Accelerator Associate Board Offers Taste of GFA
By Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed
The 1st annual Taste of the GFA event, coming up on October 25, is a fundraiser presented by the Associate Board of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator program. Learn more — and purchase tickets — at the event site.
The Taste of the GFA event on October 25 in Chicago will feature samples of products made by entrepreneur-graduates from the first four cohorts of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator program. There also will be delicious tastes from some of the city’s most innovative culinary artists: Lauren Freeberg of Lula Café, located in the Logan Square neighborhood and one of Chicago’s iconic farm-to-table restaurants; Won Kim from Kimski, a Korean-Polish fusion in Bridgeport; Guy Meikle and Alec Sherman of Eastern European-focused Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar in Humboldt Park; and Stephanie Andrews, beverage manager for Logan Square’s Billy Sunday.
Taste of the GFA is also the first event staged by the Good Food Accelerator’s recently established Associate Board, so it should not surprise that it is a fundraiser to support FamilyFarmed’s entrepreneur development programs.
The Associate Board was originally formed by Adam Falkof, who is a real estate attorney at Quarles & Brady LLP, and who has represented nearly two dozen entrepreneurs. He was prompted to connect with the Accelerator because of his own strong interest in Good Food. Quarles & Brady and The Boston Consulting Group are presenting sponsors for Taste of the GFA.
Falkof points out that the GFA Associate Board is not all about the money. It is designed to interact directly with, and provide advice to, the entrepreneurs who have been Fellows in the Accelerator program, and Board members have been recruited from across the Good Food spectrum to facilitate that interaction.
“The primary purpose is to really directly support the companies,” Falkof said. “Every month at an Associate Board meeting, one of the Good Food Accelerator companies comes in front of the Associate Board and actually gets workshopped for about an hour, an hour and a half,” and each company asks the Associate Board for assistance with the company’s most pressing challenges.
Falkof spoke to the importance of carefully selecting the Associate Board members in order to provide effective support for the Accelerator’s companies. The Associate Board is made up of up-and-coming leaders from companies ranging from venture capital firms, large food and beverage companies, major national food retailers, and restaurant groups.
In order to ensure the event’s success, the Associate Board is not overreaching for its kickoff event: Tickets are priced at a modest $50, and Taste of the GFA is being held in the auditorium of 1871 Chicago, the center for entrepreneurship and innovation located in the famed Merchandise Mart, where the Accelerator carries out its intensive curriculum. (The Accelerator’s fifth cohort is currently being selected and will begin the six-month 2018-19 program in November.)
Though the proceeds from the 1st Annual Taste of the GFA are likely to be fairly modest, a sold-out house would empower the Associate Board to move forward on more ambitious goals for future fundraisers. “If we have really good turnout and the event goes off really well, it allows us in the second year to get a bigger venue” and to help further grow the event, Falkof noted.
The format, which provides opportunities for participants to meet and network with the participating entrepreneurs, chefs and mixologists, should provide a more fun and relaxed atmosphere than that experience at many fundraisers.
After the dust settles from the fundraiser, the Associate Board will return to its role of providing a sounding board for one Good Food Accelerator graduate company each month. The Board recommends a focus on broad, strategic issues and goals, and credits FamilyFarmed’s entrepreneur development team — Director Rebecca Frabizio and Programs Coordinator Chelsea Callahan Huson — with preparing the entrepreneurs for each session.
“The topics are all over the place and it’s entirely determined by the company. Chelsea works with the companies before they reach us to give them a sense of how this works, what the room looks like, here’s some things you should prepare,” Falkof said.
He added, “We really do encourage them to pick broad topics, pick big questions, pick things that everyone [on the Associate Board] can answer in their own way.” As an example, Falkof cited a company that presented the Associate Board with two very different strategic approaches for growing the company.
“The most fun I think we had was a company that said, ‘There are two major roads I’m looking at. Which one do you think?’ Totally different companies….,” Falkof said. “We spent about 30 minutes offering our opinions about how one road made more sense than the other, and I think we convinced him that Road A was enormously more sensible than Road B. His big thing walking out was, ‘I’m going to do Road A.’”
Falkof and the rest of the Associate Board hope your road leads you to 1871 for the Taste of the GFA event.
Your ticket purchase for the Taste of the GFA event will help maintain the Good Food Accelerator’s established program, which over its first four years has graduated 35 entrepreneur Fellows, while fueling the startup of GFA Extension, a tailored program that will be heavily aimed at providing consultation and assistance to early-stage businesses in Chicago’s underserved community. Tickets can be purchased at the event site. You can also make tax-deductible donations year-round at the FamilyFarmed web site to support the Good Food Accelerator and FamilyFarmed’s other non-profit programs aimed at building a healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more economically dynamic food system.