Expert Exchange is one of the most inspirational, impactful and fun events at Food+Enterprise. We are excited to bring it back again this year in an even more robust format, and encourage you to get involved as a coach or as a participant!
Holley Atkinson, founder of Making Food Work, is an incredible member of the Slow Food/Slow Money community, and will be returning to coach for a third year in a row at this year’s Expert Exchange. Erin Firmat, our Expert Exchange coordinator, was able to spend some time with her today to chat with her about her experience as a coach with Food+Enterprise.
EF: What do you do, and why do you do what you do?
HA: On Halloween of 2009 I left my day job in digital media to jump feet first into the food movement. Food and tech are my two passions, and I really had a desire to support and strengthen our local food system, bringing my digital and social skills to the table. In early 2010 I joined the Slow Food NYC board, and I was also one of four women to start the food+tech Meetup, which is still going strong today. Later that year I met F+E’s own Derek Denckla and a number of other great good food & farming evangelists at the Slow Money summit in Vermont, and we started the Slow Money chapter in NYC.
EF: So 2010 was a big year for you?
HA: Yes, 2010 was a pivotal year for me.
I’m a natural networker, a superconnector, and always ready and willing to do anything that will help strengthen our local food economy. Any time I see someone struggling who could be doing a great job and has limited resources, I’ve found I can be valuable.
EF: What keeps you coming back to coach at F+E?
HA: I love the coaching format, the speed-dating kind of thing. Any time there’s an opportunity to meet with lots of serial entrepreneurs it is super inspiring, and it keeps me on my toes. I just love it!
I love evangelizing the power of social media, and I consider it a generally level playing field – I think it’s fabulous. Any chance I have to help entrepreneurs in an area that so many people don’t have time to think about – or are afraid of!– is great. Entrepreneurs always have “bigger” problems, like packaging issues or sourcing, and the digital gets lost. It can be time-consuming and a little daunting to get started, but is so important for getting your message and your brand out there. You need to be discoverable where your prospective customers are, online. You can’t be absent, or worse, a “faceless egg”.
Tell me about a particularly memorable interaction or experience you had as a coach at F+E.
There was a woman I coached a couple of years ago who circled back months later to tell me she had taken my advice to heart and it really pivoted her company. It’s like that wonderful feeling of being a teacher when your former students come back to visit. Seeing that you’ve made a positive difference and given back to this community is such a great feeling.
What is the biggest value you bring to entrepreneur participants at the Expert Exchange / why would you encourage participants to seek you out as a coach?
I’m kind of an intense fire hose! I’m fast on my feet, I love spinning ideas and brainstorming, I’m pretty generous with my connections and I love to help people. A network is only as valuable as the number of nodes, so the more nodes that are connected the stronger the web is. I like to see that a network supports everybody and can become more meaningful and powerful. I believe generosity and sharing is the way to go – ours is less competitive than other industries. The more of us working to make a difference, the better.