In three short months, The Idea Village has taken a brand new endeavor from idea phase to a demo day showcasing the five participating entrepreneurs yesterday evening. The Food Challenge was created, in partnership with Reily Food Company and Rouses Markets, to boost the entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans focused specifically in the food and beverage industry.
“When it comes to innovation within the food and beverage industry, New Orleans has a longstanding competitive advantage,” said David Darragh, CEO of Reily Foods Company and Chairman of The Idea Village Board of Directors. “The Food Challenge will help us sustain this reputation by identifying and supporting some of the industry’s emerging businesses.”
In a city that loves food just as much as entrepreneurship, Darragh wonders if the challenge will stick. “It’s a no brainer for New Orleans,” he confirmed.
The demo day gave attendees a chance to sample an array of locally sourced products including Bloody Mary cocktails and “crack,” as Creole Crackers entrepreneur Emily Leefe explained her addictive product, a distinct, savory seasoning over oyster crackers.
Drinkology entrepreneur Stephanie Davis, maker of the Garden District Bloody Mary, has designed her New Orleans product to be gifted and the brand to be remembered. She plans to curate regionally specific stories and recreate them in other locations just as she did for her grandmother’s Garden District mix of hospitality and the right cocktail ingredients.
Other pitches came from Taryn Cabase, Founder of Taryn’s Crab Cakes, which are made exclusively by hand from the finest Louisiana blue crab meat, and Nathan Winner, known by many as NOLA Pie Guy.
Winner recently rebranded his local baked goods company to Sugah, an ecommerce site that delivers hand crafted treats across the country in under 48 hours from online order to arrival on your doorstep. With his newly developed site, national fans have access to his kitchen through the online ordering and home delivery system.
The pitches were not just for practice. Seed money and a slot at the Big Idea, a signature event created for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, were also on the line.
After the judges discussion, Co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village Tim Williamson addressed the audience: “This was a really hard decision. All of these entrepreneurs should be supported.”
With a twist of events, two companies tied for second place: Drinkology and Sugah. First place, winning both seed money and a slot at the Big Idea in March, was awarded to Locally Preserved to continue to produce the unique, seasonal product line of fruit syrups, jams, pepper jellies and preserves for home use.
While noting the judges dining on fine china at NOLA Brewery during the pitches, Williamson said, “this may just be the coolest and craziest thing we’ve done in 14 years.”