Triangle Food Makers September 2016 Pitches

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Meet the four food startups that pitched their businesses before investors and other food entrepreneurs at Triangle Food Makers fourth event, this time in downtown Durham. 

Ello Raw 

Becky Holmes just returned from one of the premier events for natural products, the Natural Products Expo, which brought together 25,000 people in the natural foods industry. 
Holmes launched the company, which makes a line of raw dessert bites with just six natural ingredients, while she was a student at Duke University. In the past 12 months, she’s sold more than 7,000 pouches of product, and just recently earned shelf space in local Whole Foods Markets. 
Ello Raw products have also appeared backstage at The Daily Show, said Holmes. And at the Expo, she walked away with 15 wholesale orders in hand—since returning, she’s received 10 to 15 inquiries each day. 

Ello Raw products
Research shows that 95 percent of all chronic disease comes down to three factors, said Holmes: food choice, toxic ingredients and nutritional deficiencies. 

So Holmes set out to make a product line using natural ingredients like dates, almonds, walnuts, cacao powder, goji berries and himalayan pink salt, together which make up the Goji Cacao Brownie bite. All ingredients are certified raw ingredients, which according to Holmes, means that they have retained their original micronutrients, up to 70-80 percent of which are often lost when heating or cooking food. 
The company is committed to changing the way that people think about food, and throughout this summer, ran a campaign to provide one meal to a hungry child through the NC Food Bank for each product pouch sold. 
The company has received interest from multiple regional and national suppliers, and is investing in equipment that will increase the production efficiency of the product line. Holmes is searching for a strategic investor that can help the company capitalize on its early successes. 

Belgian Waffle Crafters 

Francios Kerckhof immigrated from Belgium to the Triangle three years ago to support his spouse as she transitioned into a research role at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He saw it as an opportunity to bring a Belgian tradition to the Triangle: waffles.

Belgian Waffle Crafters
With a heavy Belgian accent, Kerckhof shared how three years of selling waffles from a food truck has prepared him to take the next step in the business: opening a Belgian Waffle Crafters kiosk at Southpoint Mall in two months. 
In opening the kiosk, the company aims to bring a “waffle invasion” to the Triangle, proving that a model created in Europe can be exported and implemented with success in the United States, said Kerckhof. 
If Kerckhof’s shoes are any indicator, the waffle invasion is already underway. Check out Southpoint Mall this holiday season to sample Kerckhof’s waffles, prepared in a traditional Belgian fashion, using dough (not powder mixed with milk or water) and a special confectioner’s sugar that together creates a rich, textured waffle meant for grabbing on the go. 

Francios Kerckhof with waffle shoes
Francios Kerckhof of Belgian Waffle Crafters wears some waffle bling at Triangle Food Makers September 28, 2016. Credit: Jason Parker/ExitEvent

Spring Run Market 

Launched in Greenville in 2008, Spring Run Market is a family-run farmer’s market that is experiencing rapid growth and popularity in North Carolina’s “fast food capitol.”
According to founder Adam Urwick his hometown of Greenville has the highest per capita rate of fast food franchises anywhere in North Carolina, and is in the top 10 nationwide. 
That fact inspired Urwick and his family to start a business that promotes sustainable farming and production of foods and enables community members to find, purchase and discover fresh and packaged local foods. It enables local farmers to sell their products in a town and county where they otherwise would not be able to do so. 

Spring Run Market
Spring Run began as an open-air market, and quickly grew to eight large canopy tents. 
Then, by customer demand, Spring Run opened a 1,200-square-foot bricks-and-mortar location in 2014, later adding a fresh cafe to diversify the business and bring in additional revenue. 
“The experience that we have had throughout the past eight years, including the last two in a bricks and mortar store, will enable us to find success into the expansion of the market,” said Urwick. 
The family is seeks investment to secure and open a larger 4,000 square foot facility in one of Greenville’s most rapidly developing regions—along the 10th Street Connector between an abundance of Pitt County’s medical facilities and East Carolina University in the uptown neighborhood. This third iteration of the market will incorporate a food, fitness and nutritional center and become one central food hub in Greenville, said Urwick, comparing Spring Run Market to East Coast Organics, based in Durham. 

The Heights Dominican Kitchen 

Yoki Feliz and her husband Oscar were born and raised in New York by Dominican parents. 
“We wanted to bring this experience, the experience of growing up in a Dominican Kitchen, to the South,” said Feliz. To do this, Feliz and her husband are launching their family-run food truck, The Heights Dominican Kitchen, including traditional Dominican dishes like flan, plantains, meatballs, rice, and chicken stew. Feliz was sampling these dishes at the event, and her four varieties of flan, including the seasonally-appropriate pumpkin flan, were quite a hit with the audience. 

The Heights Dominican Kitchen
Yoki Feliz pitches her food truck idea at Triangle Food Makers September 28, 2016. Credit: Jason Parker/ExitEvent
“Sometimes I miss my culture; what better way to share my culture with than by sharing our food,” asked Feliz, who currently works full time as a nurse. “In Dominican culture, we share our love through food.” 
The food truck will launch by the end of 2016, bringing to life a dream to mix their culture and heritage through Dominican food with a Southern twist.

The Heights Dominican Kitchen logo