Join us in May as we launch The Founders Series - a new CFBN series presented in partnership with JB Chicago (A CA Fortune Company), Fifty Gazelles, and Pre Brands. This 5-part series of events will focus on creating conversations and connections for founders’ from the growing and scaling companies of the Chicagoland start-up food scene. The Founders Series will combine food, cutting edge conversation, and a bit of networking for a happy hour well spent.
Our first event - Finance - sets the tone and pace for curated conversations with the experts and peers you want to know. As founders, you are faced by the eternal statement, “I need capital”. The important question to be asking yourself, and which is asked of you, is usually, “Why?”. There is a continuum of capital between debt and equity, and a time for both in your business venture. Our first conversation will address the “When” - when do I use SBA? Traditional debt? Factoring? Venture capital? Strategic or PE? To help us navigate, we have brought together all of the players involved in the conversation. And, we’ve asked them to help evaluate the capital with your needs - the needs of the founder, the entrepreneur, the “doer”, and the day-to-day operator - in mind.
We will also be joined by Caroline Sherman from the new Seeds of Change Accelerator powered by MARS - which is helping companies to shape the meals of tomorrow. Applications for the upcoming cohort are open until May 31st - so join us at the event to learn more about their offerings and this exciting new opportunity!
Our speakers & moderator for this conversation:
Steve Gaither (moderator), President of JB Chicago a C.A. Fortune Company
Steve Gaither is the president of JB Chicago, a division of C.A. Fortune. JB is an integrated marketing agency focused on CPG whose clients range from larger brands like Smithfield Foods and Tetrapak and emerging brands including Real Good Foods and Protes. As a mentor at the Good Food Business Accelerator, ICNC and The Hatchery, his relationships with the entrepreneurs led him to co-found the Windy City Troublemakers, an early-stage food brands group in Chicago. Steve was formerly a partner in Spiral Sun Ventures and Windy City Food Brands, where he and his fellow CPG experts provide the operational know-how and go-to market strategies that help brands accelerate their growth. Steve graduated from Ball State University (1994) with a degree in Architecture and Planning. He resides in Munster, Indiana with his wife and three children.
Bob Dekker, Managing Director, Balmoral Advisors
Bob Dekker is a career capital markets professional and entrepreneur with extensive experience working with companies ranging from emerging growth to large, publicly traded enterprises. He specializes in developing and implementing creative capital formation strategies and advising clients on alternative approaches for maximizing shareholder value in connection with merger and acquisition activities. Bob has been an advisor to a wide assortment of public and private companies in the food and consumer products industries including independent and franchise restaurants, food retailers and food packaging companies. Prior to joining Balmoral, Bob co-founded Insight Advisory Partners, a boutique investment banking firm based in Chicago focused on the food and beverage sector. Previously he was a senior banker with ABN AMRO, Inc. and its predecessor, The Chicago Corporation, where he managed the firm’s private placement activities in North America. Bob began his career with Prescott, Ball & Turben, Inc. (an affiliate of Kemper Insurance Company) in Cleveland, OH. Bob has arranged over $2 billion of private market transactions during his investment banking career. He is a member of the Association for Corporate Growth where he co-chairs the committee responsible for hosting ACG’s Annual Food Conference. For the past five years, Bob has served as a Super Mentor to several emerging growth food companies that have been accepted into the Good Food Business Accelerator (part of the 1871 incubator) mentoring program, and he also serves as a member of its Steering Committee. Bob holds a BA in Economics from Denison University.
Michael Schopin, Partner, Zenfinity Capital LLC
Michael Schopin has been a principal investor for almost 20 years. During the last 15 years of his career, Michael has been leading private investment transactions on behalf of ultra-high net worth individuals and families where he has been instrumental in founding and growing three separate private investment efforts. In addition to his investment experience during this time, Michael served as an active participant in the development and growth of the portfolio companies operating as everything from an active Chairman to a temporary C-level executive at the businesses. He has completed over 40 private transactions during his career across a variety of industries. Michael earned a BSBA from Washington University in St. Louis and a MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Kristen Timson, Middle Market Commercial Banker, Huntington National Bank
Kristen Timson is Vice President and Commercial Middle Market Banker for Huntington Bank. Kristen works with privately held businesses throughout the Chicagoland area. She co-leads Huntington’s food networking group and has helped create a strategic alliance with the Business Banking & SBA teams at Huntington.
Lenny Lebovich, Founder & CEO, Pre Brands
Lenny Lebovich is an entrepreneur with a successful record of building businesses through strategic initiative. He is adept at understanding how otherwise disparate resources can be harnessed and managed to address market needs. He has led, worked with, been part of, or been an advisor to companies across the size spectrum, from early-stage ventures to Fortune 50 corporations. To date, Lenny has executed various strategic initiatives domestically and internationally, ranging from less than $1 million to nearly $1 billion in value. His experience spans a number of industries, including: Food, Healthcare, Retail, Communications, Technology, and Financial Services. Most recently, Lenny was Co-Founder and President of Sommers Fare, a rapidly emerging organic meat industry leader gaining substantial national distribution across the Club, Grocery, and Specialty Retail channels under its Sommers Organic™ label. Sommers Fare was a subsidiary of Ruprecht Capital, a strategic investment vehicle in which Lenny was a Partner and its Managing Director. Before Sommers Fare, Lenny was the Founder and Managing Partner of Nfinité Partners, a Chicago-based strategic advisory firm focused on providing its services to middle-market companies, including: merger & acquisition, capital raising, strategic/business planning, partnership/alliance development, and business development. Lenny began his career on Wall Street, as an investment banker at Banc of America Securities, completing nearly $3 billion in “managed” transactions for predominately Fortune 500 companies across various industries. Lenny graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, where he was singularly honored as its Outstanding Graduate in Finance.
Networking nights with The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network are an opportunity to access an inclusive network dedicated to bringing together all of the industry players of the greater Chicagoland area to develop meaningful and mutually beneficial business connections. The evening provides a great opportunity to enjoy drinks and appetizers and an opportunity to mingle - forging new connections and circling back with contacts from other events, all while experiencing the power of the CFBN network!
Happy Hour beverages and light refreshments will be provided.
The Founder's Series is presented in partnership with:
JB Chicago (A CA Fortune Company) is a Food & Beverage Industry Provider member of the network.
Pre Brands is a Cornerstone Food & Beverage Industry member of the network.
Fifty Gazelles is a Food & Beverage Industry Provider member of the network.
Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network
1 W Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Tel (312) 525-9653