Boot Camp for Entrepreneurial Foodies

by Hannah York, special to Edible DC Speaker

I recently spent the day in Brookland participating in Local Food Lab’s food startup boot camp hosted by Mess Hall DC. For those who don’t know, Mess Hall DC is DC’s newest culinary shared incubation space. Local Food Lab’s boot camp focused on building food-specific entrepreneurial skills in order to create a successful startup. With Mess Hall DC hardly three weeks old, this was the perfect place to gather a group of would-be food entrepreneurs who were trying to organize and take their product, service, or idea to the next level.

The audience was made up of food lovers who were at various stages of their business plans, including a man who had perfected his cookie recipe and was ready to start selling; an organic Popsicle producer; and a healthy food delivery service. I myself didn’t have a concrete product or service to sell, but a surplus of ideas that I was trying to synthesize and develop into one golden nugget. What I got from the boot camp was a rigorous guided tour through the startup process.

The presenter, Krysia Zajonc, had a wealth of experience to pull from and presented a very informative and well-organized curriculum, particularly focusing on the steps of writing a business plan, with a heavy focus on getting to know our market and customer. She encouraged us to ‘get outside’ to discuss our product with different people to get honest feedback (Read: don’t just ask mom and dad if they think your jam is tasty!).

We finished the day with a panel discussion featuring three local DC startup leaders: Jason Lundberg of From the Farmer, Al Goldberg of Mess Hall DC, and Mike Lenard of TaKorean. Each panelist discussed their paths and cautioned of the extremely long days and high hurdles to overcome. Al Goldberg told a story of one day finding out a prohibitively high, unanticipated expense and the next finding a grant through the city for which he could apply.


Goldberg stressed that for each extreme low there will be an extreme high, a great lesson to take with us as we return to our own entrepreneurial rollercoaster ride. However, more so than the technical information, the beauty of this boot camp was being surrounded by people with whom I was sharing the same dream — a great resource to connect and work alongside these people for a day, and even into the future.