2016 Conference

This year's conference focused on the way small businesses can be activists for change in their communities. 


Sessions covered ground from creating good jobs, learning product development from the Plum Organics team, diving deep into financing, and learning how to become an even stronger food business owner activist. 

Key note address: Cities, Food, and opportunity: Shaping our lives

Presented by:: Caleb Zigas, Leticia Landa, and Patty Unterman

Our 'Ask An Immigrant Lunch' was hosted by La Cocina Entrepreneurs,  who were introduced by Gustavo Arellano, the creator of this gem of a column.

Creating Good Jobs in Food - Navigating Minimum Wage, No Tipping, Benefits, Labor Shortages and more

Time: 10:15-11:15

Speakers: Reem Assil (Reem’s California), Kori (Red Bay Coffee) -

Moderator: Katie Booser (Inner City Advisors)

The wage gap, tipping and raising minimum wage: we've been grappling with it all in the food industry. The important question remains: what is a GOOD job in food? How can small business owners successfully build livelihoods for themselves and their employees? Join ICA, Reem Assil of Reem’s California and Red Bay coffee for this hands on session on changing our communities one good food job at a time.

Food Waste Warriors

Time: 10:15-11:15

Speakers: Dylan Bondy (Imperfect Produce), Loren Schaffzin (Food Runners), Eduardo Rollet (Alter Eco), Deagon Williams (Culinary Business Strategy)

Moderator:  Clark-Rossi Beyer (La Cocina)

How can we influence the consumer to adopt or support proper food waste practices whilst maintaining a fiscally beneficial business strategy? What incentives can we put in place to promote food waste awareness and management? Come and listen to these food waste warriors working in the Bay Area and discover different ways in which small businesses can lead by example when it comes to tackling food waste


Time: 11-25-12:25

Speakers: Ron Tanner (SFA)Nona Lim (Nona Lim's)Quintana Kardel (Whole Foods Market)

Moderator: Emiliana Puyana (La Cocina)

Speciality food is no longer niche. Big CPG also see this opportunity and are "local washing" their products. How do small producers compete? how do minority producers making ethnic fodos that are in demand find opportunity in the grocery shelves? Recommended reading here.

Activist Owner: Can you fight social issues and run a good Food Business?

Time: 14:10-15:10

Speakers: Cristina Martinez (South Philly Barbacoa), Anthony Myint (Perennial), Shakirah Smiley (Bi Rite family of businesses)

Moderator: Leticia Landa (La Cocina)

Food businesses, especially small locally-focused ones, deal with controversial issues every day. While these issues can be difficult to navigate, small food businesses have a unique opportunity to employ practices that promote social justice. By hiring from within their communities and sourcing locally, consciously or not, small business owners, often working with shoe-string budgets, are on the front lines of decision making that can promote social justice. Cristy, the owner of South Philly Barbacoa (named "#6 Best New Restaurant in America" by Bon Appetit) will share her advocacy for undocumented restaurant workers, Perennial will speak about their commitment to environmental justice and Bi-Rite Market will share their history of showcasing and advocating for small producers -- and debate the merits and challenges of their choices. Recommended video here.


Time: 15:20-16:20

Speakers: Lora Smith (Appalachian Food Summit), Tunde Wey (from Lagos), Heena Patel (Rasoi), Veronica Salazar (El Huarache Loco)

Moderator: Caleb Zigas (La Cocina)

On any given random Tuesday, La Cocina receives a request to change one of its catering bids, "Can you just make the menu," the caller might say, "a little more American?" It is an impossible task. How do you imagine an American food that doesn't include the influence of immigrants on our culture? And, while we ultimately answer the caller's question, it often leaves us asking ourselves: what exactly is American food? In this panel, a group of chefs, activists and writers will share their own experiences of American food before engaging the audience in a conversation about how to evolve the dialogue about our national identity in the context of food.

the hand that feedS

Time: 15:20 - 16:20

Moderator: Anthony Chang (Kitchen Table Advisors)

Speakers: Javier Zamora (JSM Organics), Doniga Markegard (Markegard Family Grassfed)

Is it economically viable to run small scale farms, in a sustainable way? It takes a few years of successfully building a farm businesses to get it to a stage where it's a living farm. Come and hear, straight from the horse's mouth, about our farmers' motivations behind opting for small scale farming and the inherent challenges that come with. And of course, what you can do to support this integral part of our food system.

How to Get Investment as a Women-Owned Business: Challenges & Strategies for Success

Time: 10:15-11:15

Speakers: Donna Sky (The Love & Hummus Co.), Thomas Li (DZH Phillips), Nona Lim (Nona Lim’s), Patrick Wyman (Whole Foods Market)

Moderator: Mary Gassen (Noe Valley Bakery )

"On average, women start with only half as much capital as men." Getting capital investment in the food industry poses its own challenges. Learn strategies for success from women business owners who have navigated the complications of securing and retaining investment firsthand.

Putting our money where our mouth iS

Time: 11:25-12:25

Speakers: Elena Chavez Quezada (Haas Fund), Geetika Agrawal (La Cocina), and more

Moderator: Eli Zigas (SPUR)

Cities and consumers continue to clamour in support of small businesses, but few would agree that starting and running a small business in San Francisco (or any city) has become easier as urban economies grow. In an era of rising rents, labor, and racial segregation,what can cities do to actually keep themselves small business friendly? What role can small food businesses play in creating economic growth for themselves and their employees? What can each of us as change agents in cities do to foster the small business ecosystem?


Time: 11:25-12:25

Speaker: Pei-Ru Ko (Real Food Real Stories) , Michelle Pusateri (Nana Joes)

The biggest power small brands as they compete in an increasingly crowded food industry is that their food related to real, personal stories. How do you tell your story in a way that stands out and resonates with the consumer? In this panel, learn from story telling experts and then apply the skills to actually practice your own story telling sales pitch. 

Let The Shelf be your Talker

Time: 14:10-15:10

Speakers: Alli Ball (Allison Ball Consulting), Quintana Kardel (Whole Foods Market), and more

Moderator: Lisa Murray (La Cocina)

How do you turn your high quality product and story into sales on the shelf? What drives customers to pick up your product over all others?  Merchandising experts and buyers from large scale grocery stores as well as speciality stores, share tips & stories for success in a competitive marketplace. Recommended reading here.

Building your food start-up into a leading national brand: Perspectives from the Plum Organics team

Time: 14:10-15:10

Speakers: Team from Plum Organics

Moderator: Emiliana Puyana (La Cocina)

Industry insiders from Emeryville-based Plum Organics will share insights and common pitfalls building a successful food brand. Founded in 2005, Plum Organics is now a leading provider of organic baby, tots & kids foods, including pouch purees, finger foods, lunchbox snacks & more! This session will be hosted by a cross-functional Plum panel with expertise in marketing, social impact, product innovation, and packaging. The panel will start by sharing how they spend their days at the office and then host break-out sessions where you can ask questions specific to your start-ups.


Time: 15:20-16:20

Speaker: Shakirah Simley (Bi-rite)

This hands on session will talk about the different levels of community engagement business owners can have and give you practical tools and tips to fight for your chosen cause through your business.


  A big thank you to our Main Sponsors for helping put together this conference

A big thank you to our Main Sponsors for helping put together this conference

  A big thank you to our Community Partners for helping us put together this conference.

A big thank you to our Community Partners for helping us put together this conference.

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