Saturday, August 22, 2015

More on that Humboldt Made Re-organization

Posted By on Sat, Aug 22, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Former Humboldt Made Executive Director T. Aaron Carter. - FILE
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  • Former Humboldt Made Executive Director T. Aaron Carter.
Humboldt Made’s new leadership recently weighed in on the recent shakeup — the firing of Executive Director T. Aaron Carter and board president Clint Victorine’s decision to step down — and announced a new for-profit affiliation intended to help local businesses find out-of-county distribution.

Alanna Powell, Humboldt Made’s newly named interim executive director, said “it was a really hard decision to let [Carter] go.” The board (of which Powell was a member — they’re holding her seat for the time being) voted unanimously to remove Carter, though she said it was “fairly mutual.” (Carter told the Journal earlier this week that he “couldn’t justify continuing to pay myself. I agreed to [step down] to help protect [Humboldt Made] for the members.”)

“We felt like we maxed out [Carter’s] particular expertise,” Powell said, a forte she characterized as marketing.

She describes herself as more of an operations person: “down and dirty in the details, getting things moving, and coordinating.” She’ll work 14 hours a week as the interim executive director, and said she expects to hold the position about six months, at which point Humboldt Made will evaluate whether it needs an executive director or can function through the efforts of its board.

Aside from an upcoming community membership program and beer-and-oyster fundraiser, Powell and new board president Don Banducci are most excited about a for-profit business development branch being put together by Natural Decadence co-founder Rosa Dixon, who also recently joined Humboldt Made’s board of directors.

Following a recent buyers tour, Banducci said, Whole Foods employees gushed about their love for Humboldt County producers, but said they couldn’t reasonably deal with a slew of small companies.

That culminated in the newest Humboldt Made affiliation: a for-profit business development and brokerage company run by Dixon. Humboldt Made, partnered with the Small Business Development Center, can help businesses with formative development. The next step, with Dixon’s organization, would be to fine tune the companies and products for sale to mass distributors like Whole Foods.

“Like a graduate school for Humboldt Made Businesses,” Banducci said, “and a direct line into Whole Foods.” Dixon explained during an interview several months ago that she’s had a strong relationship with Whole Foods since the company picked up her products several years ago.

Powell said it’s a steep learning curve for a small Humboldt-based company to deal with large national corporations. (She is the general manager of Tulip perfumes, which recently signed a deal to sell its products online through Target.) And, echoing Carter and others, Powell said, “The key to sustainability is to sell outside of the county.”

Dixon’s business will take a percentage of sales to be determined during a negotiation, Banducci said. Eventually, he hopes some of those profits will be funneled back in to Humboldt Made’s nonprofit arm.

Regarding the organization’s recent “no” to marijuana businesses, Powell said the board will stay in the local weed conversation as California moves toward recreational legalization. Banducci said no one on the board was adamantly against pot businesses, just concerned how it might affect Humboldt Made’s ability to get federal funding. “I think people are anxious to embrace anything legal and positive for Humboldt County’s economic development.”

And Banducci said there’s no drama behind Humboldt Grassfed Beef Eel River Organic Grassfed Beef owner Clint Victorine stepping down from his board president position; just an opportunity for breathing room for the busy rancher and beef producer, who often came into meetings out of breath and brushing dust off his clothes. Victorine will remain on the board of directors.

For more on Carter's tenure at Humboldt Made, see prior Journal coverage here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was changed to identify Victorine's company correctly.
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Grant Scott-Goforth

Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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