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Platforms to identify future star businesses

Denver Lewis, Community & Conference Content Manager, Informa Markets, Boulder

Here at Informa’s New Hope Network, we’re creating a community for the healthy lifestyle products industry – offering content, events, data, research and consultative services to help grow businesses and bring more health to more people.

Greeting the newcomers

Aneil Rakity

In 2018, the story of one budding entrepreneur, Chef GW Chew, founder of Something Better Foods, captured so much of the“why” behind what we do each day to serve consumer brands. Chef Chew won the 2018 Pitch Slam at our show in Baltimore, Natural Products Expo East. His mission is to change lives “one chew at a time” by bringing healthy plant-based alternatives to under-served communities. The Pitch Slam, hosted at Natural Products Expo each year, provides the opportunity to elevate mission-driven and innovative brands – connecting them with the exposure and resources they need to succeed. This creates a space for early stage brands to put their business ideas to a team of experts and a big audience at the show, and the chance to win a top prize of $40,000 in New Hope services, including a free booth the following year. Typically, we see 50–100+ applications per show, which gives us a unique view of the incredible “innovation for good” that is happening in the market. Each entrepreneur sends us a 60-second video explaining how they’re creating change in the world and why their brand would benefit from being a part of the Pitch Slam. It’s one of my favourite parts – it’s so inspiring to see the human stories at the heart of our industry. Panels of expert judges select the grand prize winner and our mentors offer helpful feedback for all the budding entrepreneurs. For example, Jake Deleon at Origin Almond, a 2018 entrant, said “receiving the invaluable feedback from the mentor and selection committee helped to inspire and guide me and my team to improve our proposition and make ourselves better as a company overall.”

Connections with a capital C

Which brings me back to Chef Chew. After winning our 2018 PitchSlam and taking advantage of his prize package, he joined us a tour Esca Bona event in Austin, Texas as one of our FIX “Pitch for Progress” participants, where he pitched for help in finding the right mission-based, patient capital to help him grow his company. One month later, he pitched at our Nutrition Capital Network (“NCN”) event to our community of NCN investors. Through these experiences, we were able to make lots of introductions and, by the time this is published, Something Better Foods should have secured its first funding round. I feel so much gratitude when participants like Chef Chew get upon stage and say “Thanks to New Hope, and thanks to the team at Natural Products Expo”, acknowledging the role we’ve had in their brand’s story, right from the start. This feels like servant leadership and I’m seeing truly deep relationships come from it – it honestly feels like a family, and I haven’t seen that before in any other business.