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Chad Gillard
Co Creator of the Local Food & Gift Show
Midwest Pantry
March 03, 2015

When did you know that you wanted to work in food?

My family & I created a food booth to help the Irish Fair of Minnesota support a move to all-Irish food. It was so much great bonding & learning how the food business worked ahead of the event, and then we had so much fun teaching people about Irish food at the event - I was absolutely hooked. It confirmed that I love a good cause and that food really does bring people together.

How did you get your current good food job?

I invented my job. After realizing the power of collaboration by co-promoting my aebleskiver with my future-business partner's pepper jam at the Mill City Farmer's Market in downtown Minneapolis, we started collaborating on other things that could save us money, like tradeshow booths, kitchen space, and shipping accounts. We slowly started adding other food companies to the collaborative and after 5 years of iteration and learning we now work with hundreds of local producers to produce two wholesale tradeshows and a retail show each year. These events attract hundreds of buyers from across the Midwest region, and keep me VERY busy!

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?

Directing a wholesale tradeshow takes a lot of patience, an ability to establish trust, and clear communication. I earned an engineering degree in school, where I learned that clear communication was a valuable skill and lays the foundation to foster trust. I'm still working on the patience part, but patience is especially important in small business. It allows you to stay focused on both the things you are good at and can succeed at.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?  

I have started 4 food companies in the last 8 years. I have created 2 departments at my full time job. And I have a wife and 3 kids under the age of ten. My biggest obstacle is making sure I am focusing on the most important thing each moment so I can make the most of the little time that is my own. I have considered quitting dozens of times, but I enjoy my work and I feel it's too important of a cause to abandon it.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?

Nobody is going to be surprised by this answer, but I think the greatest opportunity is in local food. Locally-sourced products continue to be a fast growing sector in both gift and grocery, outpacing organic and all natural. The issue for buyers and shop owners is that finding reliable, store-ready products in wholesale quantities is time consuming. This is where my company can help.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

I would love to be compensated in frequent flier miles and AirBNB bucks. If I could do my work while traveling from place to place I'd be all over that!

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