Beyond the Pitch
VentureNEXT Serves Up Amazing Sweet and Savory Goodies from Local Bakers and Chefs
Spicy lobster ravioli. Bourbon blondies. Pulled pork. Buckeye brownies.
Build-your-own tacos. Vegan and gluten-free pumpkin cupcakes. Fried mac & cheese and onion straws. Ginger spice cookies and gigantic oatmeal crème pies.
And…if these mouth-watering, tummy-rumbling choices aren’t enough, there are even more tasty treats—including vegan tacos and award-winning pizza—on the bill of fare for VentureNEXT.
VentureNEXT Serves Great Grub from Local Food Trucks, Bakeries, and Eateries
VentureNEXT is a celebration of all aspects of Central Ohio entrepreneurship.
“With your first bite of a slow burn peanut butter cookie, you will understand in a whole new way that innovation here isn’t limited to software, bioscience, or nanotechnology,” said Alicia Oddi, TechColumbus director of marketing and communications. “At VentureNEXT, we are showcasing some of our most “satisfying” startups—successful “mom-and-pops” that make great food.”
Entrepreneurial Path for Food-based Businesses Isn’t All that Different from High Tech
Interestingly, the milestones on the path to innovation for these “mom-and-pop” businesses in the food industry aren’t so different from the commercialization milestones for advanced manufacturing or high tech startups.
- Incubators help. Young food businesses get a boost toward success at The Food Fort*, a unique non-profit food business incubator that supports local food entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses.
“There aren’t many incubators like us,” said Kevin Brennan, marketing and development manager at The Food Fort. “We represent 35 food trucks, eight food carts, and eight actual kitchens. Our job is to help these businesses with marketing, networking, and business plans.”
Members use The Food Fort as their business hub. “We have a fully equipped commercial kitchen where our clients do their food prep,” Brennan said. “They have 24/7 access to our facility, coming back to clean up, dump grease, and park their trucks.”
- It’s all about satisfying customers’ needs. Mikey’s Late Night Slice serves pizza by the slice (also by the pie) until 4:40 a.m. It’s perfect for Columbus’ college crowd.
Bake Me Happy bakes gluten-free and all natural fun and nostalgic treats like “twinkies, snowballs, and ding dongs.” Bake Me Happy is the only bakery in Columbus certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group—but you would only know it from the sign because you wouldn’t know it from the taste of the treats. The bakery is committed to making your next bite the most decadent thing you have tried since sliced bread.
- Create products that add value. “Food quality separates you from the competition,” Brennan said. Dos Hermanos Taco Truck creates a variety of authentic, fresh Hispanic dishes.
A visit to Mikey’s Late Night Slice is an experience. Sassafras Bakery owner AJ Perry hand selects all ingredients and bakes everything by hand from scratch, including pies with locally grown seasonal fruit like apples and pears. Herb’n Food Truck serves gourmet cuisine at street level value.
The menu at Pattycake Bakery includes vegan goodies that taste as good as traditional treats. The bakery does not use trans fats, and everything is made from scratch. Same for Sassafras.
- Diversify without losing focus. Dos Hermanos has grown from one small taco cart to a truck and multiple carts. Their food truck sales have expanded to event catering. They prep the food from the truck and bring it warm into the event. Pattycake distributes both retail and wholesale (about 40 percent) to local groceries and coffee shops.
- Every entrepreneur has to sell. “The personality of the person operating the business makes it successful,” Kevin Brennan said. “In the food business, you have to be a go-getter. You have to network and find new, good spots for your truck. You have to be willing to work at it every day, be passionate, and be confident.”
- Build strategic partner relationships. Sassafras Bakery supplies pies to its neighbor, The Worthington Inn, which has been named a Top 10 Columbus restaurant for ten consecutive years. OSU invites Dos Hermanos Cart to every home game; OSU fans line up for the delicious tacos, burritos, and tamales. Herb’n Food Truck collaborates with local craft breweries and corporate lunch rotations.
There are lots of reasons to register for VentureNEXT…and to arrive at this celebration of all things entrepreneurial with an outsized appetite.
*The Food Fort is partially funded by the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a statewide SBA lender than began in Columbus and has expanded across Ohio. Since 2004, ECDI Columbus has deployed $16 million in loans to the Columbus region.
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