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As a restauranteur, Ben was constantly frustrated by a lack of consistently available, locally produced ingredients for his chefs to use in their creations, and to use in his own kitchen at home. He began to realize that this is not an isolated problem, and is in fact nationally systemic. When thinking about solutions and pondering a move to Charlotte from Dallas, he happened upon a Seed20 presentation that Lynn gave (wearing memorable boots) to pitch a Food Innovation District for Charlotte. That pitch grew out of Lynn’s realization that Charlotte, like many other places, lacks infrastructure to support farmers, food entrepreneurs, and people like you. Their likeminded concern for the future of our food and creating community resilience through a strong local food economy brought them together to partner on Suede Onion, a name that reflects the texture and complexities that are lacking in the industrially produced food we’ve gotten used to. Now, they are working to build a better food system one layer at a time. ​​

b e n j a m i n  l.  c  r o s l a nd:

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​Ben has a passion for helping others, whether they are looking to start a new business, create a non-profit, or wanting to expand their current operation.  He is a seasoned advisor with extensive knowledge in many areas involved with marketing and business organization.  Mr. Crosland has more than twenty years marketing, developing, researching, managing, and fund raising experience for private, educational, and non-profit organizations.  He uses his years of professional experience to bring his passion to life.

 Mr. Crosland has obtained over 20 years of professional experience, half of which involved owning and operating four of his own full-service restaurant concepts.  Through these concepts he gained invaluable knowledge and oversaw all aspects of management, staffing, marketing, menu development, and promotional planning.  Ben also has extensive knowledge in creating, adjusting, and advising clients with food related business plans, start-up budgets, and pro formas. 

 Mr. Crosland also spent several years working as a fundraising professional where he successfully led capital campaigns, strategic planning, and created infrastructure and policies.  With experience in major gifts, annual fund, and special events, Ben is able to effectively and efficiently serve clients in a comprehensive and professional manner.  He excels in helping organizations create and implement the most innovative and efficient strategies to achieve their missions.

 Serving large and smaller grassroots non-profit organizations, Ben believes that his board service has been an essential learning experience and great opportunity to give back to his community.  Most of these boards have a focus on hunger, children, social services, mental health, and education.  Ben has a passion for working with community organizations supporting traditionally underserved groups.  He attended Southern Methodist University for his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Minor in Theater.

l y n n   s h a n k l i n   c a  l d w e l l:

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Lynn is a Charlotte-area native who spent seven years in Seattle during her nine-year stint at Microsoft. After she retired from corporate life to have children who are now teenagers, Lynn established a farmers market in Plaza-Midwood in 2006.  The Tailgate grew rapidly during its four years in existence, until the infamous tent collapse of 2009.  Ready to move indoors, she partnered with a South End developer to introduce the year-round Atherton Market in 2010, which is both a farmers market and incubator for small food and artisan businesses. Lynn still serves as head of the steering committee for the market.

 In 2014, Lynn developed a plan to establish the Charlotte Food Innovation District. She set up a non-profit as a platform to catalyze the development of food businesses to address food aggregation and distribution; a culinary incubator to accelerate food businesses; and education around urban farming. Lynn has now partnered with Ben Crosland forming Suede Onion to become the catalyst for those businesses as a consultant, while also helping other food-related business grow and develop.

 Lynn’s years of experience include management skills, human resources, marketing, research, event planning, fund raising, creating writing, social media, community development and networking. Lynn’s degree work was done at Georgia Tech in computer science, and UNCC in English Literature.

 She is often sought after for her expertise around sourcing local food, how to eat seasonally, and what it takes to build a market or food business from the ground up.  She serves on the CharMeck Food Policy Council Panel of Experts, and is available for speaking engagements to share what it will take to build a true food system in Charlotte.

 In the community, Lynn also serves on several boards and committees, including Slow Food Charlotte and the Piedmont Culinary Guild, with a particular focus on the arts, providing resources to underserved communities, food, and animal welfare. She values those deep relationships in the community and intends to continue to grow them through her expanded role in Charlotte’s food scene.