From Shark Tank to Foundermade—food entrepreneurs are getting more stage time to present their businesses to investors and audiences, but the Good Food Spotlight, co-produced by Foodstand and Slow Money NYC, has been a monthly staple for good food entrepreneurs.
This month, the Good Food Spotlight, co-produced by Foodstand and Slow Money NYC, convened at Foodstand’s Headquarters on 5th Avenue to gather together for their monthly pitch fest.
The crowd was larger than the last by at least two dozen people—a testament to the growing hunger and excitement around food entrepreneurship. Over 100 people—ranging from fellow food entrepreneurs and investors to food writers and straight up food-interested folk—buzzed about the smorgasbord of food, provided by Local Roots NYC, a pick-as-you-please CSA, and artisan cheese supplier, Murray’s Cheese.
The concept of Spotlight is elegant yet simple. As Edible Manhattan, earlier described, “Entrepreneurs can pitch their businesses to a panel of experts for feedback in front of a supportive crowd, or book short, private appointments with an industry expert.”
“This is the place to find exciting food products and services that are really startups…The real time tweets on the screen behind the presenter form a mosaic of Haiku market consumer intelligence and insights,” said Richard Gray, a seasoned food vet who has worked with the likes of Vital Choice Seafood, Balducci’s and Organic Avenue—and who was a first-time panelist and coach after attending an earlier Spotlight. “[T]here’s a lot of insights and professional feedback for the presenters,” he stated.
“This is the place to find exciting food products and services that are really startups…The real time tweets on the screen behind the presenter form a mosaic of Haiku market consumer intelligence and insights.” ~ Richard Gray
Businesses of any size can apply to be a part of Spotlight—from those who are just starting out—like Bija Bhar, one of the presenters from the evening who creates organic, minimally-processed, portable, superfood products at newly-minted Brooklyn FoodWorks, to Kickstarter breakouts like Omar Rada’s Misen, which crowdsourced $1.1 million for a snazzy, affordable chef’s knife—to well-capitalized or well-on-the-path companies, like BonBite, which is a local, sustainable lunchbox and catering business that already services the likes of Etsy, Vogue and Casper.
Other presenters from the evening included Jalapajar, a Smorgasburg-crowd fave salsa company, to whom Gray suggested and encouraged owning the “breakfast salsa” category; Barley and Oats, a meal delivery service incubated out of the Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator and designed specifically to support mothers throughout pregnancy to postpartum, which Gray heartily announced is, “a winner!”; and Spread-mmm’s, a definitively cheeky olive tapenade hand-crafted in Harlem, which gave the crowd a few good laughs. “The police lady…” first-time panelist and Co-director of FoodLab Detroit, Devita Davidson said, motioning over to the Spread-mmm’s logo. “I’m trying to figure it out…Is that like when the police say, ‘Spread ‘em’? It’s a little suggestive!”
Yes, there were definitely some laughs at Spotlight—and also great takeaways. The three panelists—Gray, Davidson and Yusha Hu (CEO of Local Bushel), dug their heels deep after each 4-minute pitch. “Start with one SKU—and either direct-to-consumer or wholesale” was the resounding sentiment from the panelists for Anjali Bhargava’s company Bija Bhar, while the crowd texted in, sharing their opinion that the real saleable point of her product is that it’s “minimally-processed and low in sugar.”
Ashly Yashchin, founder of Barley and Oats, was shocked to learn that 9 in 10 mothers are micronutrient deficient at conception, which was part of the reason why she started her food delivery service for new and expecting moms. “I’m looking at the numbers coming up [for the question] ‘If you were a mother at what phase would you order the most from our service?’,” Davidson said, referring to the crowdsourced feedback from the audience, “And it looks like the majority right now are coming in as postpartum recovery—the first 12 weeks post birth”, implying that Yashchin might want to focus her segment. There was also a suggestion by Gray to “think national” and consider having multiple kitchens, moving to flash frozen products, or modifying packaging to keep the freshness from 10 days to 2 weeks.
The panelists chimed in to the Jalapajar presentation, whose co-founders shared that they were looking to open up a small restaurant after the resounding success at Smorgasburg. Considerations of risky real estate, setting up near university settings, and serving more than one dish was the principal feedback. The crowd agreed that breakfast tacos were the way to go, and provided all sorts of ideas of other dishes that can be served with salsa—from eggs to ceviche. Davidson suggested that Jalapajar could cut their rent dramatically by heading to her hometown. “There are quite a bit of Brooklyn chefs and Brooklyn entrepreneurs moving to the city of Detroit simply because rent is so darn cheap…And not only can they afford the rent but then can buy the building!”
“Foodstand Spotlight was a great experience on every level and something that forced us to get our plan together,” said Steve Smith, co-founder of Jalapajar said. “I will definitely recommend this event to all the companies we know that are looking for a platform.” Gray concludes, “Spotlight…is truly a forum to get a business idea out there for feedback. It’s providing the premier forum for this level of startup in the New York area.”
Join Foodstand and Slow Money NYC for our next Good FoodSpotlight event: Monday, May 16th in NYC!
Want to see Spotlight in your hometown? Email us or reach out on our app and tell us why your city should be next!