Brewing the American Dream: Pitch Competition Awards $10K Prize to Detroit Female-Owned Company

As an entrepreneur or business owner, what would you do with a $10,000 windfall?

That was the question that a handful of food and beverage industry women business owners had to answer during a Shark Tank-style pitching competition on Wednesday, October 13, at Marrow, 8044 Kercheval Ave. in Detroit.

SheChef, Inc., (a local, Black-owned professional networking organization for women chefs) and the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program featured emerging Detroit food and beverage brands, which pitched their business ideas to a panel of five experts judges. One of the judges included the Michigan Chronicle’s very own Managing Editor AJ Williams.
Jennifer Glanville Love, brewer and director of partnerships for the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery, spoke to the Michigan Chronicle at the bustling, lively event about how Jim Koch (the beer company’s founder and brewer) who started Samuel Adams 37 years ago needed access to capital and the “nuts and bolts” of business advice while launching his business.

When Adams (a white man) had trouble accessing traditional capital he realized that if he had these issues how much more were Black and Brown entrepreneurs and business owners facing the same hurdles. Thus began the concept behind the 2008 Brewing the American Dream Pitch program “where we live and brew our beer,” Love said.

Through the program over 12,000 people have been coached and mentored, $65 million in food and beverage loans were provided and 9,000 jobs were retained and created, with 39 states participating.

“Anyone in here that owns a small business [knows that] coaching is really priceless,” Love, also an event judge, said, and added that she appreciates the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs, especially during COVID-19. “It has been incredible [and we] want to do all we can to continue that and emerge from this as successful as we can.”

During the pitch competition, five businesses had two minutes to pitch their products and business ideas to the judges, who then asked questions and provided feedback.

Jasmine Haskins, the owner of Detroit-based Gajiza Dumplins, pitched her product to the judges and discussed her ideas to expand and hone in more on her pop-up shop that secures pre-orders.

Haskins beat out the other pitch competitors and said despite not being a salesperson, she is selling the idea of her business being an Asian flavor fusion cuisine and she plans to use the funds to help further along with her plans of opening up a brick and mortar through a lease or down payment.

“We are looking toward a permanent home,” she said, adding that it will be somewhere in Detroit. “This is phenomenal, phenomenal experience. This experience has given me the motivation and the push that we needed; we needed someone to say to us, ‘You can do it.’ And this is exactly what I needed to hear,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to great things,” Williams said after Haskins’ win.

The runner-up contestants received a $1,000 prize. The common thread throughout all the pitches was a need for more capital to use on better packaging, a brick, and mortar, expand their products, and even hire more staff.

The first contestant Garnet Terri, owner of Terri’s Cakes, pitched to the insightful judges about the need to grow her Detroit business with better packaging.

“My mother had a vision for opening a cake shop … and she decided she was going to retire and hand me the business. That was 8 years ago now and I started to develop the business she didn’t even know I had the passion to do,” Terri said, adding that her family’s business has been delivering cakes and sweets for the past 50 years.

She said that there is packaging that she needs to buy in bulk that they can’t afford and locally, the packaging is up-charged.
“If we continue to grow at the rate we are going [we] will have all packaging we need to get cakes to customers,” Terri said of her primarily word-of-mouth business that she wants to move into their storefront in 2022 on East Warren.

The judges gave feedback on everything from promoting her storytelling to suggesting she visit more competitors to see how they operate.

Another contestant, Relish Indi-Soul, presented their idea to bring more of their Indian-fusion cuisine to the community after the business owners, Le’Genevieve Squires and Brittiany Peeler, visited India.

“Our community deserves quality foods,” Peeler said. “As native Detroiters we wanted to recreate childhood favorites that are full of flavors and combined flavors from our travels and sustainable meals.”

They blend the home-cooked tastes of their roots with the fresh flavors and dishes they discovered through their travel experiences to combat the “over saturated” fast food market locally through “intentional relationships with food.”
They sell samosas, offer pop-ups, private dining experiences, and more for a targeted audience of on-the-go consumers and experimental diners. They have also partnered with land-based projects and more to further their sustainability goals.
The judges encouraged the business partners to focus on prioritizing what their specialty is and growing from there to narrow their focus.

“With your pitch, be more intentional,” Williams said, adding that she appreciates their passion and creativity.

Elle Simone Scott, founder and president at SheChef, Inc., also, a judge, said that this was an important one because of the representation of women business owners in the room.

“Coming out of culinary school I did not see a vast amount of representation,” she said. “[For] Brown people it is important for us to not only have a place in the industry but … building our seat and tables [along the way]).”

Scott added that joining forces with Samuel Adams only made sense because of their similar missions.

“As these businesses grow in your city …. I do expect you would go and support these entrepreneurs.”

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