Fall means food, fun, and Boise Startup Week — all together that equals Trailmix. This is Boise’s premier stage to highlight the bold and tasty works of food startups. Some of Boise’s greatest trailblazers are in the food and grocery industry which makes this competition part of an ongoing legacy. To illustrate the importance of this competition, we are bringing you interviews from the winners of BSW’s 2019 event, but first, let’s get the lay of the land for 2020.
If you’re not familiar with the Trailmix competition already, here’s a quick breakdown:
- Our 3rd Annual Trailmix competition is sponsored by Albertsons.
- The winner will be awarded shelf space at Albertsons Broadway (wow!), cash prize of $20,000, and other in-kind awards.
- The competition will be held remotely, and showcased digitally, during our October event.
- The deadline for submissions is September 7th, so submit your delicious business pitch!
We’ve reached out to last year’s Trailmix Pitch winner, Kate Stoddard, founder of Orchestra Provisions, and People’s Choice winner, Emily Hicks, founder of Vagabond Bakery, to catch up on new developments and their plans for 2020.
Catching up with Kate Stoddard and Orchestra Provisions
For those who don’t already know, what is Orchestra Provisions? Give us your elevator pitch.
Kate Stoddard: Orchestra Provisions is a female-founded company focused on normalizing entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) to provide a sustainable, nutritious, and earth-friendly food system to face global food security. Orchestra Provisions makes insect protein approachable and delicious to the Western consumer by demonstrating that they can be ingredients and don’t have to be eaten whole. Our introductory products are easy to use, and if the consumer weren’t aware, they would probably not be conscious they were eating added protein, heme-iron b vitamins, calcium, prebiotic fiber (and on and on) from cricket powder. The spice line boasts nine flavors and growing and requires little instruction as they are used in place of traditional spices. Insect agriculture is very easy on the earth and her natural resources needing a fraction of the arable land, feed, and water as competing protein sources. Insects also reproduce quickly (bottom of the food chain and therefore quite pure) and provide, gram per gram, more protein than beef, more calcium than milk, and more heme iron than spinach.
What was your experience during the 2019 Boise Startup Week event?
BSW was an amazing event last year with lots of networking opportunities and of course the chance to pitch my business’ mission and values. I made a lot of connections and learned a tremendous amount through the experiences of others through panel discussions. Entrepreneurship in a rural community can feel lonely and isolating with many thoughts of giving up. This event was an opportunity to recognize that what I am doing is valid and supported within both rural and urban settings. I gathered a new set of tools and insights to confront the ever-evolving challenges I face as an entrepreneur. One of my biggest realizations was that you can never have too much collaboration with meaningful businesses, and when everyone supports each other you grow simultaneously. BSW nurtures a space for great minds and perspectives to riff off each other resulting in innovation and revolutionary business paths.
What do you think Orchestra Provisions did to stand out at the event?
Firstly, I was so honored to have stuck out. All the competing businesses were amazingly well put together with really cool innovations. I believe that my product has a lot of shock value – the same thing that makes it risky also makes it naturally attractive. Additionally, Orchestra Provisions has strong environmental values, and the capacity to face issues of global food security. The potential here was certainly recognized and continues to resonate with folks. I think the product is a rising trend that is starting to gain traction through the mainstream media. Enough research is out there validating what Orchestra Provisions is doing, and the judges were able to see a unique take on a future where insects are a food staple. The spices are a tangible path for entomophagy with real implications for a share of an inevitable marketplace.
What has Orchestra Provisions done since the event to further develop and move forward?
Orchestra Provisions has increased its retailers by 25% and worked on reaching consumers through many online platforms. We have developed a sponsored female athlete team to help market this mission called the “femme-ento warriors“. This vision supports females who are traditionally under-represented in the sports world and generally very empathetic to the values of “the Orchestra”. These athletes help grow the business with their skills and followings. Orchestra Provisions has been working on getting into the food space with ready-made items such as Crick Pop popcorn, fruit leathers with added protein and a protein powder. Due to COVID-19, we have been unable to utilize the Chobani incubator space we were awarded as last year’s winners, but we look forward to developing this product line with their resources whenever that opportunity proves available. We have also expanded products to include a therapeutic line available at the Vervain Collective Apothecary in Garden City. These specialty powders are amazing additives to baking projects, oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes and especially tasty with warm or cold milk, latte style. The therapeutic line includes Mayan cocoa, golden milk, green vitality superfood powder, and crimson root (a beet-based wonder).
What changes, if any, has Orchestra Provisions had to make during 2020’s “new normal?”
Luckily, we are small and growing which means everything we do is still quite malleable. Orchestra Provisions has started to strengthen its direct to consumer platform through our website. More than ever, our company’s values are becoming personal in the midst of a pandemic, where food becomes a little less certain and secure for everyone. This awareness had directed a lot of attention to Orchestra Provisions. The unfortunate side to coronavirus is the inability to conduct much of the in-person education and demoing to grow momentum in retail locations. In place of that, I have been invited to design lecture material and other content for many graduate programs across Idaho, including ISU and BSU. It is a continued challenge to evolve as a business in these times, but who doesn’t love a good challenge when the result is a reliable and nutritious food source for billions of mouths.
What is something you struggled with in the beginning stages of Orchestra Provisions, and how did you overcome it in your role?
Orchestra Provisions has never been a struggle, but rather a challenge as discussed above. Facing aversion through product development isn’t an EASY element in growing a business. This upstream model presents challenges of behavioral modification up front, but I believe will pay off in a huge way in the end. In addition, finding the time and energy as a single mom during Corona is certainly a CHALLENGE. Luckily, I was gifted with a glass half full state of mind, so if I ever feel doubtful of anything, I just wait a few minutes and the feeling evolves into inspiration.
What’s next for Orchestra Provisions in 2020 and beyond?
Orchestra Provisions embraces agility, and we have visions of a healthier Ensure drink which will offer easily digested protein, hospital nutrition, disaster relief kits etc. Next up, we’re excited to move into the food space with ready-made snack products, which will offer an easier entry for interested consumers and fewer barriers to use. Along with snack items, a protein powder will help people to move toward replacing animal protein with insect protein, lessening the burden on the earth and creating a healthier food staple simultaneously.
Catching up with Emily Hicks and Vagabond Bakery!
For those who don’t already know, what is Vagabond Bakery? Give us your elevator pitch.
Emily Hicks: Vagabond Bakery is a specialty bake shop that focuses on customized cake balls for any sized event, big or small. We also have a select few wholesale accounts for last minute cake ball cravings.
What was your experience during the 2019 Boise Startup Week event?
Last year’s event was fantastic. The setup of the venue used the entire space and created a great flow for experiencing all the food vendors. I enjoyed all the speakers who shared their experiences and loved being able to network with fellow food business owners.
What do you think Vagabond Bakery did to stand out at the event?
We had tons of samples to hand out and people were able to try a variety of our flavors. We were set up in a great location (right at the entrance) which made our table visible to all the guests. We also had pictures displayed on the table to showcase our custom work from previous orders. Seeing that a delicious product could also look great was a bonus.
What has Vagabond Bakery done since the event to further develop and move forward?
After the event, we found ourselves with an influx of custom orders, and we doubled our holiday orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The social media response was great! We are making some changes that have been slow in development, but we do believe that once they take hold sales will increase significantly.
What changes, if any, has Vagabond Bakery had to make during 2020’s “new normal?”
Our “new normal” is to focus on smaller events and continue our wholesale accounts. With larger events on hold for now, we are able to use some of the down time for product development in hopes of finding other revenue streams.
What is something you struggled with in the beginning stages of Vagabond Bakery, and how did you overcome it in your role?
I think that the biggest thing to overcome for me was the fear of failure, and that I didn’t have a product that people wanted or needed. The way I overcame this fear was to just do the work. I started small with production and then slowly started increasing as people became more and more familiar with the product. Eventually, I realized that if I put the hard work in, and the effort is obvious in the quality of the product, then Vagabond is a success.
What’s next for Vagabond Bakery in 2020 and beyond?
We are gearing up for the holiday season and will be adding Halloween to the list of holiday collections this year. We will continue working on new flavors and other product development, and also hope to have a retail location by the fall of 2021.
We’re looking forward to seeing what amazing ideas our competitors bring to the table this year! Join us online this October for our Boise Startup Week virtual event and learn what it means to B. Resilient in 2020.