After years of training with top chefs, Clayton Cottman dreamed of owning his own company offering gourmet snacks. In 2020, after several years of research and development, he launched Uncle Charlie’s Gourmet Snacks, named in honor of his Great Uncle Charles.
And with some experience under his belt, Cottman is hoping to expand.
“If our biggest dream is realized in five years, Uncle Charlie’s Gourmet Snacks will have a stellar portfolio of chocolate snack products that have been introduced to different segments of the convenient confections market. These products are sold nationally and internationally,” said Clayton Cottman, Founder and President, Uncle Charlie’s Gourmet Snacks.
The GFMEDC-administered Growth Initiative Fund (GIF) recently funded a $50,000 microloan to packaged food startup Uncle Charlie’s Gourmet Snacks, via the GIF’s Early Venture Microloan Program.
The microloan program addresses financing challenges of early-stage primary-sector entrepreneurs in Cass County, to ideally help startups progress to their next stages of revenue and access other funding sources.
The Fargo-based gourmet snack food manufacturing company is regionally known by their Charlie’s Chow snack mixes. These products come in seven flavors and can be found in area retailers and grocers and online.
The microloan funds will help the company invest in a larger stock of ingredients and hire additional production labor to further jumpstart their growth opportunities.
“I’ve now surrounded myself with experienced industry mentors and advisors that are actively working with me to ensure our path to success. This funding will be a crucial step to take advantage of new regional sales opportunities and have forward momentum to potential new funding sources for the next stages of growth,” said Cottman.
GFMEDC has been working with Cottman for three years, providing guidance on advice, connections, visibility, and program assistance.
“I first met Clayton through an initial referral by Paul Smith at the Small Business Development Center, before he pivoted to the Charlie’s Chow we now know. It has been wonderful to see the continued progress he has made, as he’s put a ton of work into this and has shown a great commitment to listen, learn and improve. Now with this boost of funding for his growing traction, along with the industry mentoring he’s been receiving of late, I’m really excited to see where Clayton takes this,” says John Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer, GFMEDC.