Shibani Baluja Lil' Gourmets
|CEO of Lil' Gourmets
About Lil’ Gourmets
Lil’ Gourmets strives to be the guilt-free baby food option for parents. Their mission is to spread the joy of seeing babies discover new flavors with nutritious, organic, flavorful meals they love eating and you love serving. Designed to help expand baby’s palates and teach them that vegetables are yummy, Lil’ Gourmets starts with unique vegetable combos and adds a hint of complex spice blends to create flavorful baby food without the overuse of fruit. Their products are high pressure pasteurized (HPP’d) and refrigerated to ensure safety without sacrificing nutrients or flavor, and the end result is a delicious, clean ingredient product with no added sugar or salt. Check out Lil’ Gourmets at www.lilgourmets.com.
Shibani Baluja will be launching her Lil’ Gourmets baby food products in early 2018. The idea behind Lil’ Gourmets came to her in 2013 when her son was starting to eat solids and she realized that the baby food market consisted of overly processed, bland or sweet products. Not wanting to feed him what was available on the market, she started batch cooking each Sunday so he would have flavorful, healthy meals all week. As he grew older, she could see the impact that exposing him to a variety of flavors was having on his palate which further strengthened her desire to launch Lil’ Gourmets. While developing the products in 2016, she had her second child who served as the perfect guinea pig to help her perfect her recipes!
Before being consumed by baby food, Shibani was most recently a member of the mergers and acquisitions team at Kraft Foods. She holds her BA in Economics and MBA from the University of Michigan.
The Farinata Project
Ali Cole The Farinata Project
|CEO, The Farinata Project
About The Farinata Project
The Farinata Project recreates tasty, Italian flatbread for the modern American market. From the streets of Italy to your table, Farinata is a beautiful, wholesome chickpea bread both naturally grain free and high in protein. Farinata has been around for centuries, lovingly baked in the hills of the Linguarian coast of Italy. In today’s marketplace, consumers are looking for bread alternatives. This flatbread is a tasty alternative for discerning eaters everywhere. Check out Farinata Project at www.thefarinataproject.com.
Ali Cole, Founder of The Farinata Project, is a serial entrepreneur with a curiosity for interesting creative intersections. While living in Italy, spending time with locals and experimenting with regionally published cookbooks, Ali discovered farinata for her first time. A number of years later, she is introducing this much loved, traditional Italian food to the American market.
Prior to The Farinata Project Ali worked extensively with makers in art and design where she spent many years focused on career development, sales, marketing, and PR in the digital start-up space, product and furniture design, and nonprofit arts. Ali has a BA in Art and Psych from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and her MA in Arts Administration from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Ryan Crane Tempo Tea
|CEO, Tempo Tea
About Tempo Tea
Tempo is a vibrant line of sparkling teas crafted to deliver a guilt-free boost of natural energy. Inspired by their search for an uplifting beverage that didn’t rely upon sugar or sweeteners for flavor, co-founders Ryan and Austin started Tempo with a vision to create a bottle of “clean energy” that could elevate any experience – from a music festival to an office lunch. Tempo delivers the revitalizing power of premium teas, alongside the vibrancy of international spices, within a fun and flavorful beverage. Each bottle is USDA organic certified, with zero calories and no added sugars or sweeteners. Good food is good fuel, so twist and enjoy! Check out Tempo Tea at www.tempobev.com.
Ryan brings nearly a decade of professional experience in business and finance to Tempo. Throughout his early career, Ryan has developed deep understanding of the corporate strategy and financial DNA that fuel consumer-facing companies.
Ryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (honors), and holds an A.B. in Neuroscience / Psychology from Princeton University (magna cum laude). He is also a CFA Charter holder.
Jodie and Paul Krumpe
Jodie and Paul Krumpe Cultured Love
|Founders of Cultured Love
About Cultured Love
Cultured Love was established by Jodie and Paul Krumpe in Grand Rapids, MI in 2014, offering irresistible, all-organic sauerkrauts in five delicious flavors. Cultured Love’s mission is to revolutionize the way people think about what and why they eat, introducing them to probiotic rich foods that have a direct impact on their well-being. Cultured Love was born out of a desire to make good food possible for anyone, starting with ready-to-eat nutrient dense krauts, recipes, and education in how to incorporate more of these amazing traditional foods into their daily diet. Check out Cultured Love at www.culturedlove.com.
After walking through her daughter’s healing from chronic illness for seven years, Cultured Love founder, Jodie Krumpe, came to recognize very clearly the connection between what we eat, our gut health, and how we feel, how we think, how we heal. Because fermented foods are a great source of gut-healing probiotics, she took up fermentation, and was eventually inspired to start Cultured Love in 2014 along with Paul Krumpe, her husband and co-founder.
Cultured Love produces five irresistibly flavorful and beautiful krauts and kimchi designed to entice people to eat more kraut and incorporate fermented foods into their regular diet. Jodie’s desire is to share the healing power of good food to more people, through her delicious products but also through information and education, sharing and demonstrating easy to make recipes for delicious ready-to-eat dishes that anyone can make at home.
While they currently operate and sell in Michigan, their next goal is to grow Cultured Love’s reach into greater Chicago and throughout the Midwest, spreading their Cultured Love revolution to bring the healing power of food to more and more people.
Conor McInerney Departure Snacks
|Founder of Departure Snacks
About Departure Snacks
Departure Snacks was created out of a love for travel and a passion for food. Departure Snacks creates healthy snacks that highlight exotic spice blends from around the world, using responsibly produced whole food ingredients. By tasting their delicious and authentic flavors, consumers are able to experience another culture firsthand. As they grow, they look to further their commitment to being a socially impactful company by helping create long-term job growth in underserved communities at home and abroad. Their products are currently available at Whole Foods and online. Check out their website at departuresnacks.com
As a self-proclaimed travel junky, Conor McInerney recognized early that the best part of travelling was always the food. This sparked an insatiable curiosity to always be exploring new flavors. From working on an organic farm in high school to brewing beer in college, Conor has always had an intimate relationship with the food he eats. When his cousin Aidan introduced him to the world of spice, he felt an immediate connection to cultures around the world and knew these flavors had to be shared with the American market.
Conor studied marketing at Michigan State University and has always had a strong entrepreneurial drive. Throughout college he bought and sold cars, founded a beverage company, and helped grow an altruistic energy drink startup based in Detroit. He enjoys leading a healthy outdoor lifestyle and believes that every day is an opportunity to learn.
Ready to Brands
Mark Muller Ready to Brands
|CEO and Founder of Ready to Brands
About Ready To Brands
Led by Mark Muller, Ready To Brands is on a mission to create innovative functional foods designed to help you feel your best, no matter what life has in store. Their delicious, organic remedies provide relief to those suffering common ailments where traditional medicine falls short.
Mark Muller is a native of Chicago with a background in banking and risk management. Mark is a seasoned financial practitioner with 11 years of experience, spanning global banking and fintech institutions.
At The Northern Trust Company, Mark built and ran the Derivative Valuations and Analytics desk in Melbourne, Australia supporting the valuation of over $100 B in notional exposures across Asia Pacific markets and paving the way for significant institutional account growth. Prior to that, Mark was a risk manager covering capital market operations in North America.
Earlier in his career, Mark helped position Chicago based startup, OptionsXpress for success in navigating the financial collapse of 2008 by building and managing a system for monitoring market risk across 250,000 + derivative brokerage accounts. OptionsXpress was acquired by Charles Schwab in 2011 for $1 B.
Mark is CFA Charter Holder and has a degree in finance from Miami of Ohio.
In his free time Mark enjoys traveling, making music and most importantly spending time with his wife and daughter.
Aqeel Wahiduddin Verzênay Patisserie
|Founder of Verzênay Patisserie
About Verzênay Patisserie
Verzênay was started in 2014 by Chef Arshiya Farheen and her husband Aqeel from the stands at Chicago’s famed Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Verzênay’s mission is to make great tasting Chef crafted breakfast and desserts, with clean, locally sourced ingredients that also supports economic development for women. At Verzênay, every product is a refinement in taste & texture. Experience the pleasure in trying out their pastries, as they had in making them. Check out www.verzenaypatisserie.com.
Aqeel and Arshiya’s Biography
With years of passion and experience in baking, Pâtissière and owner Arshiya spent over a year in Paris, where she studied at the French school of culinary arts, Ferrandi, and also worked at hotel Le Meurice and at boulangerie-pâtisserie Delmontel. She returned to her hometown in Chicago and with her husband and partner Aqeel, began her career by selling at the Green City Market, hotels and other bakeries.
Growing up in India, training in Paris & living in Chicago, Chef Arshiya has refined her approach to creating flavorful pastries, cakes, desserts & other baked goods.
Arshiya leads her team in churning out new products, training her team, and mentoring. Arshiya also actively sets Verzênay’s future direction, learning and seeking ways to source local & sustainably grown products.
Aqeel’s experience comes from working for over 14 years in the food industry, developing natural and organic products for regional, national retailers & for manufacturers, and also driving innovation via his consumer and shopper insights expertise. Aqeel leads the team in driving innovation, marketing, sales, and building relationship with the suppliers and customer community.
They currently sell at Chicago’s Green City Market, supply to hotels, bakeries, coffee shops and gourmet stores. You can also find their a few of their products at Whole Foods – quiche in the frozen breakfast, and macarons in the frozen desserts section.
No Denial Foods
Debbie Wood No Denial Foods
|Founder of No Denial Foods
About No Denial Foods
No Denial Foods is a food company that specializes in desserts and treats that are grain-free (naturally gluten-free) and are low in sugar. Debbie Wood started No Denial Foods in 2016 because of her health journey with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease and her struggle to find delicious treats and stacks that still allowed her to pay attention to her health. No Denial Foods is committed to providing consumers with more health-conscious foods that are sweet tooth satisfying and healthy at the same time. Check out No Denial Foods at www.nodenialfoods.com.
Everybody loves dessert, but that’s a problem for Debbie Wood, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 9 and celiac disease at age 32. Finding food that’s both gluten-free and doesn’t wreak havoc on her blood sugar is an everyday struggle.
Extra sugar and simple starches are a mainstay in most snacks and desserts, including gluten-free products, so Debbie’s solution was to hit the kitchen and bake for herself. She started with a salty-sweet snack nut mix that she could eat on the go, on top of yogurt or sprinkled on fruit. Soon health-conscious friends, neighbors and co-workers – and their friends – clamored for the nut mix, prompting Debbie to start No Denial Foods in 2016.
Before jumping into the food business, Debbie was a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker in Chicago for 15 years. She averaged $10 million in sales per year and served as managing broker for the Lakeview, Chicago office from 2014-2016. Prior to her career in real estate, she worked as an event planner at Levy Restaurants, managing event spaces and catering at Navy Pier and Bistro 110.
A Chicago-area native, Debbie graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in art education. Very early in the launch of No Denial Foods, Debbie was featured on the Hungry Hound with Steve Dolinsky, written up in Food Navigator and a subject of the The Uplifted, a photography series featuring individuals doing inspiring things.
Justice of the Pies
Maya-Camille Broussard Justice of the Pies
|Owner of Justice of the Pies
About Justice of the Pies
Justice of the Pies is a bakery that specializes in sweet and savory pies, quiches and tarts. Maya-Camille Broussard established Justice of the Pies in 2014 in honor of her late father, Stephen J. Broussard, a criminal defense attorney with a passion for baking and eating anything made with a crust! Justice of the Pies is committed to delivering amazing pies, quiches and tarts while positively impacting the lives of those who work for the company. Learn more about Justice of the Pies at www.justiceofthepies.com.
Creative entrepreneur and culinary artist, Maya-Camille Broussard established Justice of the Pies in 2014. Justice of the Pies was created to celebrate Maya’s late father’s love for pies and to honor his belief that everyone deserves an opportunity to reform their lives therefore, part of Maya’s mission is to work with and empower individuals who have experienced barriers to employment. Her pies are currently available at various farmer’s markets throughout Chicago and select Whole Food Markets. Check her website for locations and look out for shipping options coming soon!
Before diving into the world of pie, Maya was a curator and art consultant. From 2009-2012 Maya was the owner and curator behind Chicago’s Three Peas Art Lounge, working to make viewing and collecting art less intimidating for young professionals. In 2012 she started The MCB Project to document her design projects. The blog, TheMCBProject.com, expanded to include other facets of the arts and culture including film, literature, culinary arts, fashion, product design, travel and more. She has been featured by national and local publications and television shows, including NBC’s LXTV, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Journal, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Social, N’Digo, and WGN’s People to People, Edible Chicago Magazine and Design Sponge.
A Chicago native, Broussard is a graduate of Howard University (B.F.A.) and Northwestern University (M.A.).
Jordan Buckner and Isaac Lozano
Jordan Buckner and Isaac Lozano TeaSquares
|Co-Founders of TeaSquares
Jordan Buckner, Isaac Lozano, Adi Malik, and Alex Stomp are co-founders of TeaSquares, a snack with a purpose to give people the fuel to achieve their passions, and a social mission to fuel economic development in urban centers. TeaSquares are infused with naturally occurring caffeine from organic tea grown without the use of artificial ingredients or preservatives. Each bite-size square is light and airy, packed with wholesome puffed millet, crunchy almonds, and flavorful fruits. The TeaSquares team plans to grow their business while simultaneously empowering the community in which it’s based. Visit www.myteasquares.com.
The TeaSquares team is passionate about creating a snack that satisfies our demand for energy through real, whole foods. In a world flooded with artificial energy foods and drinks, TeaSquares infuses organic tea grown without the use of artificial ingredients or preservatives, in order to provide wholesome, nurturing energy. TeaSquares are one of the few snacks currently on the market that use naturally occurring caffeine from tea leaves to provide energy, in a way that traditional snacks do not.
The team manufactures TeaSquares in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, one of the most economically deprived communities in the city. They are currently working to hire young adults in the neighborhood to bring jobs, knowledge, and workforce skills to Englewood.
Jordan Buckner is a foodpreneur, and has worked in the food industry for 8 years. He holds an MBA from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. His goal is to create nutritious, good foods that improve communities.
Isaac Lozano is an MBA graduate from the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign. At TeaSquares, he oversees marketing and sales and has helped them establish their branding, marketing, and overall business strategy within the Midwest and nationwide. Originally from East Chicago, he understands the importance of civic duty and his obligation to provide social equity by employing local inner-city youth at TeaSquares.
Adi Malik is a business & operations professional, having consulted with startups and fortune 500 companies on developing new business opportunities and strategic growth plans. Adi’s dual background in business and engineering leads him to examine complex, often ambiguous organizational issues through a quantitative lens.
Alex Stomp is a design strategist with experience in graphic and web design. Alex was an equity partner in an education startup where he designed and launched their website. Alex has also designed the current TeaSquares packaging and is currently designing the new website.
Michele Gazzolo and Beth Denton
Michele Gazzolo and Beth Denton Fruitbelt
|Co-Founders of Fruitbelt, LLC
About Fruitbelt LLC
In 2012, friends Michele Gazzolo and Beth Denton began a quest for a refreshing and unequivocally healthy alternative to sugary soda. Four years later, Fruitbelt became the world’s first sparkling fruit tonic: festive and unabashedly tart, blending the juice from pressed apples and other varietals with honey and proprietary bitters, allowing the taste of unvarnished fruit to come alive. Visit www.fruitbelt.com.
Made from fruit, herbs and honey, every bottle of Fruitbelt Tonic combines clean ingredients with reduced sugar content, a true portion size and authentic, unvarnished flavor. While most sparkling fruit sodas are made with fruit concentrate, added sugar and/or chemical sweeteners, Beth and Michele use pressed juice and honey, and include naturally aromatic bitters that include herbs known to enhance digestion. Fruitbelt Tonic is certified gluten-free, sodium free, and caffeine free. It is also free of added sugar and any artificial ingredients, and each ingredient contained in the bitters is native to the Fruitbelt region of Southwest Michigan.
Michele Gazzolo was raised to be a merchant, hearing tales about margins, service and innovation from her father and grandfather, who founded a wholesale pharmaceutical distribution business at the turn of the 19th century. With a formal education in religion and anthropology and experience in retail, capital and business team formation, Michele brings a reformer’s heart to a tall endeavor: bottling a drink that will remind us all that the taste of real fruit and the experience of a real orchard cannot be replaced. Fruitbelt Tonic tells the stories of heirloom apple orchards and the people who tend them, connecting a proud and colorful history to a vibrant and sustainable future.
Pleasant House Bakery
Art Jackson Pleasant House Bakery
|Owner of the Pleasant House Bakery
About the Pleasant House Bakery
Husband and wife Art and Chelsea Jackson opened Pleasant House Bakery in 2011, and quickly became a household name in Chicago, known for their distinctive British-inspired, locally sourced menu, with savory meat and vegetarian Royal PiesTM as the centerpiece. They currently operate Pleasant House Bread out of The Plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and Pleasant House Pub in Pilsen. Check out The Pleasant House here: www.pleasanthousebakery.com/
Inspired by stories of the Pleasant House kitchen and gardens, husband and wife Art and Chelsea Jackson opened Pleasant House Bakery in Chicago in 2011, specializing in British-inspired, locally sourced food and featuring produce from their urban farm, Pleasant Farms. Their signature Royal PiesTM—handmade, artisanal meat and vegetable pies—quickly became beloved throughout the Chicago area. In 2015 the couple opened Pleasant House Bread, a bakery that specializes in naturally leavened, wood-oven breads made with locally sourced grains milled onsite. The bakery is located in The Plant, a social enterprise focused on closed-loop systems and renewable energy.
In 2016 co-chef/owners Art and Chelsea moved Pleasant House Bakery to a new location, adding a café and bar featuring English and other specialty ales, and changing the name to Pleasant House Pub.
Pleasant House establishments have earned such accolades as “Outstanding Restaurant” (Chicago Tribune), “Best Neighborhood Eatery” (LTH Forum), and “Rising Star Chefs” (Star Chefs), and have been featured in Bon Appetit, Check, Please!, Martha Stewart, Food Paradise, and other local and national media. Eater named Royal Pies one of “25 iconic Chicago foods.” Art has worked at such lauded restaurants as Les Nomades in Chicago and Fifth Floor in San Francisco. He graduated from Illinois State University and attended Kendall College. Chelsea is a writer and editor, and pastry chef for Pleasant House. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Kendall College.
Megan Klein Here
|CEO and Founder of Here
Here makes salad dressings and other value-added products using produce from FarmedHere, an organically-certified indoor vertical hydroponic farm in Bedford Park, IL. MadeHere is committed to growing communities by creating locally-made and locally-sourced products and making them available to everyone every day. Learn more about Here at www.here.co
Consumers are hungry for a consistent source of locally-made and locally-sourced value-added products created by a local farm that they trust. Here satisfies growing consumer demand for local foods by providing great-tasting products that incorporate local and organic produce and are made locally by members of the Chicago community. By increasing the amount of healthy, locally-sourced, and locally-made foods available throughout the Midwest, Here aims to position itself as a leader in local food production, and provide customers with a much-needed source of local foods available 365 days per year.
Megan Klein is president and general counsel of the Here. She has extensive experience in food and small business law, food safety, and local foods advocacy, and she is committed to inclusive hiring practices throughout the Here companies organization.Prior to joining Here, Megan worked with the City of Chicago and nonprofit groups to improve Chicago’s permitting and licensing of urban farms. She also served as an associate in Chadbourne & Parke LLP’s energy practice group, and later worked at Earthjustice as an environmental and sustainable foods advocate.
Her food policy experience includes having served as the Chair of the Chicago Bar Association Food Law Committee (2014-2015) as a Board Member of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council (2011-2015), and advocating extensively on behalf of the aquaponic and hydroponic industries.
She holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law, a certificate from the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute, and a B.A. from Boston College. She lives in the West Loop of Chicago and strives to eat local produce every day.
The Eating Well
Daniel Sikorski The Eating Well
|Owner of The Eating Well
About The Eating Well
Led by Chef Daniel Sikorski, The Eating Well is a specialty food company that prioritizes good food first. Dedicated to local sourcing and clean ingredients, The Eating Well makes paleo, vegan and gluten Free meals and snacks including 4 varieties of gluten free, vegan vegetable burgers. Visit www.eatingwellonline.com.
Daniel has been on a quest for good flavor and good food for as long as he can remember. Growing up with a mother who did not enjoy cooking, Daniel looked to his Calabrian grandparents for culinary inspiration. At ten years old he called up his grandma and asked “how do you cook pasta”, and that was the beginning of his culinary career.
At age 14, Daniel lied about his age in order to get his first job at Wags. That job launched him into the Chicago restaurant world, and he has never looked back. In 2006, Daniel left his job as an Executive Chef to join a start up and help start Chicago’s first LEED Certified Organic QSR as their Corporate Chef/Director of Nutrition. Building on the knowledge he gained from that opportunity, he went on to co-own and manage a gluten free, organic, full service restaurant in Naperville, IL.
Decades of experience in the restaurant industry coupled with a passion for good food led Daniel to create his newest concept, The Eating Well. He hopes to use his experience, passion and knowledge to share good, clean, and local food with everyone. Daniel wants us all to “Say No to Food on Drugs! ”
Colin Tomkins-Bergh Simply Native
|Owner of Simply Native
Simply Native – River Falls, Wisconsin
Simply Native fuels adventures and healthy lifestyles with the simplest and most nutritious ingredients. They exclusively use plants indigenous to North America to make Ancient Foods for Modern Times™. All of their products are highly nutritious, Non-GMO, Certified Gluten Free, vegan, quick cooking and versatile. Colin is working to scale up distribution of Simply Native’s Quick Cooking Wild Rice Cereal, while developing future products utilizing plants indigenous to North America. Check out www.simplynativefoods.com.
28 years ago, the seeds of this company first sprouted on the Tomkins-Bergh organic farm in Western Wisconsin; the family needed a breakfast that was quick and easy to prepare, but still wholesome and nourishing. Inspired by North American hearty wild rice and a love for delicious, whole foods, they created Simply Native Foods: A line of quick hot breakfast cereals that utilize a wild rice base and native super fruits to provide convenient cooking on the go without compromising nutrition or taste. Each bite is certified gluten free, all natural, vegan, dairy free, soy free, and non-GMO. Simply Native is a family owned and operated business; the Tomkins-Bergh family strives to honor tradition, while adapting for the future.
Colin Tomkins-Bergh directs sales and marketing for Simply Native Foods, and has enjoyed the outdoors since his childhood growing up on the family’s organic grass-fed beef farm. His love of nature and conscious upbringing lead him to be an outdoor enthusiast and to eat organically and as locally as possible. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison, Colin worked at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as a research associate exploring entrepreneurship ecosystems across the USA and the agriculture technology sector. From the quick-cooking cereals to other products with many more native foods from North America, simply Native ingredients will always be gluten-free and non-GMO.
Alison Velazquez Skinny Souping
|Founder of Skinny Souping
Skinny Souping – Chicago, Illinois
Skinny Souping is a health benefit driven soup company featuring preservative-free sippable soups. Wellness expert and author, Alison Velazquez, started Skinny Souping in 2014 with a mission to create high quality, innovative health benefit driven products which enable people to conveniently eat healthy on the go. Visit www.skinnysouping.com.
Founded in 2014 by wellness expert and author, Alison Velazquez, Skinny Souping offers a line of fresh, preservative free and gluten free soups which can be consumed hot or chilled. Leveraging the intrinsic health benefits of fresh vegetables, the hydration from water and antioxidants from a variety of spices, Skinny Souping offers unique soup blends that are not only delicious but also functional. Naturally low in sugar, high in fiber and antioxidant rich, they are both convenient and nourishing. The vegan line of soups and slow simmered bone broths are made with as many locally sourced and responsibly farmed ingredients as possible, making them both good for you and the planet.Skinny Souping currently packages functional soups as a detox program or soup cleanse, sold direct to consumers through their website, and will launch the retail line of health-driven soups into Chicagoland Whole Foods Markets at the end of the year.
Alison holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a culinary degree from Kendall College. Her goal is to establish her company first in midwest retail markets, and eventually as the premier fresh soup company.
Full Belly Foods
Mitch Wasserman Full Belly Foods
|Owner of Full Belly Foods
Full Belly Foods – Chicago, Illinois
Full Belly Foods provides all natural, never cooked or processed, healthy, delicious and unique artisan pickles and pickled vegetables: clean food just as nature intended! Check out www.fullbellypickles.com.
In addition to cucumber pickles, The Full Belly line includes several delicious pickled vegetable varieties including pickled curry cauliflower, spicy French green beans, hot carrots, oil free Giardinera, red onions and even a beer brined pickle. Each proprietary recipe boasts a unique flavor profile, and all products are hand cut and hand packed.
In 2012 Mitch Wasserman opened Full Belly as an artisan kitchen producing hand pies, savory muffins, focaccia, granola, soups and a few varieties of pickles for retail sale in Highwood, Illinois. By mid-2014 Full Belly had morphed into a full time pickle manufacturer, and increased the product line to 12 products available at Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Heinen’s and additional retailers in the Chicago market. In 2015 Full Belly signed on with Fortune Fish & Gourmet, and have since increased their local presence and placed their line in Busch’s Markets in Ann Arbor Michigan.
Mitch’s goal is to grow Full Belly into a nationally distributed brand without compromising on or sacrificing the quality of the all natural, never cooked or processed, healthy, delicious and unique artisan products currently produced.
Rachel Bernier-Green Laine's Bake-Shop
|Owner of Laine's Bake-Shop
About Laine’s Bake Shop – Chicago, Illinois
Rachel launched her company in 2013. She is the owner and head baker at her full service bakery with catering, online, and brick and mortar retail components. ‘Laine’s provides delicious treats with a conscience. Says Rachel, “Our goal is to impact the people around us by investing in our neighborhood, sourcing ingredients responsibly, hiring locally, and giving back to worthy causes.” She’s working to increase production and distribute on a larger scale. Visit their website: www.lainesbakeshop.com.
Rachel Bernier-Green is the owner and head baker at Laine’s Bake Shop, LLC, a full service bakery with catering and online and brick and mortar retail components. Laine’s provides delicious treats with a conscience. “Our customers can feel great about our entire supply chain from the ingredients, labor, and production, to the final presentation and flavor of their order,” says Rachel. “Our goal is to impact the people around us by investing in our neighborhood, sourcing ingredients responsibly, hiring locally, and giving back to worthy causes.”
Rachel grew up creating delicious treats in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother and always dreamed of turning her passion into a business. She was a serial teenpreneur and one of her first businesses was selling her baked goods at a stand in her grandmother’s yard. Rachel continued to hone her craft and her plan even as she pursued a career in the intense field of finance and public accounting.
Shel launched her company in 2013 and serves customers nationwide online, and locally baking her treats for weddings, celebrations, non-profit organizations, and corporate clients including Fortune 100 companies. Laine’s Bake Shop was recently selected to be a vendor for Whole Foods Market and her baked goods can be found on the shelves of several of its Chicagoland stores.
Rachel holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Finance and Accounting and a Master of Science degree in Taxation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her goal is to expand her retail presence with a line of packaged baked goods.
Deirdre Birmingham and John Biondi
The Cider Farm
Deirdre Birmingham and John Biondi The Cider Farm
|Owners of The Cider Farm
The Cider Farm – Mineral Point, Wisconsin
The Cider Farm is the project of Deirdre Birmingham and John Biondi. Their 166 acre, certified organic orchard produces true cider apples—apples bred for the production of alcoholic beverages.The Cider Farm’s products are faithful to the traditions of the masters who make Europe’s finest brandy and ciders. Check out the www.theciderfarm.com.
The Cider Farm produces a Calvados-style apple brandy and complex, dry hard ciders using true cider apples grown on its 166 acre certified organic orchard. Located in the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, owners Deirdre Birmingham and John Biondi have spent the last 12 years grafting and cultivating heirloom varieties of British and French true cider apples that have the bitter flavors, acids, and tannins essential for the production of fine brandy and dry hard cider. The Cider Farm’s products are faithful to the traditions of the masters who make Europe’s finest brandy and ciders.
Deirdre manages day-to-day operations in the orchard. She holds a Masters of Science degree in soil science from the University of Illinois and a joint-Ph.D. in land resources and agriculture extension from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. John is responsible for financing, marketing, sales, and business strategy. He holds a MBA from Georgia State University, and a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Daniel Caballero Sofrito Foods
|Owner of Sofrito Foods
Sofrito Foods – Chicago, Illinois
Dan seeks to build a clean label Hispanic food brand that uses transparently sourced ingredients. Sofrito Foods LLC is currently working to produce a line of heat-and-eat seasoned, organic bean products based on traditional Latin American recipes. Dan describes his sofrito as, “ Made the traditional way, sautéing fresh whole ingredients to create a traditional product with superior flavor.” Check out www.cocinadefillo.kitchen.
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Daniel Caballero is a second generation Cuban American who gained food industry experience while working in his family meat-packing business. Dan recognized an opportunity in the marketplace for a line of authentic Hispanic foods products made with clean, transparently sourced ingredients. To meet this need he launched Sofrito Foods LLC and will produce a line of heat-and-eat seasoned, organic bean products based on traditional Latin American recipes.
“Many second generation Hispanics lament that they can’t find prepared products that taste quite as good as homemade beans made from traditional recipes,” says Dan. “Authentic sofrito beans are prepared with a flavorful base of sautéed onions, garlic, bell peppers, and other spices. While most bean products on the market are seasoned with dehydrated powders and flavorings, our products are made the traditional way, sautéing fresh whole ingredients to create a traditional sofrito with superior flavor.” Dan also notes “Beans are an excellent super food that appeal to a much broader non-Hispanic market—vegetarian, vegans, and those who want to incorporate more whole foods in their diets. Many prepared bean options lack flavor and fail to do justice to this wholesome, healthy food.”
Dan believes Sofrito Foods products will resonate not only with Hispanic shoppers but those looking for a healthy and tasty authentic food. “Sofrito beans are a very healthy and flavorful vegetarian option for the health conscious shopper looking for an authentic experience.”
Susan Fink Karma Kombucha
|Owner of Karma Kombucha
Karma Kombucha – Mundelein, Illinois
Kombucha is a fermented health beverage dating back to 220 BC China. Susan brews her unique brand of Kombucha in Vernon Hills, IL, using ingredients that are certified organic and sourced from Fair Trade producers, without added flavors or juices. She seeks to scale up production and widen distribution into retail grocery channels. Visit www.karmaboocha.com.
Susan Fink, a food scientist and culinary enthusiast, founded Conscious Mind Products to spread the joy of kombucha. A health beverage that dates back to 220 BC China, kombucha is brewed using tea, sugar, and cultures. It is fermented for roughly 24 days to yield beneficial components such as healthy bacteria that promotes gut health, organic acids to aid digestion, and is a good source of antioxidants.
Leveraging her 35 years of experience in various capacities in the food industry, Susan launched Karma Kombucha in 2012. The brewery operations are located in Mundelein, Illinois in a facility Susan designed.
Karma Kombucha is brewed using premium whole leaf tea blends (from a Midwest importer and blender) and cane sugar. All ingredients are certified organic and sourced from Fair Trade producers. Through careful experimentation and commitment to high quality and integrity, Susan has created a unique kombucha with a clean, mild, refreshing taste and less carbonation than most brands which further alleviate gastric distress. Each of Karma Kombucha’s six flavors is derived solely from the infused teas, with no added flavors or juices.
Karma Kombucha’s products are sold in grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Roundy’s/Mariano’s, and Heinen’s, as well as in small independent health food stores, co-ops, foodservice outlets, and home delivery services.
Susan’s goals are to increase sales and distribution across the Midwest while building a strong team and developing an effective marketing strategy in a highly competitive beverage category.
Anthony and Liz Fiorenza
Wind Ridge Herb Farm
Anthony and Liz Fiorenza Wind Ridge Herb Farm
|Owners of Wind Ridge Herb Farm
Wind Ridge Herb Farm – Caledonia, Illinois
This Caledonia, Illinois farm, founded in 2000, is a thriving grower of more than 400 varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs, and 100 varieties of heirloom vegetable plants. Many uncommon varieties of their fresh herbs are sold in grocery stores throughout Chicagoland, and Tony and Liz are currently working on further refining their product line and scaling up distribution and operations. Their daughter Margaret is an integral part of the operation, sharing responsibility for the greenhouse operation, product development and production. Check out www.windridgeherbfarm.com.
Wind Ridge Herb Farm’s vision is to foster optimum health and wellness through Good Food. The Caledonia, Illinois farm, founded in 2000, is a thriving grower of more than 400 varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs and 100 varieties of heirloom vegetable plants. The company also produces a large selection of gourmet seasonings, salad dressings, infused vinegars, dips and teas, potpourri, and bath products using the herbs they grow. These products, along with many uncommon varieties of their fresh herbs, are sold in grocery stores throughout Chicagoland.
Wind Ridge is a family owned and operated business. Founders Liz and Tony Fiorenza strive to deliver health conscious products that are sugar, salt and allergen free. Daughter Margaret is an integral part of the operation, sharing responsibility for the greenhouse operation, product development and production with her parents while pursuing a degree in nutrition.
The Fiorenzas pride themselves on being part of a healthy food system. “Our products spark creativity in the kitchen while fighting the battle against obesity, diabetes and other diet
related illnesses and allergies.” They deliver health conscious products that are sugar, salt and allergen free. Their herbs are certified naturally grown and they source additional ingredients for their products from businesses that share the same values and sustainable practices.
Wind Ridge Herb Farm is classified as a State of Illinois Tourist Attraction and has been honored for “Excellence in Agri-Tourism” by the Office of the Comptroller.
Javier Haro and Juan Saldana
Javier Haro and Juan Saldana Food He.ro
|Owners of Food He.ro
Food He.ro – Chicago, Illinois
Food He.ro is developing a non-traditional, blended educational workforce development platform that will provide instructor lead trainings and online courses at the workplace. The Food He.ro digital training platform will enable restaurants to develop sustainable & smarter workforce practices. Check out www.foodhe.ro.
Javier Haro and Juan Saldana are co-founders of Food He.ro, a social enterprise restaurant
workforce technology enabled startup that provides a two-sided digital training platform for employee empowerment and restaurant sustainability.
Restaurants and the food service industry face serious challenges in hiring, recruiting, and retaining employees, as well as adapting to rapid developments in technology, innovation, social media, and fluctuating commodities, environmental concerns, and economic challenges.
Food He.ro provides solutions by establishing a learning culture to assist with challenges in hiring, recruitment-retention, and creating a culture of empowerment for employees while advancing the Good Food movement by educating and training restaurants and food service establishments in these
• Developing nutritious menus
• Sustainable work place practices
• Farm to table supply chain
• Adapting to new technology and interpreting big data
• Training and assisting new food entrepreneurs
• Addressing food waste
• Promoting agility and innovation
Javier Haro is a food tech evangelist, social media strategist, Spanish tapas cook, prior restaurateur, food startup consultant, and restaurant workforce trainer. He holds 12 certifications in hospitality management and is a licensed instructor in food safety, culinary, and restaurant management with the National Restaurant Association.
Juan Saldana has worked in management teams for financial, government, retail, food and educational institutions throughout his career. His greatest passion is to empower entrepreneurs. He is currently part of the IL Hispanic Chamber of Commerce team as a business consultant/counselor with the SBDC to help small businesses with licensing and strategic planning needs.
Gotta B Crepes
Ryan Jones Gotta B Crepes
|Owner of Gotta B Crepes
Gotta B Crepes – Chicago, Illinois
Ryan and his wife, Kathia, offer a menu of sweet and savory crepes to patrons at six farmer’s markets in the Chicagoland area, and source all of their ingredients at those markets. Ryan Jones believes in spinning crepes the way it’s Gotta B: Using local, seasonal, and prepared-from-scratch ingredients. He is working to growing this seasonal business into a year-round venture. Read Check out www.gottabcrepes.com.
Ryan Jones believes in spinning crepes the way it’s Gotta B: Using local, seasonal, and from-scratch ingredients. He and his wife, Kathia, offer a menu of sweet and savory crepes to patrons at six farmer’s markets in the Chicagoland area, and source all of their ingredients at those markets.
Ryan and Kathia met in 2005 while both worked at the Magic Pan, a restaurant specializing in crepes. When the restaurant closed in June 2010 they kept their love affair with crepes alive by serving up crepes to neighbors from a pancake griddle in their garage.
Their success grew and they soon moved to a commercial kitchen space in Evanston. They still serve their neighbors, but now they do it from a 10×10 tent at local farmers markets and at other locations such as corporate offices & special events.
Why the name “Gotta B Crepes?” Ryan explains “I used to have trouble accentuating Kathia’s name so I just called her ‘Gata.’ She has a talent for adding that extra special touch to food that makes it taste just right, to which I would exclaim, “Gata be the Magic!”
Ryan seeks to grow his seasonal business into a year-round venture.
Josh Katt Kitchfix
|Co-Founder of Kitchfix
Kitchfix – Chicago, Illinois
Kitchfix’s mission is to deliver crave-able flavor, exceptional quality, time-saving convenience, and far-reaching benefits for our bodies, community, and Earth. All Kitchfix’s products are chef-crafted, made from scratch, sourced as locally as possible and approved by an in-house registered dietitian. Josh is working to scale up distribution of his granola and build out his product line, and he is currently developing new plant- based CPG products. Check out www.kitchfix.com.
Kitchfix’s mission is to deliver crave-able flavor, exceptional quality, time-saving convenience, and far-reaching benefits for our bodies, community, and Earth—all wrapped up in one appealing, eco-friendly, reheatable container.
Since 2012, Kitchfix has been cooking for busy parents, CEOs, active people, cancer survivors, Crossfit champions, TV personalities, young professionals, lawyers, professional athletes, and rock star musicians. Founder Josh Katt says “Our healthy food brand focuses on producing fully prepared meals and snacks, and distributing them through meal delivery, grab-and-go locations, grocery store shelves, and cafeterias.”
Kithcfix creates craveable cuisine, using high-quality ingredients from local and organic sources that are free from gluten, dairy, soy, corn and GMO’s. The products are chef-crafted, made from scratch, sourced as locally as possible and approved by an in-house registered dietitian.
For the last 3 years, Josh has developed a successful multifaceted business with three distinct components: a meal delivery services that delivers thousands of individual meals throughout Chicagoland; a line of plant-based consumer packaged goods including granola and waffles sold in grocery stores like Whole Foods and Marianos; and a catering business serving corporate accounts, and those interested in healthy eating—even professional athletes! Now, Josh’s goal is to focus on expanding Kitchfix’s line of consumer packaged products and increase sales in retails groceries.
Adriana Saldaña-Meadath Flùr
|Owner of Flùr
Flùr – Riverside, Illinois
Adriana is trained in the classic French tradition of L’Art de la Pâtisserie. Flùr’s mission is to ensure that people suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy the same high quality baked goods as those who are not affected by gluten; Adriana is working to scale up production to sell into retail grocery chains. Check out www.flurflavorfirst.com.
Flùr’s motto is simple: Flavor First. Adriana Saldaña-Meadath set out to revolutionize the gluten-free market when she founded her company. “Too often,” they say, “‘gluten-free’ signals a tasteless, chalky, dry, gummy, heavy or just plain bad tasting product.” Adriana, a classically trained pastry chef, assures us, “It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve spent two years perfecting Flùr’s proprietary gluten-free flour blends. Amazing taste, texture, and overall superb quality makes my gluten free products virtually indistinguishable from regular baked goods.”
Flùr’s mission is to ensure that people suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy the same high quality baked goods as those who are not affected by gluten. Her goal is to scale up by selling into the retail grocery channel.
Adriana trained in the classic French tradition of L’Art de la Pâtisserie. She honed her skills at some of Chicago’s premier fine dining restaurants like The Everest Room and The Peninsula Hotel before launching Flùr, in 2012. Shortly thereafter, Adriana was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Rather than quit, she became inspired and began developing recipes and her proprietary blends of gluten free flours. In 2013, she opened her first gluten-free bakery in Riverside, Illinois, to rave reviews.
Rowida Assalimy Ro's Beverages
|Co-Founder and Owner of Ro's Beverages
Ro’s Beverages – Chicago, Illinois
Rowida’s company — founded in 2010 and located on Chicago’s North Side — produces a wellness beverage that originates from Yemen, called Kishr. Though made from a part of the coffee plant, Rowida describes Kishr as “like tea, but better”. It resembles tea, but its main ingredient is a little-known, nutritious superfruit. Check out kishr.com
Rowida’s company — founded in 2010 and located on Chicago’s North Side — produces a wellness beverage that originates from Yemen, called Kishr. Though made from a part of the coffee plant, Rowida describes Kishr as “like tea, but better”. It resembles tea, but its main ingredient is a little-known, nutritious superfruit.
Kishr is made from the coffee cherry, the antioxidant-rich fruit that surrounds the bean, combined with a blend of organic spices. Rowida says the product meets Good Food goals of sustainability, as it uses an often-neglected and wasted portion of the coffee plant, and because it is a health-conscious product (she describes Kishr as “a low caffeine beverage with more antioxidants than green tea.”)
Where possible, Ro’s Beverages obtains and uses local ingredients. Rowida says that more than two-thirds of Kishr’s ingredient blend is made from certified-organic spices purchased from a direct trade company in the Midwest. While the coffee cherries are not obtainable locally — they are grown and imported from Yemen (fair-trade) — she assures that they are “naturally organic and rain-fed,” with no fertilizers or pesticides used.
Rowida says Ro’s Beverages’ goals are to scale up quickly and develop new markets in cities outside Chicago, focusing first on the Midwest.
Mint Creek Farm
Harry Carr Mint Creek Farm
|Owner of Mint Creek Farm
Mint Creek Farm – Cabery, Illinois
Harry and his wife Gwen founded Mint Creek Farm in 1992, qualifying them as pioneers in the now fast-growing market for grass-fed, pasture-raised livestock. Their daughter and son now work in business operations on their ranch, located about 25 miles southwest of Kankakee near the southern edge of metropolitan Chicago. Check out mintcreekfarm.com
Harry and his wife Gwen founded Mint Creek Farm in 1992, qualifying them as pioneers in the now fast-growing market for grass-fed, pasture-raised livestock. Their daughter and son now work in business operations on their ranch, located about 25 miles southwest of Kankakee near the southern edge of metropolitan Chicago.
As Harry describes it, “Mint Creek Farm raises premium, grass-fed meats for the Chicago area. We are a family farm, grazing our livestock on Certified Organic central Illinois pasture. We produce grass-fed lamb, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and pasture-raised goat. In addition to our pastured livestock, we raise pastured poultry, including duck, chicken, and turkey.”
The Carrs have identified a key shortcoming that livestock growers face in the Chicago foodshed: Meat processing for small producers is extremely limited in Illinois. His goal for Mint Creek Farm is to create a multi-species (pork, poultry, lamb, and beef) animal processing facility.
Mint Creek products can be purchased at 10 Chicago farmers markets during the spring/summer season and four indoor markets during the late fall and winter, as well as select grocery stores. They supply meats to some of Chicago’s top restaurants.
Shane Christensen dailyServing
|Owner of dailyServing
dailyServing – Chicago, Illinois
Shane is utilizing his past experience in entrepreneurial ventures, including clothing, entertainment, and children’s products, in building the dailyServing company. The start-up company, which launched in April 2014, makes a variety of healthy products — based on dried fruits and vegetables, cold-pressed juices, nuts, and other functional foods — that address the busy lives of many consumers.Check out mydailyserving.com
Shane is utilizing his past experience in entrepreneurial ventures, including clothing, entertainment, and children’s products, in building the dailyServing company. The start-up company, which launched in April 2014, makes a variety of healthy products — based on dried fruits and vegetables, cold-pressed juices, nuts, and other functional foods — that address the busy lives of many consumers.
Each product in its line is designed to address a particular type of customer or activity. Examples include Defend-Immunity (immunity booster), Calm-Mind (foods that soothe), Fuel Work-Out (pre-workout foods), Recover Strength (post-workout foods), and Play Smart (an afternoon snack for kids).
Shane says, “Many of our solutions contain two dry goods and a cold-pressed juice, combining the right nutrients and fibers for wholesome health.” For instance, dailyServing’s “Satisfy Hunger” has kale chips for thylakoids, pistachios for protein, and carrot-pea cold-pressed juice for fiber.
Shane says dailyServing’s goals are to quickly increase sales and distribution while refining the product line to meet the needs of Good Food consumers.
Spark of the Heart
Thomas Frierson Spark of the Heart
|Owner of Spark of the Heart
Spark of the Heart – Chicago, Illinois
Thomas is vice president of Spark of the Heart, which he co-founded with his wife, company president Cynthia Zeki, Ph.D. Spark of the Heart produces delicious dried bean-based soup mixes, bean salads, and beans and rice side dishes on Chicago’s North Side. Check out sparkoftheheart.com
Thomas is vice president of Spark of the Heart, which he co-founded with his wife, company president Cynthia Zeki, Ph.D. Spark of the Heart produces delicious dried bean-based soup mixes, bean salads, and beans and rice side dishes on Chicago’s North Side.
Launched in 2010, Spark of the Heart is aiming to scale up its production and distribution after a gradual start-up phase, and broaden its retail marketing beyond its current farmers market focus.
The company’s products combine taste, health consciousness and ease for busy consumers. Thomas says, “Our foods are all-natural, nutritionally dense, vegan, and allergen-free, and have no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Our products are complete and easy to prepare — just add water!”
Thomas says Cynthia, an educator and health services professional, created the recipes now used for Spark of the Heart’s products to feed her family and friends.
Thomas emphasizes the business’s commitment to localism, regionalism and social consciousness in serving the greater good. Spark of the Heart products are packaged in partnership with two centers for the developmentally challenged. The business obtains many of the vegetables and beans used in its mixes from northern Wisconsin and Kankakee County south of Chicago.
Nik Jakobs Brothers Farms
|Jakobs Brothers Farms
Jakobs Brothers Farms – Sterling, Illinois
Nik is a third-generation cattle feeder at his family’s ranch. Located in rural northwest Illinois, almost due west of Chicago and northeast of the Quad Cities, the livestock and grain farming operation was started in 1949 by his grandfather Norbert, who had emigrated from Europe to escape the Holocaust. The farm is now run by his father, David Jakobs, and his brothers Ricky and Alex have joined him in the operation. Check out jakobsbrosfarms.com
Nik is a third-generation cattle feeder at his family’s ranch. Located in rural northwest Illinois, almost due west of Chicago and northeast of the Quad Cities, the livestock and grain farming operation was started in 1949 by his grandfather Norbert, who had emigrated from Europe to escape the Holocaust. The farm is now run by his father, David Jakobs, and his brothers Ricky and Alex have joined him in the operation.
The Jakobs family, like most farmers, has practiced conventional agriculture while raising several thousand head of cattle. Nik will use the resources available to him through the Accelerator to develop a business case and implementation plan to incorporate sustainable practices into Jakobs Brothers operations. This has the potential to expand the availability of sustainably produced local meat products, while creating a sustainability business model for other currently conventional producers to follow.
Nik says, “I believe that we can accomplish this goal by collaborating with distributors, wholesalers, or retailers connected to the Good Food community established by Family Farmed.”
Riana Lynn Food Trace
Food Trace – Chicago, Illinois
Farmers, wholesalers, and buyers need to readily connect with each other to make the deal that will grow the local and sustainable food market in the Chicago region. Riana offers FoodTrace as a high-tech solution to facilitating business relationships across the supply chain with innovative ways to share more traceable information with consumers. Check out thefoodtrace.com
Farmers, wholesalers, and buyers need to readily connect with each other to make the deal that will grow the local and sustainable food market in the Chicago region. Riana offers FoodTrace as a high-tech solution to facilitating business relationships across the supply chain with innovative ways to share more traceable information with consumers.
Riana describes FoodTrace, which she founded in January 2014, as “a platform that uses small business user profiles and big data to link food distributors, local farms and specialty food manufacturers with wholesale food buyers, such as restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals.”
One of FoodTrace’s goals, according to Riana, is “satisfying the growing business demand for more locally, bottom-line friendly and sustainably produced food choices.”
While the central focus of the company is creating software and data solutions to food system supply chain issues, its activities are not limited to tech alone. She says FoodTrace uses its data lists “to plan engaging community food events that partner our best chefs and small-to-medium urban and rural farmers that will bring a new level of intimacy.” She adds, “We want to consistently bring this experience to our communities and consumers to promote a new understanding and appreciation of the origin and makeup of their food.”
Living Water Farms
Mark Schneider Living Water Farms
|Living Water Farms
Living Water Farms – Greenhouse Farm
Mark is a former firefighter who turned full-time grower after he helped his in-laws, Kevin and Denise Kilgus, convert their truck farming operation into Living Water Farms (LWF) in 2008. He is now President and CEO of Living Water Farms, which grows specialty salad greens, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers year-round in a greenhouse located a couple of hours southwest of Chicago, not far from Bloomington and Champaign. Check out livingwaterfarms.com
Mark is a former firefighter who turned full-time grower after he helped his in-laws, Kevin and Denise Kilgus, convert their truck farming operation into Living Water Farms (LWF) in 2008. He is now President and CEO of Living Water Farms, which grows specialty salad greens, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers year-round in a greenhouse located a couple of hours southwest of Chicago, not far from Bloomington and Champaign.
Living Water Farms’ goal is to develop markets and raise capital to enable a major expansion of its greenhouse growing space, from 10,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet.
Mark emphasizes that Living Water Farms promotes sustainability by utilizing Integrated Pest Management and other ecologically/environmentally conscious practices. He also notes that Living Water Farms’ greenhouse growing contributes to building a year-round market for locally and regionally produced goods: “Many of the items LWF grows are not currently available year-round in the Midwest and are shipped primarily from the Southwest, contributing to many thousands of food miles each week.”
Having this local alternative is good not only for reducing the Chicago foodshed’s carbon footprint, but for buyers and consumers who benefit from the availability of a fresher and better-tasting product. “The nature of just in time harvest and rapid shipment through local distribution allows for significantly increased shelf life over shipped product,” Mark says.
Jenny Yang Phoenix Soy
|Owner of Phoenix Soy, LLC
Phoenix Soy, LLC – Chicago, Illinois
Jenny, a native of Taiwan, left a career in corporate finance when an opportunity to buy into the existing Phoenix Bean tofu-making company arose in 2006. She and her team have steadily built Phoenix Bean into a significant presence on the Chicago food scene, selling its fresh and prepared tofu products and soy milk to leading restaurants, as well as to general consumers through wholesale and retail markets.Read Jenny’s full bio and check out phoenixbean.com
Jenny, a native of Taiwan, left a career in corporate finance when an opportunity to buy into the existing Phoenix Bean tofu-making company arose in 2006. She and her team have steadily built Phoenix Bean into a significant presence on the Chicago food scene, selling its fresh and prepared tofu products and soy milk to leading restaurants, as well as to general consumers through wholesale and retail markets.
Now Jenny is seeking market development and strategic growth assistance to raise capital and grow her company significantly.
Good Food principles of sustainability and localism are key ingredients in Phoenix Bean’s success. All of the soybeans used in its products are non-GMO — no mean trick, given that the vast majority of soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified. All of its soybeans also are grown in the Chicago foodshed.
“We believe that healthy soybean products are an important part of a sustainable modern diet. We are following a complete soybean life cycle that supports and encourages local, sustainable food,” Jenny says. Phoenix Bean has participated in FamilyFarmed’s past two Good Food Festivals, and also is familiar to shoppers who frequent several of Chicago’s leading farmers markets.