Mary Lemmer, co-founder of Ann Arbor-based Iorio's Gelato, says Ann Arbor's food entrepreneurs "take a collaborative approach, where it's not about competition but about sharing resources and ideas and helping each other."
To celebrate that food entrepreneur ecosystem and expand opportunities to learn from one another, the University of Michigan (U-M) Zell Lurie Institute's annual Entrepalooza entrepreneurial symposium will focus on food entrepreneurship from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Michigan League.
During this year's event, titled Entrepalooza: Recipes for Entrepreneurial Success, attendees will learn firsthand from successful founders during hands-on workshops and a showcase food fair. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and the event kicks off at 9:15 a.m. with a keynote address from Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's.
Food entrepreneurs with a connection to Ann Arbor will lead a series of workshops on launching and growing food startups. Workshop leaders will include Bob McClure of McClure’s Pickles and Eric Ersher of Zoup! The event will conclude with a food fair, where attendees can learn more about food-related startups founded by U-M alumni and students.
Lemmer has been involved with Entrepalooza for many years, starting with attending the event as a student at U-M's business school. After she graduated in 2010 and started working in venture capital with startups, she was asked back to the symposium as a speaker. This year, she's not speaking at Entrepalooza, but her business will be offering samples and showcasing their new product packaging during the food fair portion of the event.
Lemmer began her gelato business as a food cart while she was still in high school. Later, with help from her brother Nick while he was still a college student, she expanded into a retail store. This year, the business is branching out into selling pints of its product through grocery stores.
Lemmer says participating in the food fair is a great opportunity to share with the greater U-M community about her company's current stage of growth.
"It's the story of having gone from a little food cart, selling gelato for events and parties, to having a retail store to now having gelato in stores across the region and, hopefully soon, across the country," she says. "It was important for us to include U-M Zell Lurie as part of that journey, because they've been there in support of us since the beginning."
More information and registration are available here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Mary Lemmer.