Boise Entrepreneur Week Spotlights Food Startups

It might seem odd to some people that Boise Entrepreneur Week (BEW) includes food vendors, but it actually makes a lot of sense. BEW isn’t limited to technology, and many entrepreneurs get their start in the food industry because it has relatively low barriers to entry.

And the issues food entrepreneurs deal with aren’t very different from those of tech entrepreneurs. Whether it’s potato chips or computer chips, you still need an idea, staff members, funding, and a go-to-market strategy. 

Idaho, in particular, as an agricultural and food processing state, is a natural spot to spawn food-oriented startups, and that’s why BEW also includes its food-oriented pitch competition Trailmix, in partnership with Albertsons. 

“The value of Trailmix is that it allows food and beverage producers an opportunity to engage with their community, network with retailers to glean valuable insights on selling consumer packaged goods in grocery stores, compete in a supportive environment, and highlight their products to a wide audience,” said Katie Baker, executive director of FARE Idaho and co-chair of the BEW food track, in an email message. “Food and drink are in every facet of our daily lives. Being creative in the food and beverage space has taken center stage throughout history and it highlights our diverse culinary scene.”

The BEW food track

Food and drink are having a moment in Idaho, spawned from everything ranging from COVID, which led us to be more mindful of what we were putting in our bodies and more interested in cooking at home, to the locavore movement, which emphasizes local foods, both for gustatory and environmental reasons.

2021 Trailmix products. Image courtesy Boise Entrepreneur Week.

That’s the impetus behind FARE Idaho, which is intended to unite Idaho food and beverage communities to ensure that independents get a seat at the table with an opportunity to collectively impact positive change within their industry, Baker said. It’s sort of like an Idaho Technology Council — except about food. 

BEW has often included food-oriented programming in its presentations, and this year the various food programming is being collected at Trailhead to make it easier to find, said Alina Gilmore, program manager for Trailhead Boise and co-chair of the BEW food track.

Like the tech track, this year’s food track is bringing several past winners back, as well as showcasing several previous winners’ products in an invitation-only cooking class and generally working to expand the knowledge of the culinary scene within Idaho, Gilmore said.

Here’s a taste – did you see what I did there? – of the BEW food track programming.

Community Sustainability

Thursday, Oct 27, 9-9:30 am

Nick Crabbs, with Hillfort Farms, and Alx Stevens, managing editor of the Idaho Business Review, will walk you through what intentional sustainability looks like and how to go about implementing it in your daily routines. 

What’s the Secret Sauce? 

Thursday, Oct 27, 10-10:45 am

Two food buyers and two food entrepreneurs discuss ideas around what’s behind “the secret sauce” between food buyers and food entrepreneurs. They can touch on:

  • What to look for in consumer packaged goods (CPG)
  • What is the secret sauce? What does it look like? 
  • What do food buyers look for? 
  • What should food entrepreneurs know before approaching food buyers? 
  • Reverse development corporation
  • Food trends
  • Buzzwords

Panelists – including food buyer Lark & Larder — can ask audience members questions on the spot as well to engage the audience and find out what they’d like to know from food buyers/food entrepreneurs – perhaps even taking a turn on the panel themselves.

Former Trailmix Winners Panel: Tips of the Food Industry and Success Stories in Idaho

Thursday, Oct 27, 11-12 pm

Join us for a panel discussion with previous Trailmix winners/participants to talk about where they are now, what got them to where they are, the dos/don’ts, tips/tricks and what it’s like running a CPG in Idaho. Learn about their success stories and tips for the food industry. Panelists will include Snacktivist’s Joni Kindwall-Moore; Killer Whey’s Louis Armstrong; and Erth Beverage’s Eric & Samantha, moderated by Gilmore

Food Expo

The Trailmix food track culminates with the Trailmix Food Expo, which gives attendees the opportunity to try foods developed by Idaho and national entrepreneurs. To be held Thursday, Oct 27 from 3-4 pm, the food expo is the precursor to the Trailmix Pitch Competition.

You’ll get to taste exceptional products from startups such as: 

And more.


Of course, the highlight of BEW’s food track is the Trailmix food pitch competition. To be held Thursday, Oct 27 from 4:15-6 pm, food and beverage startups compete for a chance at winning a $50,000 grand prize — as well as shelf space at presenting sponsor Albertsons’ Broadway store, with $5,000 going to the runner-up – to help launch their products. Judges will assess innovation, market traction, taste, shelf readiness for large retail, ingredients and the unique value proposition of the food product. 

Here are the seven finalists who will be competing:

  • Three Sisters Meat (Idaho) (competed in last year’s Trailmix Comp)
    • All-natural, Northern Spanish-style dry-cured chorizo.
    • Owner: Jaime Fernandez
  • Sunshine Spice Cafe (Idaho) 
    • Saffron green tea
    • Owners: Homeyra, Bahar S. Amir, Khatera, and Narges (4 sisters)
  • Freeze Dried Depot (Idaho) 
    • Freeze-dried healthy and fun snacks for children
    • Owner: David Leaman
  • The Retrogradery (Idaho) 
    • Herbal-inspired superfood boosts for women’s cycle wellness
    • Owner: Randee 
  • The Farmer Foodie (MA) 
    • Cashew-based cheese alternatives that are shelf stable, sustainable, and plant-based
    • Owner: Alison Elliott
  • Newell Farmlands (NY/CT) 
    • Fresh whole ingredient marinade and cooking sauce
    • Owners: Leighton Shields
  • Big Sandy Organics (Montana) 
    • Hand-roasted ancient grains — similar to Corn Nuts, only better
    • Owners: Thomas Dilworth & Heather Dilworth

It’ll be one fun, food-packed day. And remember, entrepreneurs are supposed to be hungry.

Sharon Fisher is a digital nomad who writes about entrepreneurship.

This article was created as a collaboration between Boise Entrepreneur Week, Built in Idaho and Trailhead