A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to accompany Todd to New York for the Next Big Small Brand Contest. Picture this.
A room full of people excitedly salivating at the prospects of trying six different companies’ delicious attempts to win over the judges in their favor, a panel of celebrity judges (celebrities in the food world at least!), and two humble chocolate makers fresh off the plane from sunny California…fine let’s be honest, from not-as-sunny but still really awesome San Francisco. The room is buzzing with foodies intent on exercising their honed taste buds to suss out who is going to be the next hottest food entrepreneur. Questions fly. Todd and I explain the nuances of our chocolate and how we can tease out the amazingly different flavors from just cocoa beans and sugar. We refill the sample bowls, smile with delight as people’s expressions turn to shock and joy while taste traveling around the globe from Colombia to Venezuela and last, to Madagascar.
Many characters and a few familiar faces later, it is time to announce the winners…Todd and I make our way onto the stage. After thank you’s all around, without a drum roll they announce people’s choice, a fellow SF company, Black Jet. And the Next Big Small Brand Winner is…New York SuperFoods. WAIT WHAT? NOT DANDELION? Hold up.
So we didn’t win. But we met some amazing people, now have a beautifully done video about what we do, and NY SuperFoods is an awesome up-and-coming company who could really use the branding help to go big. We were so lucky to be a part of the event and had a blast spreading the word about our chocolate to the other coast.
While we were in New York, we took the opportunity to stop by and see friends at the Meadow and Formaggio Essex (both carry our chocolate). The Meadow’s display was beautiful and the shop was an oasis of calm in the craziness of New York. Formaggio is located in food mecca with different vendors around the periphery reminiscent of markets in Europe. We are so excited they are selling our chocolate.
We also took a field trip to the Bronx (I made it to 4 out of 5 boroughs while I was there!) to see Jim Greenberg at Union Confectionary who has a 1950’s Otto Hansel wrapping machine for us to check out. He showed us around his wonderland of vintage temperers, panners (used to make chocolate covered nuts, etc), and other candy-making equipment. The crowning glory (besides our excitement at seeing the wrapping machine) was a mini model chocolate factory built for the 1896 Chicago World’s Fair that purportedly inspired Hershey to move from confections to making chocolate. It is crazy to me that factories used to be run from one engine attached to a series of giant leather belts…feeling pretty good about working in a “modern” chocolate factory.
I even managed to squeeze in some touristy fun. Todd was a great sport about being a “tourist” for the day (he is from Connecticut, which for you West coasters with hazy East coast geography is right next to New York). Between calls back to the shop to make sure everything was going okay in SF, I managed to get him to pose for a picture at Grand Central Station and we may or may not have taken a whirl on the Staten Island ferry just to get a closer look at Lady Liberty. We also did some “research” about what makes the best hot chocolate by sampling what NY had to offer. We will be unveiling our results when our Valencia Street space opens.
All in all, a great first trip to New York and being part of the Next Big Small Brand Contest was an amazing experience.