So You Say You Want to Start a Retail Food and Beverage Business?

WCNY Retail Network (WhRN)

If you are thinking of or in the process of trying to start a Food and Beverage business and are wondering about and/or  need guidance on funding, structure, sales and distribution, how to set up a store and generally how other people have done this, please join the WCNY Retail Network for an exciting and informative evening designed speed dating style with five to six groups of entrepreneurs and five to six individual or teams of professionals rotating among the groups to answer your questions.

The evening will be moderated by event co-chairs Saloni Varma, WG'07 and Nick Morris W'95.  Saloni is a Senior Finance Manager at Unilever leading Dove Bar and Body wash globally. She has worked with KPMG, UBS, ORIX in her past roles with specialization in accounting, investment banking, private equity across India, US and Japan. Nick Morris co-founded Health Warrior 2010 and in five years grew it to 75 employees with products in over 11,000 stores. In 2015, VMG a consumer focused private equity firm, invested in the company. Nick is currently head of trading at Weiss Multi Strategies.

We will have the following professionals on hand to speak with - please note suggested topics are listed but you are free to ask your own questions (and we hope you do!):

Elly Truesdell is the North East Regional Local Forager for Whole Foods Market, developing local supplier partnerships and overseeing local purchasing for 33 current stores throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. As Forager, Elly visits production facilities and farms, offers resources and guidance to smaller wholesalers and launches valued added brands with a focus on their development and growth to new markets. Elly has a BA in Media Studies from the University of Virginia . Elly can answer questions regarding:
  1. What are the channels for product submission/consideration at WFM?
  2. How do I differentiate, and what are some key attributes to integrate into, my product when developing?
  3. What costs should I account for during growth and expansion?
  4. What have been some of the drivers toward success among such saturation in the market?
Zack Gazzaniga is Chief Operating Officer at Kensington & Sons, LLC.  Zack joined the company as one of its first employees in 2011 and together with his teams have successfully launched new award winning product lines and expanded distribution.  Zack can address:
  1. How do you turn a home recipe into a production ready formula?
  2. How do you source ingredients and manufacturing facilities?
  3. How do you build your initial distribution network?
  4. How do you support and grow your sales force once you get distribution?
Deb Bardhan, WG'11 is the CEO and Co-founder of Xpand Software and the Chair of the Wharton Alumni Angel Network.  Deb can address questions regarding:
  1. When to seek angel investments
  2. What criteria you would need to meet for angels to get interested
  3. How much you should raise
  4. What milestones should you aim to hit post funding
  5. What sections should be included in your investor pitch
Margaux Knee is a corporate and securities associate at Gunderson Dettmer. Margaux specializes in the representation of emerging growth companies and startups throughout their lifecycles. Margaux has a JD from the University of Southern California, an LLM with merit from LSE, and an AB from Vassar College. Margaux can address the following:
  1. Considerations around formation and entity structuring
  2. Considerations around foudner shares and early equity issuance
  3. Working with outside lawyers and looking ahead
Along with Margaux, Mark Littmann, W'06, will address general questions about the food and beverage industry. Mark is a Corporate Counsel at Danone where he works on commercial contracts and litigation. Mark holds a BS in Economics with a concentration in Finance from The Wharton School and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law where he founded the Entrepreneurial Society and the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic.

Shane Emmett is one of the founders and CEO  of Health Warrior. Health Warrior launched with  Whole Foods in 2012 and has become one of the fastest growing brands nationwide. Prior to running Health Warrior, Shane served as Counsel to Governor Tim Kaine in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Shane is a graduate of Colgate University where he was a four year member of the Men’s swim team and holds law degrees from Wake Forest University and Oxford University. Shane will address the following:
  1. Fundraising
  2. Phases of growth
  3. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Along with Shane, Jamaal Brown  WG'10, co-owner of Tea and Jam in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will address general questions about setting up a retail business. Tea and Jam is a grain-free (Paleo) baked goods startup. It is the brainchild of Jamaal Brown and his partner Tiyana Works (NYU). Its mission is to provide delicious yet healthful desserts. Jamaal and Tiyana are committed to good clean eating: grain-free, low carb and protein dense. As fairly new business owners, Jammal and Tiyana can address:
  1. Anything related to the first years in getting the business off the ground
  2. When to decide to just go for it: going from hobby to business
  3. How to get started
  4. Operating your business under lots of uncertainty
Finally, Ron Offir, WG'96, CEO and Founder of  Offir Consulting, a digital advisory firm is also a regular speaker and news contributor on the pulse of retail and consumer engagement. Ron was most recently with Michael Kors as Senior Vice President of Global e-Commerce where he led the global digital transformation of the brand. Ron holds an MBA from The Wharton School. For more information on Ron and Offir consulting please see Ron can address the following points regarding e-commerce and opening a digital store:
  1. People-What are the critical positions needed to launch and then breathe life into your new e-commerce channel
  2. Process-Which key processes are needed to keep your digital experiences fresh and engaging
  3. Technology-Which e-commerce platforms are recommended for launch through $10M in sales
  4. Digital Marketing-what form of digital marketing should be deployed to attract new visitors and extend the life time value (LTV) of those that already made their first purchase
  5. Analytics-What tools should be deployed to capture the right KPIs and what lever are available to move these KPIs in the right direction?
Along with Ron, Susan Teplitz, WG'86, BA Latin, minor in Greek, Barnard College, Columbia University, '82  will also be on hand to discuss questions related to opening a brick and mortar store. Susan is a Senior Managing Director at The Lansco Corporation, and has a background in commercial real estate,  marketing, communications and new product development. Susan is also Chair of the WCNY Retail Network.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Due to the format, we ask that all participants arrive promptly at 6PM.


Midtown location (Note: Address will be sent via email to all registered guests 24-48 hours prior to the event to the "Primary Email" address listed in your profile. Please review your profile to confirm that the email address listed is correct.)

WCNY Supporting Members - $20.00 (WCNY supporting membership costs $95/yr at Join/Renew Membership)
Silver, Gold & Benefactor Members - $0
Other Wharton Alumni/Guests - $40.00

For more information and/or to register for this event, please RSVP to

Due to building security requirements, you must pre-register for this event. Walk-ins cannot be accepted.
Registration is subject to availability and will close on Tuesday, May 17th at 4:00pm - No Exceptions!

*Legal Disclaimer: This event is for informational purposes only and not to provide specific legal advice for your startup or create an attorney client relationship. You should not assume such a relationship or act on any material from the event without seeking professional counsel.