Hard work, good luck and lots of persistence are what helped Tony Dutra turn his garage-based business into the dominant goat cheese producer in North America with four factories and hundreds of employees.
Dutra, owner of Woolwich Dairy, shared some of his personal and business history as a keynote speaker Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the Food Entrepreneurs: Preserving Our Heritage; Creating Our Future event presented by Georgian College. More than 180 food business entrepreneurs and budding business owners filled the Monora Park Pavilion near Orangeville to hear insights from Dutra, Dr. Tom Deans and other speakers, as well as personal stories from numerous Headwaters region food business owners.
The event was held in partnership with Dufferin. Biz, Headwaters Communities in Action, Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance, Downtown Orangeville BIA, the Town of Orangeville Economic Development and the Orangeville and Area Small Business Enterprise Centre.
Second keynote speaker Dr. Tom Deans, author and owner of Hockley Valley Coffee Roasters, offered insight into building businesses from the ground up with an eye to creating wealth and resiliency. Signe Ball, publisher of In the Hills magazine, shared her insights into how storytelling and “being authentic” are critical to the success of a business.
Dave Forbes, Manager of Georgian’s Orangeville Campus said the day was an overwhelming success. “I’m thrilled we were able to have the quality of speakers here today to share their considerable knowledge with our local entrepreneurs,” said Forbes.
Experts walked the participants through panel sessions that addressed business topics critical to growing enterprises such as product development and accessing capital. Local entrepreneurs from Orangeville, Caledon and Shelburne shared their own stories of success and inspired the participants with the possibilities open to food entrepreneurs in this region.
Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams brought greetings on behalf of the County of Dufferin and his own municipality, the Town of Orangeville. Coun. Doug Beffort attended to support the event on behalf of Caledon.
A vendor showcase was a mini-market of its own where participants offered samples and engaged one on one with each other and the delegates on their own personal stories. More than 20 local businesses showcased their products throughout the day, sampling delicious items including savory meats, baking, honey, root vegetables, spicy rubs and fresh dairy products.
“The depth of quality products from this region is outstanding and I am consistently amazed at the innovative ideas and passion these entrepreneurs demonstrate as they build their food businesses from the ground up,” said Barb Shopland, Strategic Projects at Georgian College.
Connections were made among vendors and potential new business ventures were born. The event is part of Georgian College’s continuing commitment to meet the needs of current and aspiring food entrepreneurs across central Ontario, including community events such as this one and the ongoing Food Safety Regulatory Training program. The next seminar, Food Entrepreneurs: Growing Innovation will take place at the Owen Sound Campus on April 20, 2015, and another seminar is planned for the Orillia Campus in late May.
As well, the final cohort of the Food Safety Regulatory Training pilot course takes place on March 7-8 at South Georgian Bay Campus in Collingwood.