SBDC Hosts Pitch Event What's Cooking


On October 27, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in partnership with the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, hosted What’s Cooking: Pitch Night.  The event gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to practice their concept pitches, receive feedback and build connections. All the pitches were related to the food industry in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area. 

The entrepreneurs had two minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by a two-minute question and answer period with the audience.  After the 14 pitches, audience members circulated the room and spoke individually with participants and gave direct feedback on their ideas.

The pitch night served as a prelude to the Concept Plan Competition that will take place on April 20, 2015.  Before then, the participants will meet with business and industry advisors, attend training and networking events and finalize their concepts for a chance to win zero-interest loans, professional business services and time in a commercial kitchen.

The 14 pitches all differed greatly while still focusing on food, and more specifically, local food. One common theme throughout the night was food trucks- many participants either had a food truck or were looking into starting one.  On the competitive food truck culture in Harrisonburg, Belen Martinez said, “I don’t see it as competing, I see it as working with.” Martinez is the owner of and head chef for Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, a food truck currently stationed in the food truck park located on West Wolfe St.  Daniel Chapman, of the Flavor Savor Barbeque food truck on Rt. 33 used the event to expand his market.  A JMU student, Amanda Presgraves, saw the vast amount of food trucks in Harrisonburg and is hoping to work with JMU and Aramark to get a food truck on campus, working with local vendors and students of many different majors to have the food be local and the truck be sustainable.

Many presenters were hoping to open a retail location.  Olga Beleno’s company, Sublime Flavors, makes natural juices, mousses and cheesecakes, among other natural fruit-based foods.  Beleno’s company idea is still new and taking shape, but she hopes to one day have a retail location where she will “grow local, buy local and rely on local professionals.”  Tish McCoy-Ntiamoah’s company, Popparazzi, makes flavored popcorn, specialty beverages and nondairy frozen treats.  She plans to start selling her products in local markets but, eventually, have her own retail location. 

 Joyce Krech, the director of the Small Business Development Center, was thrilled with the outcome of the event.  Commenting upon the variety of pitches, she said, “The diversity of ideas is very indicative of our community…we had no duplication of ideas, and a lot of synergy.”  She said that the goal of the What's Cooking program, like that of the SBDC, is to help participants make good decisions that not only allow businesses to get started but also to stay in business and grow.

By Colleen Lyons, Communication Studies '16

Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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