Monthly Archives: January 2011

Featured Entrepreneurs of the Week: Dave Lefkow and Justin Esch

Dave Lefkow & Justin Esch

Our ZINO Society featured ZINOpreneur Members this week are Dave Lefkow and Justin Esch, Bacontrepreneurs for J&D’s Foods, Inc. Dave and Justin presented their company at the ZINO Society ZINO Marketplace Investment Forum featuring consumer products and services in November, 2010.  J&D’s Foods was selected as a fund finalist and ultimately as the fund winner! We asked Dave and Justin to share the answers to a few questions about their company.

  • What is your one-sentence elevator pitch? . . . J&D’s Foods delivers flavors people LOVE in new and innovative ways.
  • How did you come up with the idea for your company? . . . Bacon Salt, our first product, was inspired by a drink called a Mitch Morgan, which is a shot of bourbon with a bacon garnish. Seeing that served in a popular bar in Colorado made us realize that the world needed a seasoning that made everything taste like bacon.
  • The word that best describes your company culture is . . . Unique!
  •  How are you different from your competition? . . . We have delicious and innovative products, we’re incredibly hard-working (there are currently only 4 of us) and nimble (we can launch a new product for under $1,000), and have perhaps the most cost-efficient, highly effective marketing strategy in the food industry.
  • What is the biggest challenge you face? . . . Not having enough capital to continue our aggressive rate of growth.
  • How much money have you raised to date? . . .  $985,000
  • If someone gave your company $3 million tomorrow, how would you use the money? . . . We would continue with our strategy to expand the distribution of our fastest turning items, add staff to keep up with demand and push the pace of sales.
  •  What is the oddest or most unusual thing about your company? . . . Our guerilla marketing tactics, which included a unique launch party for Baconnaise, during which we wrestled a giant strip of bacon vs. a giant jar of mayonnaise in 6,000 lbs of mayonnaise (for charity of course). Our Giant Bacon mascot continues to be one of our most effective promotions.
  • What is one thing missing from your business? . . . Real bacon – all of our bacon-flavored products are vegetarian and kosher.
  • Why will your company be successful? . . .  We believe it comes down to 4 main things: having the right people, the right products, strong distribution networks/relationships and the right promotional strategy.
    Without question, we’ve got the hardest working people in the food business – in 3 years, we’ve gained distribution in over 10,000 grocery stores worldwide with only 4 people on staff, and have shipped over 100,000 online orders to people in all 50 states and 58 countries. In terms of products, Bacon Salt is the fastest growing line of seasoning salts in the entire US, and BaconPOP is exceeding the largest grocery retailer in the US’s sales expectations by 150% (and accelerating), and lots of momentum with products like Bacon Ranch, Baconnaise and Bacon Gravy. These products are resonating with retailers and consumers – in fact, there are some major opportunities with Walmart and Kroger on the near term horizon.

Dave Lefkow, “Bacon”, Justin Esch with ZINO check.
In terms of promotions, we focus on using PR, social media, and guerilla marketing to level the playing field and set ourselves apart from much larger food companies. To date, our products have been featured on Oprah, ABC News, CNN, The Food Network, E! News, The Daily Show, The Tonight Show, and in hundreds more TV, radio, print, online and social forums. Our marketing strategies have been featured in 6 McGraw Hill textbooks and the Wall St. Journal as well as a book by word of mouth marketing guru Seth Godin. We’re also about to put Bacon Salt on the tables of the biggest breakfast restaurant chain in the US and Canada in March of 2011, which will result in millions of consumer trials and an even higher level of awareness about J&D’s Foods.

Last but not least, we have a LOT of fun doing what we do, and when you do what you love, you have great opportunities to be successful.

Bringin’ Home the Bacon!

Kristie Lanum,, Dave Lefkow, “Bacon”, Justin Esch & Cathi

Last night at the ZINO Society Roundtable meeting at the fascinating new Urban Enoteca in SoDo, Chief Dealflow Officer, Kristie Lanum, and I had the fun duty of presenting the oversized check for $50,000 to the fund winners of our recent ZINO Marketplace Investment Forum, J&D’s Foods selected by the ZINO Angel Fund Investors!  Not only were J&D’s Foods co-partners, ZINOpreneurs David Lefkow and Justin Esch on hand to accept the investment award, their mascot “Bacon” was there also!  ZINO Society members and guests in attendance had no problem identifying “Bacon” since he wore a ZINO Society nametag with his name prominently displayed.

Cathi, “Bacon”, Ken Hatch

“Bacon” was hotly pursued for photo ops following the business session.

You may want to refer to this additional blog posting to see more details about J&D’s Foods and the interesting story of their birth and growth.

Congratulations to Dave and Justin for bringing the “Bacon” and taking the bacon home too!

Chopin, Schumann and Lasagna!

Ken Hatch, Suzy Krabbe, Susan Neumann

On Monday evening, Ken and I, along with Suzy and Moe Krabbe  were invited to a small dinner party in their home by Gary Neumann following a private concert performed by his wife, Susan Neumann and musician friend, Wally Hansis Susan played the piano and Wally played the viola.

Susan’s fingers were flying over the keyboard, especially when she played three solo Chopin Waltzes (No. 6, No. 7, and No. 11) out of the twenty that he wrote during his lifetime.   Together she and Wally played selections from Schumann, Glazunov, Elgar, Massanet and Bruch.  In addition, Susan played the Fantaisie-Impromptu, plus the Schumann Widmung (Dedication). The sound quality in the Neumann’s high-ceiling living room was exquisite.  Wally’s viola sounded rich and mellow, while Susan’s notes were concise and clear and played with so much style and energy.  (I am not really a musician, so I’m not sure that I am describing this correctly, but I can say that I loved the music!)

Susan Neumann & Moe Krabbe

The concert was followed by a casual dinner featuring delicious lasagna and salad from Cafe Lago.  The entire evening was organized by Gary, who sent out email invitations and also ordered and picked up the food so that Susan could focus on her concert.  It was so much fun that we decided that we have to take turns planning future casual dinners at home where we choose different restaurants from which to bring in food.  We did tell Susan that she is the required future entertainment however, since my piano playing ability is excruciatingly slow and my repertoire mostly includes only Christmas carols.    

20 Years in one Location

Ken Hatch and Rich Malia

Last night, Ken and I met friend, Michael Kunath for a drink at the new Book Bindery restaurant, another creative venture by Michael Almquist.  We didn’t stay for dinner as we had dinner reservations just down the street at Ponti Seafood Grill, but the menu looks very interesting with starters including sweetbreads (not my favorite but Ken likes them) and foie gras terrine (which I think sounds delicious).  The interior is elegant with lots of creamy painted millwork and a bright, open kitchen.  I look forward to going back for dinner soon.

After a cocktail, we moved our cars a block down the street to Ponti Seafood Grill, which has been in the same location for twenty years.  As Ken and I walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by owner, Rich Malia, who thanked us for returning to his restaurant.  It had been a long time since we had last eaten there.  The restaurant is perched on the edge of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge, decorated in warm colors and was full of energy and busy.  White lights on the shrubs lining the outside decks reflecting on the windows added to the sparkling interior ambiance.

We had a great food experience.  Mike and Ken enjoyed the very fresh oysters on the half shell followed by warm bread with an addictive garlic olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce.  For entrees, we tried the smoked black cod, the brick-roasted half chicken and the chanterelle risotto; all of which were cooked perfectly, flavorful and excellent.  Though we said we didn’t want dessert, we shared a warm apple crostata a la mode and magically every bite disappeared.

I look forward to going back for another great meal soon.  This would be a fantastic venue for an upcoming ZINO Society Master of Wine Monday!

Vintastic! Wine Education Series

Jay & Icy Westerdal, Nancy Wallace, Andy Frey

On Thursday evening, along with ZINO Society member, Nancy Wallace, Andy Frey and Icy & Jay Westerdal, I attended the kick-off to the “Vintastic” wine education series at The Rainier Club:  The World’s Best RedsRainier Club Director of Wine and Spirits and a Court of Master Sommelier, Christopher Chan, led the tasting.  Here is a link to an interesting article that shares more about Christopher’s interesting path to becoming a wine expert.

Christopher had specifically saved one bottle each of some great wines from The Rainier Club cellar for this tasting. We had the opportunity to taste eight great red wines ranging from 1997 to 2004 vintages from California, Oregon, Italy, Spain and France with grape varieties of Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Grenache, Mourvedre, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As part of the session, Christopher also shared insights about glassware, how to do appropriate visual examination in the glass, how to use our olfactory senses most effectively both above the glass and in the glass prior to tasting and how to identify the different elements of the wine once we actually tasted it.  With Christopher’s tutelage, we identified wine “nose” and “taste” elements including floral from gardenia to marigold, fruity from dark cherry to raspberry to cantaloupe, spice from cloves to dill as well as fresh-mown grass to loamy or compost, leather to 2×4 wood and dozens of others.

Here is the full list of the wines we tasted:

2004 Dom, Lignier-Michelot Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Aux Charmes, FRA 
2004 Boedecker “Shea Vyd.” Pinot Noir, OR
2004 Etude Pinot Noir, Carneros, CA
1996 Pesquera Tinto Reserva, Rioja, SPA
1997 A. Sanguinetti Brunello de Montalcino, ITA
2000 Domaine Vieux Telegraphe “La Crau” Chat. De Pape, FRA
1998 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, CA
1999 Chateau Pape Clement Pessac-Leognan, FRA
Though every single wine was exceptional, my two favorites were the ’98 Chateau Montelena and the ’99 Chateau Pape Clement.  Now I am looking forward to next week’s session which will be A Taste of Grand Cru Vineyards.

Time after time . . .

Ken Hatch, Kemper Freeman, Jan-Patrick Schmitz, Cathi Last week, Ken and I were invited to a small private dinner by Kemper Freeman at the Westin Bellevue hosted by Montblanc.  Whenever I have thought of Montblanc in the past, I have always thought of beautiful pens.  Now I know the breadth and depth of Montblanc means so much more;… Continue Reading

Palate Pleasers at Purple Cafe!

Sommelier Dawn Smith, Chef Harry Mills & Cathi Hatch  Will Poole, Cathi & Ken Hatch, Susie Ostrander,Melanie Corey-Ferrini, Mike Crill This week the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Bellevue presented “A Menu for a Winter’s Night” for the ZINO Society Master of Wine Monday event.  Heavy Restaurant Group Sommelier, Dawn Smith, and Chef… Continue Reading

Welcome Jamee Nunnelee!

Jamee Nunnelee As part of recent organizational changes at ZINO Society, I am so pleased to welcome our new Vice President of Membership, Jamee Nunnelee, to the Z-Team! Jamee is a Seattle native who spent the better portion of her childhood sailing around the world with her family.  Through these experiences her life’s passion has… Continue Reading

Featured ZINOpreneur of the Week: Paul Hagen of VacuPractor

Paul Hagen, VacuPractor Our ZINO Society featured ZINOpreneur Member this week is Paul Hagen, Co-Founder of VacuPractor. Paul presented his company at the ZINO Society ZINO Marketplace Investment Forum featuring consumer products and services in November, 2010, was selected as a fund finalist. We asked him to share the answers to a few questions about his company.… Continue Reading

Featured ZINOpreneur of the Week: Carl Bryant of Mr. Thoughtful

Carl Bryant, Mr. Thoughtful Our ZINO Society featured ZINOpreneur Member this week is Carl Bryant, Founder & CEO of Thoughtful People, LLC dba Mr. Carl presented his company at the ZINO Society ZINO Marketplace Investment Forum featuring consumer products and services in November, 2010. We asked him to share the answers to a few questions about his… Continue Reading