Willy Street Co-op’s Retail Ready Lab Helps Local Producers Succeed


Willy Street Co-op, with three locations in the Madison, Wis., area, is committed to helping local manufacturers find success.

The co-op’s Retail Ready Lab is a local incubator program that helps vendors bring their products to market. While these small business owners are experts on their products, it takes different knowledge and skill sets to get a product ready for store shelves.

Willy Street saw an opportunity to help these local makers, and launched its Retail Ready Lab in September 2017, which guides these small businesses through the process of becoming retail-ready manufacturers by holding one-on-one meetings, displaying product in the stores and setting up live vendor demonstrations.

The co-op gathers feedback from customers to help the vendors tailor their products to meet consumer needs. With the live demonstrations, vendors can also get direct feedback from consumers. The program accepts up to three vendors a month.

One success story is Thony Clark, known locally as Mango Man, who formerly co-owned Café Costa Rica restaurant. He turned to the innovation lab to help get his sauces on store shelves after two years of fruitless effort. His Mango Man and Monte Verde salsas are now available at the stores.

Other successful participants include Rally Mints, Backwards Dog, Juli’s Organic Apple Butter, Cress Springs Bodycare, Nami Chips, Cultivating the Common Seeds and CocoaBean Natural Hair & Skincare.

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