On April 3rd, Slow Money NYC teamed up with Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) to host a standing-room-only Good Food Spotlight event. HBK’s incubator kitchen was an ideal and inspirational setting to showcase and support the start-up food companies who took the stage. HBK Incubates currently has 70 entrepreneurs in residence, with two included in the evening’s Spotlight line-up.
Following an hour of nibbles and networking, each entrepreneur gave a brief overview (less than five minutes) of his/her business and posed specific questions to an expert panel as well as to the audience. The food world rock star panel included Jessamyn Rodriguez, founder of Hot Bread Kitchen; Andrew Ive, Managing Director of Food X, and David Robinov, co-founder of Farm to People and Slow Money NYC Board Member.
The five presenting companies showcased a range of food-focused innovation, creativity, and quality:
• Proud Pour, a mission-driven beverage company whose first two products are wines.
• Bareo, helping food business operate more cost-effectively through an inventory tracking app.
• Maha, a premium, high in quality, low in sugar chocolate producer. (HBK)
• Sup Dinner Kits, boxed ingredients and recipes for adding selected proteins and vegetables – to streamline grocery shopping and home cooking. (HBK)
• Burlap and Barrel, a single-origin spice company, sourcing directly from small spice farms around the world.
Panel members weighed in on challenges from balancing business with social mission to the fundamentals of pricing, distribution, and customer acquisition (It commonly takes five years for a business to become financially sustainable!). Some of their many pearls of wisdom that bear repeating:
“Big companies pay a lot of money to look small. You are truly artisanal. Go to places where that authenticity and exclusivity matters.” -Jessamyn Rodriguez
“Make the packaging scream the product benefits in vey clear, simple terms. Simple trumps clever. Don’t make me think, inspire me to try.” -Andrew Ive
“Never underestimate your power as a founder – you can sell your product and yourself.” -David Robinov
Spotlight is also big on audience engagement. In addition to sampling the presenters’ products (and a delicious array of HBK breads), ticket holders voted on questions submitted by the entrepreneurs – from shipping costs and packaging to the importance of a professionally-designed website for a mission-based company. An automated audience response system allows everyone to give input anonymously via text message. Answers are tabulated and displayed in real time. One fun face-off asked the crowd about the main motivation behind their most recent new food purchase. Sampling was king (47%), while discounts influenced only five percent.
Another highlight of the evening was a good news update from 2015 Spotlight alum Yumami, Asian-inspired “Go Dip” snacks. Co-founder Karsten Ch’ien acknowledged the Spotlight support they had received on their journey — which has now led to placement at Cibo and Whole Foods!
The next Slow Money NYC Good Food Spotlight will be held June 12 at The Entrepreneur Space(36-46 37th St., Long Island City, NY). Food companies interested in presenting at this or future Spotlights should apply here.