By The Good Food Web
At the intersection of food and entrepreneurship, there is infinite variation in the style, scale, and type of businesses you can find inspired by consumers’ increasing desire to eat better, reconnect with the earth, and nurture community through their food choices. Social enterprise consultant Shivani Ganguly has worked with all kinds of these companies, applying a diverse constellation of experience and insight as founder and principal at Friday Consulting.
From there to here
Shivani’s early background in high-tech manufacturing (six years with OQO – dubbed the world’s smallest full-featured computer in 2005) taught her a lot about efficiencies and the challenges of managing multiple processes at once. Wearing many hats through the full life cycle of OQO, she honed skills in HR, accounting, financial modeling and budgets and caught the entrepreneurial bug which ultimately led her to the Sustainable Management MBA Program at Presidio Graduate School. Since then, she has served as an advisor to both for-profit and non-profit organizations, often providing pivotal support during early stages of startup.
At Friday Consulting, founded in 2009, 60-70% of her clients are food entrepreneurs. She works with them to develop business strategy, establish systems for financial management and cultivate their most important asset – human capital. With her background in manufacturing, she often feels drawn to clients in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) realm where the cascade of research, development, and production resonates with her own experience. That said, she’s worked with food companies of all shapes and sizes, including cafes, restaurants and some exciting innovators in the food world like WindowFarms and Tomato Sherpa. She has even served as interim CFO or COO to her clients, catalyzing systems and strategies alongside the founders until they can manage it all internally.
That kind of side-by-side empowerment is an essential tool in a whole kit of consulting skills that she developed during her time with Taproot Foundation and AchieveMission helping non-profit administrators develop their strength as leaders, coaches, and managers. As an experienced advisor to entrepreneurs in many arenas, she has packed her kit with techniques for clear scope definition, project management and, most importantly, relationship development. Shivani takes pride in what she calls “direct communication with compassion” – the art of being clear about expectations and growing a personal connection with clients that allows for trust and even risk-taking. “Starting a business is hard. I honor that. I respect my clients and make a commitment to their success.”
With the current rapid expansion in the world of food enterprise, what distinguishes Shivani and Friday Consulting from other advisors who can help entrepreneurs achieve success? Her emphasis on social enterprise. She sees the urgent need for increased sustainability in the food system. Resource efficiency, environmental protection, fair treatment of workers – they all impact our society, and they all intersect in the food and beverage industry. Shivani supports entrepreneurs that are attentive to the impact of their business on the community and helps them to be critical about sourcing decisions, establish systems that honor and reward employees and even establish a framework and criteria for packaging choices that align with their values.
According to Shivani, all of those aspects of a food-based social enterprise can and must be recorded. “Data.” she emphasizes. “Social and environmental impact must be measured and communicated. It can’t just be a marketing tool – it has to be embedded in the founder’s values. Data is the starting place of inquiry. It allows you to know your impact …and aim higher.” That’s especially true when companies reach the point of scaling up or seeking outside capital – both of which can challenge the business’ commitment to sustainability in areas like sourcing.
So what are the values embedded in Shivani Ganguly’s own work? “Community over everything else.” In both her consulting and her pro bono advising for non-profits and civic organizations, she models a collaborative style that grows relationships on a bedrock of integrity.
You can see that commitment to integrity and community in some of her volunteer work with organizations like La Cocina which incubates food enterprise within the minority and low-income community of San Francisco as well as Kitchen Table Advisors which provides small, sustainable farms with access to the tools, knowledge and resources they need to become resilient, viable businesses. She has also mentored new food entrepreneurs in the Local Food Lab accelerator program.
Not surprisingly, Shivani is not just a consultant to edible enterprises – she’s also a food entrepreneur in her own right. She is currently working on a scalable, small-space retail market concept that would bring affordability and sustainability to good food by reinventing the supply chain. Undoubtedly, she’ll be able to provide herself a lot of good advice.
This article was originally posted on The Good Food Web.