Sandwiches and microchips: Is a culinary company a startup?

Chris Gaitten
A Columbus Startup Week session, "A Practical Guide to the Internet of Things," from last year features a panel of, from left, Ryan Prestel of JadeTrack, Zak Dziczkowski of Garageio and moderator Brian Zuercher, the lead organizer of Startup Week.

When you think of startups, what comes to mind? Facebook? Snapchat? Hyperloop and SpaceX? Tracie Stamm recognizes that those are the common touchpoints—a few guys, a garage, some microchips and eventually an IPO while the founders ring the bell at the stock exchange. But Stamm has a message: Food and drink companies can be startups, too.

Since Columbus Startup Week’s founding in 2015, Stamm has been a contributor to the annual entrepreneurship conference, which will be held May 8-12. She’s also had plenty of experience with the type of startups that populate the public’s imagination. A senior product marketing manager for VMware, a former startup based in the holy land of Palo Alto, she built out the financial technology track of Columbus Startup Week last year. This year, she’s organizing the food and beverage track, partially to dispel the notion that culinary pursuits don’t fit with the startup world.

“You don’t really sit around and say, ‘So these guys are doing coffee, but we don’t really have any tea shops,’ ” Stamm says about people analyzing business opportunities in the food scene. “I do not think that people look at food and beverage the same way [as other business startups], but these makers and thinkers I think have, and that’s what’s made them successful.”

The entrepreneurs assembled for this year’s series of food and beverage talks come from diverse business backgrounds, a fact that makes Stamm particularly proud. They’re brewers, caterers, distillers, barbecue masters and providers of prepared meals. They also illuminate the varying routes to success, some starting as hobbyists while others spotted market opportunities and leapt at the chance.

“One of our speakers, Angela Petro from Two Caterers and Sweet Carrot, I think she has had a wonderful arc and path,” Stamm says. “Has it taken 20 years to do this? Sure. Has she branched out, created new concepts, you know, new revenue streams? Absolutely.”

Angela Petro in her Sweet Carrot restaurant in Grandview - Photo by Tim Johnson

Petro’s talk, “The Formula for Success,” will be presented Friday, May 12, at 11 a.m. It’s one of seven on the food and beverage track, which also includes Watershed co-founder Greg Lehman discussing legislative strategy and lobbying (Wednesday, May 10, 4 p.m.) and Tony Tanner of The Butcher & Grocer talking about identifying unmet market needs for sustainable Ohio meat (Wednesday, May 10, 3 p.m.).

Columbus Startup Week, largely held Downtown at Vue Columbus (95 Liberty St.), has seven other tracks, including fashion, marketing and smart cities. “What I tell people who don’t know about Startup Week is that I find it to be the most inspiring week all year in Columbus, and I really do believe that,” Stamm says.

To see the full lineup or to register, visit