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Portland's ‘Foodpreneurs’ get their own accelerator

Sep 12, 2014, 6:49am PDT

Courtesy Robert Bart

The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.


Malia Spencer

Staff Reporter-Portland Business Journal

The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.

The view from Forge Portland's office at 1410 S.W. Morrison St.

Forge Portland, a community-based accelerator and coworking space in downtown Portland, is launching a food accelerator program.

Applications open Monday. The six-week program is set to launch Oct. 1, said Rob Bart, Forge's founder. The program costs $1,500 and focuses on the business side of launching a food product.

This is the second bit of news this week for entrepreneurs looking to launch a food business. On Thursday Ecotrust announced plans to build a food manufacturing hub in Portland’s inner Eastside.

“With the number of conversations that have happened in the past (over support for food entrepreneurs) speaks to the energy in this city for it,” Bart said.

He noted he has chatted with Ecotrust in the past and would like to work with the group once its facility is running.

“What they are doing is needed and the building they are talking about plays a role to support the ecosystem,” he said.

As for Forge:Food, the program will feature curriculum based on lectures from experts in the business as well as mentorship from some of those experts. Program experts include:

Steve Goebel, assistant dean and director of the business law program at Lewis & Clark College.

Dave Williams, former CEO of Shorebank Pacific and partner at Reference Capital Management.

Michel Algazi, CEO of FoodCentricity, a Los Angeles-based food business accelerator.

The program is aimed at entrepreneurs who already have proof-of-concept or a product to sell and are trying to figure out how to scale.

The program is designed to help entrepreneurs determine scalability — whether to stay local/regional or go national — figure out a funding path and create a branding story.

An initial meeting to discuss the program this week saw about 40 people from 20 food producers show up.

“Talking to food producers, we have a competitive advantage with the foodie culture here and the OSU food center and experts in research to support these young businesses,” Bart said. “Lots of people are starting bit how do we turn that energy into a national brand? Maybe Portland can be the place to start a scalable food business.”

While the accelerator is running, entrepreneurs can work out of the Forge office space, which currently hosts 22 companies.