IU Kelley School and the Venture Club of Indiana are once again connecting food and beverage entrepreneurs, investors and anyone who likes to eat and drink.
It’s no secret that Indy’s food scene has exploded in recent years, attracting national media attention that has brought local entrepreneurs to the forefront of the foodie scene across the country.
In 2016, Zagat named Indy one of the top 26 hottest food cities, and multiple Fountain Square restaurants got a shout out from Bon Appetit magazine. Google “Indianapolis Food Scene” and you’ll find that just several days ago, a paper in the Twin Cities wrote a feature about Indianapolis and Thrillist mentions Indy as one of the best new food cities in America.
Local foods generated $12 billion dollars in sales in 2014, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. The researchers there expect that to number to reach $20 billion by 2019.
It seems there may be no better time to dive into the food scene, if you’re considering it.
The Venture Club of Indiana will host a “pitchfest” for food and beverage innovators on October 5, giving select entrepreneurs the chance to deliver a one-minute pitch for food and beverage-related businesses of all types in front of fellow entrepreneurs, investors, potential customers and foodies, and a venture mentor panel. Organizers say this can be an early stage idea, pre-revenue startup or a growing business. You don’t need to be seeking investment, and it could cover food tech, ag/growing innovation, distribution or delivery concepts or new food/beverage concoctions.
The judge panel includes former Colt Gary Brackett (Stacked Pickle), Scott Wise (Scotty’s), Jolene Ketzenberger (EatDrinkIndy.com) and Oscar Moralez (VisionTech Angel Partners).
Todd Saxton, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Kelley, is again helping organize the latest food entrepreneurship session, to be held at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday, October 5. Saxton organized the first session four years ago, and has been involved ever since. This year Powderkeg (formerly Verge) will help run the pitching session.
“For our fourth running of the food entrepreneurship event, we are attracting leading innovators in food tech, new food and beverage products and novel restaurant and service concepts. Entrepreneurs need feedback and help from all of us—You can’t go it alone and succeed as an entrepreneur,” said Saxton. “This event is a chance to hear about the latest and greatest ideas and also help these entrepreneurs move their ideas forward.”
Todd Saxton is the director of the Kelley School of Business Evening MBA’s DIVE (Discovery, Innovation and Ventures Enterprise) Program, which connects MBA students with local startups to help grow new businesses and provide hands-on help to founders launching and growing their ventures. A number of Evening MBA students attend The Venture Club’s monthly meet-ups throughout the year.
“This provides a unique learning opportunity for our students, allowing them to discover how entrepreneurs pitch their products and also allowing them to build their own networks,” explained Saxton. “Students in the DIVE Program often will work with some of these startups in the spring, providing a resource to entrepreneurs who may not have the business experience needed to get started. It also gives our own students a chance to roll up their sleeves and experience venturing firsthand.”
A number of new ventures have started with the help of The Venture Club community and the DIVE program. Past projects have included working with ClusterTruck founder Chris Baggot on farmersmarket.com,
Skinny and Co. Coconut Oil, which sells raw coconut oil and coconut oil-based products online and from its store in Broad Ripple, and
Garden Party Hard Soda, which worked with the DIVE team this past spring.
Ugo Bars out of Bloomington, which makes natural and wholesome snack bars, was another venture assisted by DIVE. Brew Bracket, a beer tasting and comparison platform founded by Kelley alum and past DIVEr Mike Sale, worked with DIVE last spring, as well.
The Venture Club’s 2017 food entrepreneurship session is set for Thursday October 5, from 11:30-1:30 on the 10th floor of the Columbia Club. Check-in and networking are set from 11:30-12:00 PM, with a lunch served from 12:00 – 12:30 PM, and the program to be held from 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM.
Come join our local food and beverage entrepreneurs, and hear their stories! Register to attend the event, or if you’re interested in pitching, there are a couple open slots still available. Email a brief description of the venture to Todd Saxton of the IU Kelley School at email@example.com, or Mike Daley at the Venture Club at