We asked Michelle Zhao from No Sweet Sour in five questions why new food entrepreneurs should consider joining TESTBAR at Impact Hub Bergen in 2020.
Michelle Zhao, originally from the Yunnan region of China, is the owner and creator of No Sweet Sour. She has grown what first started as a blog and Instagram account featuring delicious, authentic Chinese dishes and recipes, into a catering, dining, workshop and pop-up café venture in Bergen, Norway. Last year, Michelle joined the TESTBAR program at Impact Hub Bergen, which gives food entrepreneurs guidance, resources and contacts to grow their businesses for free thanks to support from Bergen Kommune, Kavlifondet, Vestland Fylkeskommune and the Grieg Foundation.
- Why TESTBAR in the first place?
Last April, I decided to grow my business beyond my digital subscribers and was seeking a space to test out my culinary ideas. A friend tipped me about Impact Hub Bergen, a coworking space and innovation center in the heart of Bergen and their test kitchen, where aspiring chefs can create their dishes for a community of entrepreneurs.
- Michelle’s main goal with No Sweet Sour?
With No Sweet Sour, I hope to create a business with products that give my customers value and at the same time, are able to provide me with a liveable income. Identifying and defining the underlying purpose of your business is something that is emphasized at Impact Hub Bergen; TESTBAR participants get access to tools that helps them outline and develop their business plan.
- So what has TESTBAR done for her lately?
Since joining a little less than a year ago, TESTBAR was able to provide me with a base for my workshops, small catering events and pop ups. Most important, however, were the connections that came out of my free Flex membership at Impact Hub Bergen. By accessing the coworking community, fellow members eventually became clients and collaborators. With some new established contacts, I have been able to grow my competence and business while earning income.
- So, why should food entrepreneurs apply to TESTBAR?
For me, it has built confidence. As food entrepreneurs get more involved in the TESTBAR program, they gain experience in a variety of activities. Impact Hub Bergen sets up challenges that help food entrepreneurs to push themselves in a safe environment, such as, budgeting member lunches, hosting food workshops, presenting at a Waffle Pitch, catering in-house events and creating pop-up weekends in the Café.
- And her best advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs?
Be passionate and true to your ideas. As a food entrepreneur starting out in a new field, many things are unfamiliar and insecure. In a safe environment, however, it can be a little easier to trust your gut, so to speak.
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The new round of TESTBAR in 2020 has even more to offer aspiring food entrepreneurs, including:
- Mentoring by established culinary professionals
- Network Nights, such as the Bærekraftig mat i Norge i dag event on January 22nd
- And restaurant nights in The Café
To apply to the 2020 program visit testbar.no.