Trout Tank Food Frenzy winners announced
Konjo Group and Bivouac Coffee Company took top honors from judges and the audience at Trout Tank Food Frenzy yesterday – resulting in two companies being named the Judge’s Choice Winner for the first time ever.
Trout Tank, sponsored by Colorado Lending Source and Mission Yogurt, is an event that takes place five times a year, where Colorado entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to lenders and investors. Once a year, Trout Tank focuses on the food industry – this year being the first to concentrate solely on brick and mortar hospitality businesses in Denver.
After eight weeks of preparation and training, the top four entrepreneurs from the Trout Tank Food Frenzy: Pitch Accelerator shared how they wanted to grow their business with an expert judging panel, lenders, investors and the community Thursday night.
Trout Tank Food Frenzy judges:
- Lorena Cantarovici, founder, Maria Empanada
- Jeff Hermanson, CEO, Larimer Square
- Mike O’Donnell, executive director, Colorado Lending Source
- Kathleen Schafer, vice president, Mission Yogurt, Inc.
- Robert Thompson, founder and CEO, Punch Bowl Social
PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER:
Konjo Group, fast and healthy Ethiopian cuisine, was chosen as the People’s Choice award chosen by the audience.
“I want to corner the quick-service healthy market, and make sure that people have great accessibility to Ethiopian food in a way that is convenient and delicious,” Fetien Gebre-Michael, founder of Konjo Group said.
JUDGE’S CHOICE AWARD
Making Trout Tank history, the judge’s choice award was given to two pitching companies, Konjo Group and Bivouac Coffee, a company specializing in craft natural coffee processing.
“It was unbelievable for them to have enough faith in our ideas that they wanted to create another prize. And not only that, but for them to be our advisors. I think that’s pretty overwhelming,” Kyle Kociemba-Benson, co-founder and owner of Bivouac Coffee said.
“This is the second time I’ve served as a judge at the Trout Tank Food Frenzy competition, and the entrepreneurs and ideas just keep getting better,” said Jeff Hermanson, Larimer Square. "Yesterday, the presentations were so impressive, the judges couldn’t come to consensus on the winner. Robert Thompson from Punch Bowl Social and I decided to commit our own resources to ensure that two of the entrepreneurs could win the cash prize. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to support the inspiring, up-and-coming Denver restaurants and food brands and be part of this program.”
“Most people can point to a person or group of people who supported and mentored them in the early stages of their entrepreneurial journey,” said Robert Thompson, founder and CEO of Punch Bowl Social. “I know I did, so it’s important to me to provide whatever insight or counsel I can to start-up companies and their founders. Serving as a judge in the Trout Tank competition was so much more than being a judge in the competition. We had the opportunity to mentor and meet with the participating entrepreneurs and dig into their business plans, which really allows us to gauge where they need the most assistance and guidance.”
Schafer, Cantarovici, Hermanson and Thompson will mentor the four Trout Tank Food Frenzy finalists.
NEXT TROUT TANK: Past Trout Tank entrepreneurs will present for judges and the start-up community at Denver Startup Week at 4 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Gensler. Learn more at denversbdc.org/trout-tank-event.