Salt Lake City is becoming known for its fantastic food scene. What better way to celebrate than a party where people get to sample local food and mingle with small business owners? On April 23, Pierpont Place will host the Foodtrepreneur Festival. The first of its kind, this free event will highlight local food-and-beverage brands. There will be a panel where guests can pick the brains of some of the top foodtrepreneurs in Salt Lake City and later, hobnob with more than 30 local companies.
The woman behind it all, Rachel Hofstetter, considers herself a “food entrepreneur groupie.” Working as the food editor for O, The Oprah Magazine, she sampled many products and got to know the people behind them. “It was pretty much the perfect job,” Hofstetter says. “I was paid to eat and drink!” What really interested her, though, was the story behind each bite of chocolate or cheese. These people started making food in their kitchens, put everything they had into their business, and hoped to be the next big thing with the Oprah stamp of approval—Hofstetter found this inspiring.
When she wrote a story for O, The Oprah Magazine about her favorite food entrepreneurs, readers couldn’t get enough. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. “It was the middle of the recession,” she says. “People were getting back into cooking and getting back to their roots.” The enthusiasm behind the article led her to write a book, Cooking Up A Business, which contains stories from several food entrepreneurs, including recognizable brands like Justin’s Nut Butters and Evol, and features solid business advice and a lot of inspiration. The challenges and passion it took to build each brand made a compelling story. Each product was a story of perseverance, drive and overcoming obstacles. “We all love to know the stories of food we care about,” she says.
Writing the book was a “crash course in entrepreneurship,” says Hofstetter. She had the itch to start something herself, which resulted in a move to Utah to work in the tech industry. Then, she discovered the food scene. The friendly atmosphere and great food of the Downtown Farmers Market—Salt Lake’s hub of local food—charmed Hofstetter. A trip to Caputo’s Market—where she found a whole section of local chocolate and Creminelli Fine Meat—solidified the fact that Salt Lake City’s food scene is booming. She was especially surprised to learn of the thriving distillery scene, with local vodka, gin, whiskey and, of course, craft beer. “Everything to drink in my fridge is local,” she says, laughing.
When she stumbled onto the amazing food scene in Utah, she knew she had to do something big. A “food entrepreneur groupie” couldn’t ignore all the great stories—and food—that Utah had to offer. While touring cross-country with her book, she would have a small tasting at each signing, inviting a few local food businesses to sample their products. She determined that Salt Lake City would be the ideal place for a similar event. Hofstetter wanted to go big this time, with more vendors and a wider audience. Hence, Foodtrepreneur.
First, Hofstetter will be leading a panel discussion with popular local entrepreneurs: Christy Jensen of Mamachari Kombucha, Brittany Thaxton from Vive Juicery, Liz Butcher from Butcher’s Bunches and Michael Dobson of Pop Art Snacks. After that, guests will have an opportunity to sample and visit with over 30 Utah food-and-beverage companies and their founders. At the Foodtrepreneur Festival each company will have their own table, and guests can ask questions about how they got started. “There will be healthy stuff and gourmet stuff,” Hofstetter says. “There will be things you can find in supermarkets, as well as stand-alone shops.” The festival is being sponsored by the Women’s Business Center, which is a part of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. “They’re a huge, empowering organization,” Hofstetter says. It just happens that they were looking to do something with food. Hofstetter and the Women’s Business Center put their heads together, thinking “What would we want to go to?” The answer to that question was an event where people can learn and be inspired to start their own business.
One of the Foodtrepreneur Festival’s panelists, Brittany Thaxton, is behind one of Salt Lake’s most rapidly growing brands—Vive Juicery, who make fresh-pressed juice with local products. “I am so excited for the Foodtrepeneur Festival!” says Brittany. “When you support local, you strengthen our community, diversify our culture and promote economic growth. That’s something worth celebrating. I hope that for those individuals out there that have dreamed about taking the plunge and opening their own business, this festival provides motivation and encouragement to do just that.”
The Foodtrepreneur Festival, which takes place April 23 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Pierpont Place (163 W. Pierpont Ave.), will showcase our unique food scene. Come ready to discover new foods while you take a peek behind the scenes of your favorite food-and-beverage companies. Whether you’re looking to go into business yourself or just enjoy supporting local companies, this promises to be an inspiring and delicious evening.