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Success Stories

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.

Full Battle Rattle Deli

“In the military, Full Battle Rattle means that you get your gear and are ready to move out. At Full Battle Rattle Deli, we are also ready to move out, but into our communities to serve and support our veteran brothers and sisters.” Michael Gropper, owner of Full Battle Rattle Deli says.

The idea for Full Battle Rattle came about after an experience Gropper had with a veteran who was homeless at the VA hospital. The staff made a mistake and did not call him in a timely manner. Although he got very upset, the situation was quickly resolved in a short amount of time. However, that experience gave Gropper a thought. That what that veteran needed more than just medical care was to be heard, seen and recognized: cared for. On the way home that night Gropper thought about what had happened, considering ways that he could serve other veterans who needed the same things. Veterans who had given so much but were struggling to get back on their feet. Reflecting on his own skills and life experiences, Gropper came up with Full Battel Rattle Deli. A program focused on supporting fellow veterans who are homeless and in transition through jobs and education in the culinary arts.

Full Battle Rattle Deli is a sandwich serving food truck, however, Gropper considers it to be more than that; a caused based vehicle for social change. Their mission is to support veterans one sandwich at a time, providing culinary arts training to veterans who are experiencing homelessness and in transition. “Where others may prioritize money first in their business, ours to take care of our fellow veterans.” Gropper says.

“The Denver Metro SBDC has supported me with the mentorship, guidance and support to make my idea a business reality. From the Leading Edge for Entrepreneurs program to individual mentoring, I have been able to learn the skills and acquire the tools I needed to build this business and run it effectively.” Gropper says.

Right now, Full Battle Rattle Deli is looking to raise money to build a permanent kitchen so that they can provide 6-week culinary arts programs to veterans who are experiencing homelessness and in transition.

You can find them on their website – https://fullbattlerattledeli.com  or on Facebook at @FullBattleRattleDeli.

Safe Rids 4 Kids

Firefighter. Paramedic. Emergency responder. Over an 18 year career, Greg Durocher spent his days and nights responding to some of the most devastating collisions and catastrophes.

To prevent accidents and injury, Durocher decided to learn as much as possible about child passenger safety. “As responsible drivers we can only do our very best to ensure that our precious cargo is properly restrained with the best options available,” Durocher said, “so that if a crash occurs, we are giving our little loved ones the very best chance at the best possible outcome.”

When presented with the opportunity to build Safe Ride 4 Kids with his wife and two business partners, Durocher decided to take his passion for child passenger safety a step further and start a business dedicated to keeping kids safe. “We help parents keep their children safe during the most dangerous activity they are exposed to every day – driving,” CEO Durocher said.

Safe Ride 4 Kids
Safe Ride 4 Kids offers car seat safety education and innovative product solutions. From conception to birth, Safe Ride 4 Kids protects mom and developing baby with the crash-tested Tummy Shield which redirects the lap portion of the seat belt to the upper thigh/lower pelvis. For children three and older, Safe Ride 4 Kids offers the Ride Safer Travel Vest, a convenient and legal alternative to the booster and car seat.

Developing a Business Plan

While Durocher had 10 years of experience as a child passenger safety technician and instructor, he knew that he and his business partners would need a little guidance when it came to the business side of Safe Ride 4 Kids. That’s when he turned to the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Durocher had been in business just over a year and had been talking about writing a business plan since the very beginning. He met with a consultant at the SBDC and enrolled in the Leading Edge Business Planning Course.

“What a great experience that was”, Durocher said. “After 11 weeks I finally had a business plan but most importantly, I was able to share what I learned and take my business partners through the extremely valuable process of creating – not just writing – a business plan.

Competing in the Trout Tank

A year later, Durocher was selected to compete in the SBDC’s Trout Tank, where he had the opportunity to pitch to a “school” of 30 lenders, investors and venture capitalists for funding.

“I would strongly encourage any entrepreneur to commit to the process of competing in the Trout Tank,” Durocher said. “It’s not just about getting in front of the School of 30, which is very valuable in-and-of itself, but it’s about the process of distilling your vision down to 10 to 15 slides and communicating your dream in a compelling fashion in just five minutes.”

Durocher continued, “The most valuable part of the entire process is the journey you take to get yourself prepared. Give yourself and your business the gift of playing full out”

What’s Next?

While Safe Ride 4 Kids is still in discussions with lenders about potential funding – namely, First National Denver, presenting sponsor of the Sept. 2015 Trout Tank – Durocher is confident that he will find the right fit in a lender or investor. As a result of Leading Edge and Trout Tank, Durocher has also been able to make other great connections with strategic partners.

Since working with the SBDC, Safe Ride 4 Kids has grown revenue by over 200 percent. “Working with the SBDC has had a significant impact on my business because, as an entrepreneur, I often felt isolated and overwhelmed with all there is it to learn and know about starting and growing a business,” Durocher said.

Safe Ride 4 Kids is at a very exciting point in its business growth journey. “We have achieved some pretty amazing success so far and have done that applying what we knew and had learned along the way.”

Wong Way Veg

When Lisa Wong stepped foot into the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center in 2011, her dream of starting a food truck in Denver was just that – a dream. Wong envisioned herself running a business that would marry her love for vegetarian food with her passion for building community. Two years later, her dream became a reality.

But Wong’s dream didn’t come to life without hard work. In the fall of 2012, she enrolled in the NxLeveL for Creatives program and buckled down to write a business plan for her food truck. Her plan was reviewed by bankers from Wells Fargo and accountants from EKS&H and Wong was awarded first place in the Denver Metro SBDC’s NxLeveL for Creatives business plan competition.

After the NxLeveL course ended, Wong kept on trucking. She continued to visit the SBDC for routine consulting appointments to get assistance in a variety of areas from marketing to business-related legal advice. “Whether I have new ideas, feel stuck, or need a push in the right direction, the consultants offer knowledgeable advice with genuine concern to better my business. And the fact that all of the consultants have small business ties of their own gives me comfort and confidence in the advice they were giving,” says Wong.

Wong’s dedication and hard work did not go unnoticed among SBDC consultants, and she was referred to a banker who provided her with a small loan to get her business started. While Wong did not get the full $50,000 she originally asked for, she was granted a $13,000 SBA loan.

But she stayed optimistic about her dream. “If it wasn’t for the SBDC consulting and completing the NxLeveL program, I would have never been given the opportunity to connect with the lender and present my plan,” said Wong. And in July of 2013, she sold her first sandwich from her new food truck, WongWayVeg.

Providing original vegetarian cuisine, WongWayVeg is proud of its Colorado roots, showcasing a variety of produce from local farmers and vendors. “WongWayVeg brings a healthier, more compassionate alternative to the streets of Denver,” says Wong. “I am inspired by building community, educating others and seeing people smile when they eat my food.”

WongWayVeg has set up shop at some of the hippest spots in Denver – including Nooch Vegan Market, River North Brewery, the Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair, and Sunday on the Streets, to name a few. Wong also showcased her new business at the Denver Metro SBDC’s 2013 Main Street Mentors Walk in August, where early-stage entrepreneurs were matched with seasoned business owners. Walkers were inspired by her story and delighted by her healthy breakfast and lunch options.

While Wong is still in her first year of business, she has already developed a private label featuring prepackaged foods and selling in small local markets. Wong projects steady sales from her food truck and plans to have enough cash flow to expand into a fully-functional kitchen.

Wong’s story shows that a dedicated entrepreneur can accomplish their goals even when there are roadblocks. “I’ve had to rework a few things, start up with a fraction of the projected cost and face some industry hurdles. Through everything, I was helped and encouraged by the SBDC. WongWayVeg is proof that you can achieve your dreams by starting with a little, making good connections, and being educated and motivated.”

Under the Sky Event Rental

The idea to launch Under the Sky Event Rental came to Rebecca Anderson when she told her seatmate on a flight to Denver about her wedding. She and husband Patrick had their intimate wedding under katas—Nordic tents that resemble Native American tepees. But, she had only seen them rented in her native United Kingdom.

“That planted the seed,” she said.

Back in the U.K., there are roughly 30 kata rental companies, up from just seven in 2007. When she inquired about distributing, she found out her company would be the first in the U.S.
“They’re just perfect for Colorado,” Anderson said. “They match the outdoor beauty.”

The Andersons decided they’d need help getting started. And, they’d be on a tight timeline in order to start renting the tents at the start of this year’s wedding season. They turned to the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (Denver SBDC).

“I thought if we were going to look into it we should write a business plan and see whether it was viable and give ourselves an instructor and some support,” Anderson said.

They got on track with Leading Edge, where they wrote their plan, and Loan Request Preview—a companion program led by Denver SBDC consultant Dale Clack that introduces a business and its owners to a large number of lenders. To date, the program has led to $2.1 million in loans awarded.

“I wasn’t positive we were going to get lending,” Anderson admitted. “I felt like it was kind of a longshot.”

They were floored when they heard back from four lenders right away and ultimately received a $110, 000 from Wells Fargo. Now, their tents are en route to Colorado, which will be their first market. They hope to expand to other areas in the next two to three years. Anderson says they wouldn’t be where they are today without the Denver SBDC.

“It made us accountable,” she said. “The consultants are a resource that I think every small business should know about.”

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