Being a small business owner can be isolating. The responsibility for making and marketing your product, handling customer relations, and getting it to the consumer is all on you. To help southern Minnesota entrepreneurs, SMIF launched its first Peer Council about ten years ago as a form of peer-to-peer networking among regional CEOs.

As an outgrowth of SMIF’s FEAST Local Foods Advisory Network, SMIF launched a new Peer Council in January 2016 specifically for local foods businesses. Twelve business owners meet monthly to discuss honestly and confidentially issues that matter to their businesses. Greg Thomas, formerly of Enterprise MN, facilitates the group.

“Based on the positive feedback from this first local foods Peer Council, we’re looking at adding another sometime this summer,” said SMIF’s Business Specialist, John Katz.

“The Peer Council through SMIF has helped our business by offering guidance in the business world,” said co-owner of Mama Stoen’s Christine Stoen, which makes gluten-free mixes. “We are a very small business but have been growing daily. This group allows us to bounce ideas off each other in an open discussion and learn from others in the group. The ability to bring in outside individuals who are in the market and able to speak, give advice and feedback from what they have seen has been super beneficial as well.”

Part of the reward to SMIF, besides helping to strengthen the local business economy: SMIF’s lunchroom table is usually graced with leftover local delicacies, from chocolates to freshly roasted coffee.

If you would like to learn more about SMIF’s Local FoodsPeer Council, contact John Katz at

Businesses participating in SMIF’s newest local foods Peer Council include: