Thursday, August 15, 2013

Foodies Descend on Trade Center 128

Trade Center 128 welcomed #MINFoodie5 big time last night. Big sign, big space, big welcome.

Awesome Visibility On 128!
Crowd of Foodies
So many great products, where do I start? The four presenters chosen by popular vote were Dancing Deer, Graba-bite, Foodie Journey and Salsa Mayoral. As usual, I tried to check them out before the presentations.

Caramel Sea Salt
Dancing Deer had samples of their delicious brownies and  caramel sea salt squares. After my first bite of the sea salt caramel square I commenced telling everybody I met to try it. Their new From Our House to Your House Gift Medley is a mix of treats packaged in a cute house-shaped box, and, yes, it includes 4 caramel sea salt squares. It's the perfect housewarming gift.
Julie from Dancing Deer Talking about the
"From Our House to Your House Gift Medley"
My absolute favorite of the night was the unique black salsa from Villa Mexico Cafe. I have never tasted better salsa anywhere!  It's a family recipe bearing the family name: Salsa Mayoral.  You can order it online and they ship nationwide.  They got my vote for the American Airlines Business Extra points. They got lots of other folks' votes too. They won first prize.

Bessie of Villa Mexico Cafe with Salsa and Virgin of Guadalupe
Foodie Journey is your personal food concierge service. When you're traveling and you have no idea where to eat, and crowd-sourced apps and guidebooks (yes, according to Foodie Journey, people still read guidebooks) don't cut it, they give you recommendations of the best meal for you. That's right, not "the best meal" but the best meal for you.
Foodie Journey Banner
I somehow missed photographing Grab a Bite, the  online service that helps you discover new, local, great restaurants. They have a website and an app and the service is free to the restaurant and the customer.

Beautifully Bottled Real Honest Tea
My second favorite taste of the night, after the unique black salsa, was the white tea with apricot and jasmine from  Tea Cuvee. Imagine a glamorous bottled cold brewed tea! This is cold tea that tastes like tea, not like weird artificial flavors and sweeteners. There are no sweeteners and no weird additives. It's just real tea, brewed in Boston. This is more like a fine wine to serve with dinner than an "ice tea" you grab at a convenience store. Like!

Tea Cuvee

Salt Traders had a whole array of their gourmet salts and sugars available for tasting. I tasted all of the salts and one of the sugars. They have amazing smoked salts, smoked the traditional Viking way. In addition to the Maine smoked salt, I very much liked the sagemary salt and the porcini salt.

Awesome Smoked Salt
Local and global meet at Mass Innovation Nights all the time, and #MINFoodie5 was no exception. Dining experience innovators ranged from  Kitchensurfing , which connects local chefs to folks who want a  unique and intimate dining experience at home or your chosen local venue, to  Taste Trekkers, food tourism specialists who offer vacation planning for foodies, those folks who plan their vacations around food and foodie events.

Plan Your Foodie Vacation Now!

The Crowd Enjoying The Foodie Innovations

The crowd had plenty to see and taste before and after the presentations. There was olive oil from Sicily, innovative chocolate packaging, energy shots, an innovative wine and beer delivery app, and a new insert that turns a canning jar into a bento-box style lunch box.

Olive Oil from Olio Taibi
Pour-N-Pack Handing Out Chocolate


Lunches in Canning Jars from Cuppow

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Merrimack Valley Sandbox Social Impact Pitch Contest

Last night eight entrepreneurs pitched their social impact ideas for big cash prizes in front of the judges and the audience  at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox  in Lowell.  This was my first visit to the Sandbox's new space on the 6th floor of the Lowell Community Health Center. What a great space!

See those cool windows on the top floor? That's the place.
The crowd, about 70 or more, was very enthusiastic.
Crowd Checking Out The Tables And Networking

For a second, I thought I'd stumbled into #MINFoodie5 a day early, because the first entrepreneur I talked to was Christina Hamilton of Delightful Surprise Sweets.  Not only are the sweet treats delicious and customized, but the business provides opportunity for people with developmental disabilities.
Delightful Surprises

As I do at Mass Innovation Nights, I tried to check out all the projects/products before the pitches.  I talked to so many amazing people, that my head is still buzzing the next day. And I took so many photos, I should probably do a photo album in addition to a blog entry.

For me, the most amazing thing was the diversity of the ideas. Professional development for nannies, textile recycling, drumming circles for nursing homes, anti-bullying programs, and so much more.

Soon enough , it was time for the pitch contest. The judges for the competition were:
I learned more about the professional life of nannies from Helen Adeosun's pitch than I ever knew before. SitterCycle is an online learning platform that delivers professional development for nannies so they can give better care and improve their wage and occupational outcomes. SitterCycle won third prize with an truly excellent pitch.

Helen Adeosun -- SitterCycle
Angie Estevez's pitch for  Casa Shalom took me back to my roots in social activism, thinking of all the amazing stuff my mother has accomplished in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable coming out of a faith-based tradition long before tools and resources like Casa Shalom.

Angie Estevez - Casa Shalom

Monique Morimoto, Stephen Whitney, and Cornell Coley  are the first presenters I ever heard with an accompanying beat. They took turns describing  their Visionary Drumming project to provide group drumming classes to promote healing, empowerment and community building in places like nursing homes. While one spoke, the other two kept up the beat with shakers. Very cool.  They won second prize and I almost voted for them for fan favorite.

Visionary Drumming Keeping Up the Beat
Joy Mosenfelder of the Merrimack Valley Time Exchange has really polished up her pitch since I spoke with her at the Sandbox Summit in June.  It's such a great idea. Basically members earn and spend time based on their time spent providing and receiving services. Members  exchange services, skills, and resources, all without money. An hour is an hour, regardless of what kind of service. It's a great community building project. This got my vote for the fan favorite.
Merrimack Valley Time Exchange -- Joy Mosenfelder
I enjoyed talking with Carolyn Ruf about Be a Buddy Not a Bully,  an initiative aimed at making schools safer by empowering students with a fun and engaging anti-bullying curriculum. I'd like to see this as part of every school curriculum.
Be A Buddy Not A Bully -- Carolyn Ruf
Textile recycling seems to be a big theme lately, and it should be. Way too much goes to waste. Lallitara upcycles Indian saris into beautiful clothing. What I loved about Bijal Shah's pitch is the global reach, bringing together the informal textile recyclers in India and manufacturing jobs in Lawrence. She won first prize AND the fan favorite voting. Well-deserved.
Bijal Shah of lallitara Talking Textile Recycling with Raj Meiville

Bijal Shah Making Her Winning Pitch -- Wearing A Top Made From Upcycled Saris
It took me awhile to remember where I'd heard Reem Yared's pitch before. It was back at the epic #MIN48 in March! Remember  your early entrepreneurship experience mowing neighbors' lawns and shoveling their driveways? Help Around Town is a modern spin on that idea: an online platform creating local jobs by connecting people needing help with people needing work. Still an awesome idea.

Judges Listening to Reem Yared of Help Around Town
Wild card presenter Jessica Marchand pitched AddressSlavery, a project that takes donations of  high-quality upscale clothing and accessories and then sells them to use the proceeds for  projects seeking to prevent modern slavery.

Jessica Listening to the Judge's Question
So many great ideas, so much energy and enthusiasm for solving real problems creatively, so many great people... what a great night in a beautiful city!

Great Night - Beautiful City