Contest aims to find next hot ‘foodpreneur’

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It seems fitting that “foodpreneurship” is heating up nationwide. After all, where there’s smoke …

In this case, the fire is in the kitchen—lit by countless entrepreneurs looking to find a recipe for business success. Consider the explosion of food trucks and farmers’ markets, burger bars and brewery bites. Economic woes or not, people have to eat.

As IBJ reported last month, Indiana has joined about two dozen other states in allowing home-based food vendors to sell certain products with minimal state oversight, making it easier—and less expensive—for would-be entrepreneurs to explore the marketplace.

Now local food-business incubator Indy’s Kitchen is teaming up with equipment supplier Reliable Water Services to sponsor the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge. About 60 aspiring entrepreneurs entered the regional competition, which will award prizes worth $3,500 to the winner.

Finalists will participate in a June 19 showdown at Indy’s Kitchen, which rents space in its Central Avenue commercial kitchen to food businesses of all kinds. The top competitors also will be invited to show off their products at the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce’s June 20 SchmoozaPalooza event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where attendees will choose a “People’s Choice” winner.

Indianapolis resident Becky Eaton is excited to be one of the four judges. A foodpreneur herself, Eaton launched Becky’s Healthy Kitchen part-time early last year and says interest in her healthy cooking classes has been encouraging. She's eager to help others find their niche, even if it means more competition for her.

“People are coming up with good ideas all the time,” she said, but financing them can be a challenge—particularly for food-related businesses.

So the $2,500 in seed money that comes with the grand prize (along with a $500 gift certificate for professional cookware and $500 worth of consulting and commercial kitchen time) is a big draw, she said.

“We are so excited to help local entrepreneurs who have an innovative food-business idea but need resources to get started,” Reliable Water President Lynne Robinson said in a prepared statement.  “It’s very gratifying to know we can help kick-start someone’s culinary dream.”

The Milwaukee-based company, which provides water heaters, boilers and water softeners to commercial enterprises including restaurants, has a service center in Indianapolis.

Joining Eaton on the judging panel: Ian Kille, executive chef at MCL Restaurant & Bakery; Emory Constanios, executive chef at Hilton Indianapolis North; and Jan Chronic of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

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