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As a participant in the Food Foundry program, you will receive: • $75k in cash when you start the program (in the form of a SAFE note) • Access to expertise from Gordon Food Service for mentorship and opportunities to help your business grow • Tailored curriculum, workshops, and mentorship from seasoned founders and advisors • Full membership to 1871 and exclusive perks • Access to our co-investor network to raise capital to scale your operations • Ability to tap into and leverage our experts in design, business operations and branding Contact for any additional information.

Food Foundry is a Chicago-based accelerator program by Relish Works designed to support, connect, and propel innovative startups who are rethinking the food industry. Built in partnership with 1871 and Gordon Food Service — our program offers access to national foodservice business resources, distribution and supply chain resources, advanced curriculum, access to restaurant operators, mentors, and more.

Relish Works is an innovation hub focused on challenging the status quo and pioneering the next evolution of the food industry. Relish Works was developed to generate innovative solutions to the most pressing food industry problems by creating partnerships, designing new solutions, or investing in and supporting others. Located in the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Relish Works operates within a thriving ecosystem of startups, companies, universities, and other incubators.

In 1897, Isaac Van Westenbrugge started a butter-and-egg delivery service using a horse-drawn cart. Now, 120 years later, Gordon Food Service has grown to become the largest privately held and family-managed foodservice distributor in North America. Gordon Food Service distributes to foodservice operators in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest regions of the United States and coast-to-coast in Canada. The company also operates more than 175 Gordon Food Service Store locations in the U.S., which are open to the public and provide restaurant-quality products and friendly, knowledgeable service without a membership fee.

Founded in 2012, 1871 was created to support Chicago’s digital startup community. Since that time, it has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today 1871 is the home of more than 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 150,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, tech talent schools, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition — the state’s leading technology advocate, a number of Chicago-based VCs, and satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, DeVry University, and DePaul University.

The Food Foundry is the only program that combines the resources of a national foodservice distributor (e.g., industry expertise and mentors, access to customers, access to real-world test environments) with a premiere regional startup ecosystem (e.g., access and networking with seasoned entrepreneurs, peer startups, programming and other 1871 resources) and deep professional expertise in human-centered design and concept testing (e.g., professional expertise at Relish Works, Inc.).

The Food Foundry accelerator will begin May 24, 2021. Selected startups will join a cohort of 4-5 other startups to attend the program at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago*. Programming is a mix of group-based learning curriculum, mentor-guided growth, and visits to Gordon Food Service facilities and customers in Grand Rapids, MI and other regional locations*. Importantly, the program will be tailored to the needs of the startups that join the cohort. *Our third cohort will be presented virtually with considerations for optional in-person opportunities on a case-by-case basis which will be facilitated responsibility and in accordance with local rules and regulations.

Each startup will have access to a network of mentors that includes successful entrepreneurs, subject area experts, and foodservice industry professionals. This includes over 500 mentors through the 1871 mentor network, Relish professionals and “Friends of Relish”, and Gordon Food Service industry leaders. Throughout the program, each startup will be able to work closely with mentors responsible for guiding progress.

To benefit fully from the program, relocation to Chicago is preferred. Startups will have access to space both at Relish Works and 1871. In specific cases, remote participation will be considered but startup participants will be required to travel for a minimum of one week per month*. *Our third cohort will be presented virtually with considerations for optional in-person opportunities on a case-by-case basis which will be facilitated responsibility and in accordance with local rules and regulations.

The Food Foundry makes investments in each individual startup who become part of our cohort in the form of a $75K post-money SAFE note. In addition to capital, we provide office space, administrative support, mentorship, a structured curriculum and training, resources and perks through 1871 and the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), and access to our community and network. In exchange we aim to take 3% equity in each participating start-up.

By no means! The Food Foundry is looking for the best entrepreneurial teams and solutions to big problems; we realize that these can come from anywhere. We accept all US based startups and will consider applicants from around the world, even if they have already incorporated in their home countries. We can help you work out the best process for creating a US company (or US parent company) in which we can invest. Often, founders will keep their original entity as a subsidiary of the US parent company and that entity will continue to operate.

We are looking for earlier stage startups with solutions for food industry issues across the value chain, from farm to table. Companies with supply chain, distribution, transportation, and mobility solutions in particular will benefit from the industry knowledge and access provided by Gordon Food Service. Stage: We are looking for startups who are generating monthly revenue, ideally close to the $5-10k range (though we will review applicants who don’t quite meet this). Applicants with only ideas are not eligible. Industry: Nearly all solutions that could be applied to the food value chain from farm to table are eligible. Exceptions include CPG companies which are not in scope.

Applications for our third cohort will be open December 8th, 2021-February 12,2021. All eligible applications will be reviewed and the team will select a finalist pool. Virtual interviews will take place with The Food Foundry Selection Committee at the end of March. Of the finalists, 4-5 startups will be selected to participate in the program and will be notified by the end of April 2021.

If you have questions that aren't answered on our website or this FAQ, please email us directly,

December 8th, 2020-February 12,2021

Late April, 2021

Applications are considered on a rolling-basis. The earlier you apply, the longer we have to get acquainted with you and your business.

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