When Jenny Fulton and Ashlee Furr lost their stockbroker jobs during the recent recession and decided to turn Fulton’s grandmother’s pickle recipes into a business venture, one of their first stops was with North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Entrepreneur Assistance Program.

Designed to help entrepreneurs get off the ground and produce food safely and profitably, the program annually helps nearly 300 people or companies, ranging from cottage-type industries to large processing plants. The program’s laboratory annually tests almost 500 products to determine the processing requirements and provides nutrition labeling assistance for more than 350 products.

The numbers are rising, says North Carolina State University’s Fletcher Arritt, who heads the program, and Tristan Laundon, a program assistant hired in January to help meet the growing demand.

As Laundon told the Raleigh News & Observer, “People seem to be looking for additional sources of income, or they’ve lost their job and think, ‘Well, I do make this great barbecue sauce.’ I think this economy has made a lot of people into budding entrepreneurs.”

Arritt, an assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, advises aspiring food entrepreneurs on what they need to do to sell food and recommends ingredients and processes.