Americans love food — to eat, to buy, and to grow. And Americans love business — to start, to buy, to grow. So it would make sense to combine the two.

Food businesses are a dream for many, but like any other type of business, there are reasons why some restaurants last 50 years and some barely make it through Saturday night. You cannot go willy-nilly into the food game, whether you want to own a four-star restaurant or market your own line of cookies.

Two years ago #b#Esther Psarakis#/b#, owner of A Taste of Crete in Hillsborough, and #b#Dom Celentano#/b#, of the Celantano’s Italian frozen foods line, launched the Foodpreneur program as a vehicle for seminars and workshops on getting your idea from kitchen to storefront (U.S. 1, October 15, 2008). Psarakis and Celentano have since held a handful of live seminars at various locations, from Fairleigh Dickinson University to Rider.

But now the pair has launched an online version of the program, which begins on Wednesday, September 22. The same program also begins a two-month semester the following day. The cost to attend Foodpreneur online university is $350. A total of 14 hours of class online focuses the student on current trends and marketing tools. Call 973-433-6630 or visit

Do not confuse this program with a mere webinar, Psarakis says. Each class is a virtual class room that puts students into direct video contact with actual food entrepreneurs and other hopefuls. The program, she says, is meant to encourage communication and networking and allow food entrepreneurs the chance to vet their ideas and get feedback from people who have been there.

The online boot camp covers every aspect a food entrepreneur needs to move to the next level, Psarakis says. “We cover all new materials and have the latest research data on the specialty foods market.”

Celentano and Psarakis began work on the Foodpreneur program in 2007, following more than 30 years of combined experience in the food industry. Celentano’s experience began with Celentano Bros. Inc., a family business that he helped turn into the second-largest national brand in the Italian prepared food category. The company is best known for Celentano brand of Italian frozen pastas and prepared meals.

Psarakis ventured into the food business in 2003, importing specialty foods from Greece. Her company has expanded and now also produces ready-to-cook meals based on Greek recipes.

She began her college career as a food science major at Rutgers, but she changed majors and graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s in communications and Italian. Her degree took her into the field of finance, where she worked in global marketing for Citicorp and American Express.

“I worked in mid-town Manhattan and I was laid off shortly after 9/11,” she says. She spent about a year “just playing and traveling,” and it was a visit to her husband’s family, in Greece, that reawakened her interested in the food business.

In 2004 her company, Taste of Crete, began importing foods from Greece. When she began, Psarakis knew nothing about the food industry. “There are so many ways to waste money when you are starting any business, but particularly a food-related business,” she says. “I made a lot of dumb mistakes. I’m a living example of what not to do, and I’d like to help keep others from making those mistakes.”

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