Tasmanian small-business accelerator Seedlab has expanded nationally after a $4 million grant from Woolworths.
Seedlab was set up to help Tasmanian food, drink, and agri-tourism businesses start, scale up and grow to become export-ready.
Seed lab founder Hazel MacTavish West said Seedlab Australia was now expanding to help producers through training and support from industry experts.
"Those ready for retail distribution will have the opportunity to pitch directly to the Woolworths buying team," Dr MacTavish-West said.
"We're passionate about helping Australian producers plant the seeds for long term success, and we're excited to work with business owners across the country.
"It's wonderful to see Australia's largest supermarket invest in the industry pipeline to create opportunities for Australian food and drink businesses through our program.
"Over the next two years we are going to be working with 700 businesses, around the country, particularly with businesses that produce value added food and also personal and home care products, that are produced sustainably."
The program is expected to work with up to 700 businesses over the next two years.
She said the money would be used to hire experts to help businesses be "retail ready".
In Tasmania, Seedlab helped people with an idea to clarify what they needed to do to set up a business.
"It helps them understand whether their aims are realistic or not," she said.
"For people who came in with a product we have helped make it better, advised on better packaging, intellectual property protection and helped them get pitch ready.
"The outcomes have been quite significant."
One of the success stories was Red Cow Organics, Oldina, Tas, which now had five products in 33 Woolworths stores across Tasmania and would have a presence in mainland stores from January.
"That's worth pretty much $1million in the first year, to her, so that's a pretty good outcome."
Businesses that had gone ahead had taken on an average of four staff over the 12 months after working with Seedlab.
"They have got better processes and procedures in place, so they are producing things more consistently, safely and meeting the standards required."
The Seedlab program was being delivered online through Zoom.
'There is on-demand viewing, we are just going to scale that up and provide the program digitally, so it doesn't matter where in Australia they are."
Woolworths Buying director Paul Harker said: "Investing in small businesses is crucial to a thriving Australian food and manufacturing industry.
"We're backing Seedlab Australia with $4 million to help give entrepreneurs with bright ideas the leg up they need to make them a reality," Mr Harker said.
"Seedlab Australia will support pioneering businesses to grow and navigate what it takes to be retail ready and help us bring innovative new locally-made products to our customers."
Seed lab Australia builds on a successful pilot program for Tasmanian startups in 2020 and has supported more than 100 food businesses.
The accelerator will support businesses at different stages of maturity through its three-stage program - Start, Scale and Grow.
Red Cow Organics owners Andy and Matt Jackman said the Seedlab program helped them focus on scaling up.
With the mentorship of Dr MacTavish-West and the Seedlab team, Red Cow Organics selected its Persian Fetta as the product that would spearhead its push and set about fine-tuning their product, production and brand to become retail-ready.
Ms Jackman said Seedlab gave them the vision and direction the company needed to be able to grow, foster its strengths and continue to build a successful business.
"It's allowed us to scale what we do to partner with Woolworths for the first time and we're excited about seeing our organic cheese in-store and in customers' shopping baskets later this year."
As they grow their business, the Jackmans have recently welcomed two new team members and expect to hire more in the coming months.
Seed lab Australia will deliver live and on-demand online learning content and tailored advice to participants, plus networking opportunities and workshops.
The first cohort of participants will commence next month.
"The aim is to get products on the shelves, as quickly as possible," Ms MacTavish-West said.
"The one caveat is that they have to not already be supplying a national retailer, as there is not job to be done there."
Producers and manufacturers looking to develop their products for retail distribution can register their interest with Seedlab Australia online and find more information at Seedlabaustralia.com.au.