During a long road trip last November, Elizabeth Winslow’s mind began to wander and she found herself mulling over a way to connect those in the sustainable food industry with resources to help them be successful in business. By the time the entrepreneur —who co-founded Farmhouse Delivery four years ago — arrived home in Austin, she had a solid sense of what she wanted to create.
Haymakers, as she decided to call it, would be an online community fostering idea-sharing between restaurateurs, growers, chefs, business owners, aspiring mobile kitchen entrepreneurs and other epicureans.
The site, which has been hosting meetups since March, is already making a difference in Austin’s wide-ranging food community. Users can join groups on topics from social media strategy to business plan development, as well as exchange advice and expertise during weekly 30-minute consultation meetings via phone or webinar.
Part of the appeal of Haymakers is the diverse network of people — community mentors such as Sweet Leaf Tea Company founder Clayton Christopher, chef and food consultant Gabriel Cole, and Home Slice Pizza co-owner Terri Hannifin — who bring different expertise and knowledge to the table.
Storytelling — through Q&As, chats and short films — is also a big part of Haymakers. “I reach out to folks and ask them the same questions,” Winslow explained. “Everybody has different answers, which I think is really fascinating. People can connect with us and synthesize the information that is relevant to their needs and where they are and what resonates with them.”
Jorge Alvarez and chef Carlos Ysaguirre were looking for cost-effective resources for their new Austin restaurant, the Red Wattle. They came across Haymakers via a Facebook Q&A session and decided to join the community. “Haymakers has definitely helped out our business,” said Alvarez. “We have attended the social media sessions, Q&As, and individual consultations and they have provided great insight. Haymakers has provided us with feedback regarding the Red Wattle’s social media, and we have launched into our goals and have begun planning our awareness campaign.”
Eric Silverstein, the founder of the Peached Tortilla, a successful mobile food truck in Austin, believes Haymakers provides a much-needed resource for potential entrepreneurs in the food industry. “We all know that this industry is incredibly difficult to navigate. Haymakers is providing a place for you to learn and gather hard-to-find information,” he said. “I’m hoping to offer up knowledge from what I have learned in the industry.”
Silverstein recently conducted a chat in which he discussed the business side of owning and operating a food truck. “Since the mobile food industry is so new and constantly evolving, there is not a lot of up-to-date, relevant information out there,” Silverstein said. “Haymakers offered an opportunity for those interested in learning about this specialized sector to ask me questions directly.”
The site also offers a free directory that helps people find those places and experience local flavor. “I always want to seek out the food businesses that are doing interesting things or using ingredients or offering some kind of experience that is really connected to the place where it is,” said Winslow.
Creating the site has been a labor of love, but Winslow can’t remember a time when food hasn’t been an integral part of her life. She owned a grocery-turned-restaurant in her hometown of Beaumont before Hurricane Rita brought Winslow and her family to Austin. After six weeks in the city and a trip to Boggy Creek Farm on the East Side, Winslow knew she wanted to make Austin her permanent home.
“We really are listening to the creative community of entrepreneurs about what resources they want and need,” Winslow said, “and building products around that.”
Currently, Winslow funds Haymakers out of pocket, but she and her team — COO/CFO Adrienne Lowenstein, and photographer (and business development guru) Thomas Winslow — are developing a tool to help people connect and share resources in “a more robust way.” At some point, there will be a revenue model based on facilitating those connections. “Right now, the important thing is to get everybody in one space so we can build up that community.”
Although Haymakers is geared toward helping businesses succeed, it also provides consumers who are interested in sustainable food with practical information via social media and the site.
With Haymakers, users are always connected to food. For more information, go to haymakersonline.com.