I am a hungry, 26-year-old, African American male. I want to start my own food distribution company (such as SYSCO). I drove tractor trailers for food companies and was blessed to see how they operate. How do I get started? How can I meet with others in this field? Where should I go for money? Where is the best place to locate [my business]?
–J. Harris, Philadelphia
You must build on your experience in the food distribution business, with the goal of learning everything you can about the industry. In your case, you really have to understand two businesses: food and wholesale distribution.
Read Start Your Own Wholesale Distribution Business: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Success by Bridget McCrea (Entrepreneur Media Inc., $14.95). Also, check out industry associations, which can provide access to information, financial resources, and opportunities to establish relationships with people already in the business. Start with the National Grocers Association (www.nationalgrocers.org), a trade group representing independent retail and wholesale grocers serviced by wholesale food distributors (potential customers for your business). Another good idea is to spend a few years working for food distribution companies, ideally those similar to the one you’d like to start.
I encourage you to dream big (SYSCO, a $26.1 billion operation, is North America’s largest food distributor), but start small. Begin in a specific area of food distribution, such as snack foods, frozen foods, or produce. In any case, don’t bite off more than you can chew. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)