems change, we see each individual entrepreneur as a key player in the broader success story of food system transformation," says FS6 communications director Melissa Rouse. "With that in mind, one of our most exciting new projects is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program, in which we bring back founders and CEOs from previous cohorts, as well as the broader food system innovation space, to mentor and coach our current cohort, while also supporting them in the pursuit of their most recent projects. Like all things at FS6, this program is customized to meet the needs of each individual EIR and will vary year-over-year."