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Transform Energy

Transform Energy utilizes a market-based approach to end poverty and climate change, creating micro franchises to generate green coal, a clean coal replacement.

Worldwide there are 1 billion people living on less than $3 a day in rural villages with very limited job prospects to improve their livelihood. They buy coal to use for cooking and heating which adds to environmental hazards. Transform Energy (TE) partners with local entrepreneurs to build simple kilns which they own to manufacture green coal and sell as a clean energy resource, which will directly impact poverty and climate change.

TE creates social entrepreneurship opportunities, where rural entrepreneurs own the kilns which produce green coal. As a direct replacement for traditional coal, our green coal is made entirely from renewable resources, like invasive mesquite trees. Produced and sold for profit, green coal will reduce carbon emissions while generating income for local villagers and profit for Transform Energy.

Following the mission and vision of Paul Polak, Transform Energy will transform climate change and help millions of people permanently escape poverty in the process. Paul’s business solution to poverty, which has been deployed for over 35 years now and empowers over 30 million people living on <$2/day to lift themselves out of poverty.

Transform Energy has successfully developed a radically decentralized energy option that uses selected species of biomass, effectively processed into green coal, to replace much of the current coal use without the negative impact on the climate. We use torrefaction, the science of converting biomass into a coal-like product, just like roasting coffee. This will make a profound impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that impact the climate.

The innovation is implementing the technology in thousands of distributed villages close to the biomass source. TE will create thousands of new job opportunities in the developing world where local entrepreneurs can own and operate the village kilns, making green coal infinitely sustainable and scalable into the future. This creation of new jobs will be in areas where poverty is deeply entrenched, effectively lifting millions more out of poverty.

For more information visit our website, www.transform-energy.com or email us at info@transform-energy.com.

YAK Hospitality

Yak Hospitality Group is a unique social club creating a range of activities for party-goers, music enthusiasts, foodies, and beyond. Not only are their entertainment services diverse, but their clients too, serving guests in both Denver and Miami. Learn more about the exciting work of the latest Trout Tank winner, Yak Hospitality Group:

Having started other businesses before, founders Yonnick, Antonio, and Khiry were prepared to meet the challenge. They commented on one of the biggest hurdles when starting Yak Hospitality Group saying, “The biggest challenge is making sure to stay unique in the market, so your business becomes a magnet to the people we wish to entertain at our social club. Truthfully, raising capital and getting the right type of financing has been the biggest challenge. We are a minority-owned business and there are many programs out there for us, but the timing of funding is everything when trying to start a project that needs lots of marketing.” After winning the Trout Tank Pitch Competition, they have gained positive exposure from much of the community and enjoyed navigating a new market by interacting with local vendors and partners.

The founders of Yak Hospitality Group look forward to the continued growth of the company saying, “We look forward to becoming the number one hospitality group in Denver. When people visit the city of Denver, they should have the opportunity to party with us, dine with us, stay at our hotels, and more importantly experience quality living and vacationing like they never have before. We are developing a dynamic value-added exclusive membership program that will allow participants to enjoy benefits in both Denver, CO and Miami, FL with affiliate partnered companies.”

With the goal of connecting individuals and creating long-lasting memories, Yak Hospitality recognizes the need to maintain a unique image for the brand. They believe with the relationships they have built and the support of the community, no hurdle is too big to overcome for their new business.

Yak Hospitality Group took home the top place at the Denver Metro SBDC’s Trout Tank Pitch Event.

You can find out more about Yak Hospitality Group at https://www.yakhospitality.com/.

Future Fit Foods

Future Fit Foods is a woman-and-minority-owned food startup out of Boulder, Colorado, bringing people diverse plant-based foods that prioritize the wellbeing and happiness of people and communities. They are also the winners of the 2021 Trout Tank CPG Pitch Event.

Paloma Lopez, founder of Future Fit Foods realized the change people were making was incremental because the business models, brands, and products had not been designed with today’s sustainability and nutrition needs in mind.

After spending nearly two decades working in CPG Corporate Brand Management, Product Innovation, and Sustainability, and as a social intrapreneur pushing for greater sustainability and nutrition value for customers and communities, Paloma took a breather after 15 years working in leadership roles for a global food company. Paloma decided the next 15 years of her career would focus on transformative business models of change while designing and enabling food products that are healthy for customers and the planet. This is the spark for change that created Future Fit Foods in 2020.

One thing that was clear from the start, is that building a business and creating foods with a team of food developers and chefs during the COVID-19 pandemic is not what they had anticipated. Future Fit Foods had to cut their teeth quick and fast. Business development was slowed down due to health and safety requirements, as well as significant supply chain and market disruptions as they faced go-to-market delays and mounting expenses. On a positive note, the pandemic provided a wonderful white space for reflection and possibility, new opportunities for online learning (e.g., Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute), and incredible support from so many talented and generous people offering to help and more quality time as a new business to simmer on important business and food design decisions. In that sense, Paloma feels very fortunate because she created Future Fit Foods during a historic moment of great change in our lifetime, a time of new possibilities, and a time where many entrepreneurs and consumers have gained greater courage to reframe their lives to what matters.

Paloma can say with full certainty that the last two years of her life, she has experienced exponential personal and professional growth because she had to step up to learn new skills, unlearn old behaviors, ask for support, get scrappy, get creative, and build thicker skin while doubling up on her optimism.

When asked what lessons she has learned, Paloma told the Denver Metro SBDC, “The lesson I’ve learned from building an ambitious business from scratch is that no matter how many years you’ve been in the industry, starting a new business means you must be ready to learn and unlearn fast, tackle problems head-on, and surround yourself with great people.”

As is with most food businesses, the biggest challenge was finding the right co-manufacturing partner. Paloma engaged with at least 20 different freeze-drying co-manufacturers across the U.S. and even hired a consultant to help. Paloma explained that the three largest challenges when finding manufacture were:

Covid 19 drove freeze-drying business demand off the roof so there was extremely limited capacity left for new emerging food brands
Current food systems and co-manufacturing are designed to serve large volumes, therefore large companies, so it’s very difficult to find a co-manufacturer that will want to work with a startup at a competitive price
Many of these exploratory conversations were very transactional and we found very little flexibility to work around our unique needs to build a new kind of value for customers.

In the end, Future Fit Foods found a great partner in an impressive state-of-the-art Food Innovation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. They were interested in Future Fit Foods’ proposition, helping the company grow and learning with Paloma. Paloma told us, “It has been an amazing partnership and they have even invested in a bigger freeze dryer that will help Future Fit Foods scale. We are learning together as -as far as we are aware- our process for SUPPAS is unique in the industry and many traditional co-packers were not willing to take our project on.”

The Future Fit Food’s team discovered the Denver Metro SBDC through the Denver Startup week events and Trout Tank CPG pitching process. Paloma told us, “I have been very impressed with the accelerated pitch training received as part of the Trout Tank cohort of companies, in particular, the quality of the people involved in the training and the valuable follow-ups I’ve had with three of the experts I met during the training panels in just two weeks and how they’ve also referred me to a few other people so the learning that started with Trout Tank continues to grow.”

Paloma is looking forward to Future Fit Foods and their SUPPAS brand to demonstrate – in a big way – that designing foods, brands and, businesses with the genuine intent to restore the health of people and the planet while delivering great taste and convenience, is not only doable but also smart business. They aim to inspire the food industry to drive positive change ‘by designing and doing’ towards the change that we all need to see.

You can find Future Fit Foods SUPPAS freeze-dried soups at their online store at www.getsuppas.com. They also have their products at BRICKS Retail in Longmont, Organic Sandwich Shop in Boulder, and across the Denver Metro area soon.

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