FF-based Nots! expanding, ramping up productionPublished 11:05am Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The new sunflower-based bite-sized snack, produced in Fergus Falls by Chanhassen resident Rob Fuglie, took off a year ago, and is now preparing to take the next leap forward and move to a bigger production facility.
“Traditional wisdom would be to find a manufacturer and just focus on selling the product,” said Fuglie. “But no contract manufacturer will make the product to my specifications, at least not cost effectively.”
Nots! is a nut-free product that has particular appeal for people with nut allergies, and must be produced in a controlled environment. If other food products are produced in the same facility, they must not contain nuts. Fuglie also wants a production facility that doesn’t use things like dairy, eggs or soy in its production line, for future product lines that will be beneficial to people with those allergies.
Harold Stanislawski, Executive Director, Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission had already provided resources and information to Fuglie on his current location at Pioneer Care. He also introduced Fuglie to the Bruce Fuhrman and his Business Development Center and Telework hotel.
“It was logical for me to bring Rob here because helping businesses grow is what incubators do,” said Stanislawaski. “It was an easy sell for Bruce, and we were all pleasantly surprised at what it would take to get Rob going.”
The Business Development Center, which has taken over part of the Skyvision building on the west end of town, had existing infrastructure that could be converted for Fuglie’s manufacturing and packaging operations. In addition to converting warehouse space into Fuglie’s production facility, there are shared resources such as a receptionist, business library, and other entrepreneurs to provide guidance.
“We provide as much or as little assistance as start-up or growth businesses want,” said Fuhrman. “It’s a lower cost alternative for companies that want to take the next step without taking all the risk.”
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute also has played a role in supporting Fuglie. The AURI is a research and development organization created by the state to find new uses for the state’s commodities and to support small- and medium-sized businesses using these commodities. AURI was able to provide financing options for Fuglie.
“We were at capacity at our previous facility,” said Fuglie. “This move allows us to ramp up production, and transition from 10 cases a day to 100.”
The move is not without a price. The company anticipates operating in the red for a period of time as it transitions, but plans to increase profits by gaining the ability to increase market share.
“This allows us to do national marketing,” said Fuglie. “We are already in stores in Alabama and Florida, as well as on Amazon. We’ve also had interest locally and from other parts of the state about producing their allergy free food product or renting our production line.”
Creating a start-up business is not a piece of cake. Fuglie estimates the company will start to show a profit by the end of year three.
“My first priority is to create customers and build a product they will come back for,” said Fuglie.
The new Fergus Foods facility at the Business Development Center will be approximately 2400 square feet. It must first receive approval for their plumbing plans, which can take up to six weeks. Fuglie hopes be in production at the new facility in February.