Female food pros serve samples, compete for $10K in local competition

WASHINGTON Glen’s Garden Market is known for its cold beers, killer sandwiches and locally grown veggies, but the mission of the Dupont Circle grocery spot extends beyond food.

When Danielle Vogel opened Glen’s Garden Market five years ago, she did so with the goal to make incremental climate change progress. One way to do that, she found, is by supporting and showcasing local businesses that carry out environmentally sustainable practices.

In fact, in five years, Vogel has helped 79 local food businesses launch their products in her store. Of those 79 companies, 44 are women-owned and Vogel wants to see this number grow.

In March, she announced a competition, called AccelerateHERdc, “to identify, incubate and accelerate the next great lady-led food concept in our region,” Vogel explained.

The grand prize is a no-strings-attached $10,000 investment, plus mentorship.

After receiving nearly 70 applications, Vogel and a team of judges narrowed the finalists down to seven. And on April 22, the public will get a taste of what these businesses are all about at the AccelerateHERdc live pitch competition.

From noon to 2 p.m. at Glen’s, the finalists will be dishing up samples of their products for a free community tasting. Attendees can expect everything from baked goods to booze — even salad.

Then at 2 p.m., the finalists will deliver a three-minute pitch to the judges, after which the winner will be selected.

The community tasting is free and open to the public, and is part of Glen’s Earth Day birthday celebration, which features live music, food demonstrations and the debut of a special anniversary beer with Port City Brewing Company from noon to 4 p.m.

Meet the AccelerateHERdc finalists:
Bakefully Yours 

When Sarah Seligman launched her business in September 2016, she never imagined her office would be a kitchen. The straight-A student had aspirations to work in the FBI, but didn’t make it past the polygraph test. So Seligman got a part-time job in a butcher shop, and that jump-started her interest in running a small, local business. 

On the side, she always enjoyed baking — especially gluten- and dairy-free treats to keep to a paleo diet. And now she is doing just that — but for others to enjoy as well — at her Herndon, Virginia-based business, Bakefully Yours.  Her products include chocolate chip cookies (vegan, paleo and dairy-free), coconut brittle (vegan and gluten-free), and a paleo brownie (grain-free, dairy-free and gluten-free), which she sells online and in about 20 local retail locations.

If Seligman wins the AccelerateHERdc competition, she plans to upgrade to bigger equipment (she makes all of her baked goods using a 20-quart mixer and one oven in a kitchen she rents from a gelato and macaroon business). 

(Photo courtesy Sarah Seligman) 


Little Wild Things City Farm

Mary Ackley and Chelsea Barker are the leading ladies behind D.C.’s Little Wild Things City Farm, an urban farming operation that grows microgreens, shoots, salad greens and edible flowers in a tiny plot of land outside a monastery in the heart of the city. You can also find them growing greens in a warehouse at Union Market.

The business is about three years old and services many local chefs and restaurants in the D.C. area. Home cooks can also access their produce via neighborhood markets, farmers markets and From the Farmer deliveries.

If Little Wild Things wins the competition, Ackley and Barker plan to use the money to help pay for a new indoor grow space in D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood, plus a germination room and walk-in cooler.

(Photo courtesy Amber Breitenberg)

Nomad Dumplings 

In the Northeast D.C. shared kitchen space, Mess Hall, Karen Hoefener folds about 500 dumplings a day by hand. The Georgetown University graduate got into the dumpling business last year, after returning to D.C. from China and being less than impressed with the dumpling selection in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store.

She decided to make her own, based on the flavors found in Chinese street food, only without all the salt and preservatives. Hoefener fills her colorful dumplings with ingredients such as free-range eggs and Chinese chives; smoked tofu and purple cabbage; and bok choy, chili and mushroom.

With the prize money, Hoefener would like to make a bigger investment in recycled packaging and start a foundation through which she can funnel a portion of profits to different charities.

“It is my core belief that all companies can be socially responsible while generating a profit,” she said. 

(Courtesy Karen Hoefener)

Tenth Ward Distilling Company

Monica Pearce is the force behind Tenth Ward Distilling in Frederick, Maryland, where she makes whiskey and barrel-aged brandy (plus cider and mead) using locally sourced grains. Pearce is in the process of expanding her nearly 3-year-old business, and the competition’s prize money would help support that growth, as well as her barrel program.

(Emily Gude Photography)

True Syrups & Garnishes

Tory Pratt graduated from Georgetown University and worked in international development before she started experimenting with cocktail ingredients. And when she first jumped into the business, she said, “I really didn’t expect it to work.” 

But it did, and now Pratt’s made-in-D.C. syrups can be found in retail locations across the country and on Amazon Prime. If Pratt wins the prize money, she wants to buy a ginger peeler (she said her employees spend way too many hours a week peeling ginger), raise her employees’ salaries, and start a series of cocktail classes for the public. 

(Courtesy Tory Pratt)

Good Sense Farm’s Umami Spice

Zachari Curtis started Good Sense Farm in 2014 to grow mushrooms, and ended up making a popular spice mixture, called Umami Spice, which is a blend of dried mushrooms, herbs and sea salt. (Curtis said the spice is an excellent addition to eggs, salad dressings, soups, popcorn and proteins.) 

Winning AccelerateHERdc would allow Curtis to take her business to the next level with new packaging and updated labels to make her product stand out on grocery store shelves. (Currently, she is selling her Umami Spice at farmers markets and on Etsy.)




More Than Water 

Danielle Russo’s product hasn’t launched yet, but when it does, she is hoping it makes a big environmental impact.

Russo’s goal is to tackle waste generated from bottled water, which outsold soda for the first time in 2016. She is working to bring a 100-percent plant-based plastic bottle to the market (made mostly from sugar cane), that biodegrades in about six months. (The traditional plastic water bottle takes hundreds of years to breakdown in a landfill, and the recycling rate for plastic in the U.S. is only 23 percent.)

With the prize money, Russo wants to double down on her bottle and buy a mold so that she can make compostable lids, as well.

(Courtesy More Than Water)


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