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Whey Protein To The Food Finance Institute: Tera Johnson Talks Growing Food Businesses

Food Finance Institute

A quest to find a use for whey produced as a byproduct of organic cheese making drove Tera Johnson to create Wisconsin Specialty Protein, maker of Tera’s Whey nutritional protein powder, which sold in 2012 to Omega Protein for $26.5 million.

Now Tera is running the Madison-based Food Finance Institute, a project of the University of Wisconsin – Extension that supports professionals who are growing profitable food, beverage and value-added agriculture businesses. She also hosts the popular Edible-Alpha podcast, which focuses on providing actionable insights for making money in food.

Here are some tips Tera has for other entrepreneurs:

  • In food in particular, it’s easy to start a company and it’s hard to scale one. But if you have compelling business model that’s rigorously documented financially and legally, and if you have the right team, you can raise the money.
  • Go for big ideas. "The scale of the opportunity in food and the scale of the problems we’re seeing in food production are made for big ideas."
  • Don’t get too wrapped up in the product. “In fact what you’re doing as entrepreneur is creating a business model. When you make that shift it’s easier to raise money and make money."
  • A good business model includes knowledge of the target consumer, something defensibly unique, a value proposition that’s cost-effective, a way to generate revenue and a path to market.