One of the benefits of being a Grow-NY finalist is the opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs, founders, and investors in the Grow-NY region. One of the ways that Grow-NY supports finalists in cultivating these connections is through personal mentorship, where each finalist is paired with a mentor to help them illustrate how their business will thrive in the region. We spoke to one of our new mentors, Melanie Neumann, global food lawyer and executive coach, to get to know her a little better.
With over 25 years of experience in the food and ag industry, Neumann is a thought leader in the areas of legal and regulatory compliance, food safety culture, and integrating food safety and legal compliance into corporate enterprise risk management programs. Neumann founded her own firm, Neumann Advisory Services, LLC, where she practices law and advises food companies on food safety (in addition to her law degree, she has a master’s in food safety) and is the 2021 IAFP Harold Barnum Industry Award winner for exceptional contributions to public health, the industry, and IAFP. She also serves as an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Mitchell-Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minn. With her work in food law and food safety, as well as experience working with several different organizations over the course of her career, Neumann offers a unique perspective as a Grow-NY mentor.
Question: How do you think food and ag startups benefit from launching within the Grow-NY region?
Startups have a clear advantage in launching within the Grow-NY region given the myriad resources available to them such as university and extension support and being provided a systematic and proven roadmap for success from the Grow-NY program.
Question: Why did you choose to work in the food and ag industry?
I grew up in a farming community in south central Minnesota. Farming was vital to the community and its economy. Upon graduating from law school, I had the opportunity to return to my hometown to become a corporate, intellectual property, and food law attorney for Hormel Foods Corporation, also headquartered in my hometown of Austin, MN. I fell in love with food law and regulations and later went on to obtain a master’s in food safety in order to intersect the law with the relevant science to be a more effective advisor.
Question: What should food and ag startups keep in mind as they begin to grow?
Build your infrastructure before you need it—meaning, develop your people, processes (like SOPs), and systems to support your company not just for today’s needs, but also tomorrow as you scale your operations.
Don’t be an island—network and seek out trusted advisors to help you, especially in niche areas. Find and cultivate your tribe of trusted advisors.
Question: What are you most excited about for mentoring a Grow-NY finalist is year?
Leveraging my 25+ years of business and legal experience to help shape and coach a company on a variety of business and food safety related matters—from corporate strategy, enterprise risk management to more focused needs such as food safety procedures.
Question: As a founder and a food industry attorney, how has your experience given you a unique perspective on the food and ag industry?
I have been blessed with a long career in the food and ag space. During this time, I have worn numerous hats—from being a corporate lawyer for a Fortune 500 publicly traded company, and also for a privately held, family-owned multi-national company, to launching a food safety risk management practice for a Big 4 tax and audit firm, to serving as General Counsel, Executive Vice President, CFO, and CEO in food law, regulatory consulting, and contract laboratory businesses. Given this diverse experience, I have seen a tremendous evolution in the business, legal, and regulatory landscape in our industry, and believe I am uniquely positioned to offer these insights to a Grow-NY finalist.
We are grateful to have Melanie as a mentor! This year’s Grow-NY finalists will be announced August 23.