Seminar & Networking Event

One-Day Seminar & Networking Event for HEALTHY FOOD PRODUCT BUSINESSES

This free, one-day event will help healthy food product entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. Read more about our industry expert panelists and schedule below.

When: October 29, 8:30am – 5:00pm
Where: NextEnergy, 461 Burroughs St, Detroit, MI 48202

PLUS – Get a chance to win $1,000 in business assistance from Michigan Good Food Fund! (must be present to win)

We are not currently accepting registrations.

Our Keynote Speakers


Lucinda Wright, Senior Marketing & Innovation Executive
JPG Resources  
Lucinda Wright is a Marketing & Innovation Senior Executive with comprehensive experience in global consumer package goods (VP of Marketing, Kellogg’s), retailing (Director of Innovation/Product Development, Meijer Supercenters), new business start-up/expansion (Executive Practice Lead, JPG Resources) and contract manufacturing. She has a proven track record in entrepreneurial and Fortune 100 environments delivering strong business results with full P&L responsibility. A classically trained brand management leader, she is a seasoned strategic thinker with the ability to drive innovation, create new businesses/brands, develop business-building programs and effectively champion award winning creative. Lucinda played a key leadership role in Mergers & Acquisitions for the purchase of Kashi for Kellogg’s and Global Sourcing Operational start-ups. She is also a recognized organizational leader and mentor. 

Nailah Ellis-Brown, Founder, Ellis Infinity, LLC and Maker of Ellis Island Tea 

Nailah Ellis-Brown is the founder of Ellis Infinity, LLC., maker of Ellis Island Tea. She is young Detroit, one of a growing group of entrepreneurs calling the city home. The 30-year-old Nailah was born, raised and educated in the Motor City. Now, she’s putting her efforts back into her beloved city, providing jobs and boosting the economy. Her business was inspired by a family recipe for Jamaican Sweet Tea that has been passed down from her immigrant great-grandfather who came to America through Ellis Island and was a master chef for Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line. Nailah began her business selling bottles of tea from a cooler in the trunk of her car back in 2008.  By 2014, she had opened her first beverage production and co-packaging facility in Detroit and had numerous commercial accounts. Today, Ellis Island Tea is sold around the country in more than 1,500 stores such as Whole Foods, Sam’s Club, Meijer and Kroger, in high-traffic airports nationwide, in niche markets and online.


Tera Johnson, Founder, Food Finance Institute, Tera’s Whey  

Tera Johnson is a serial entrepreneur whose mission is to create the next generation of environmentally and economically regenerative food and farming businesses. The founder of teraswhey® and host of the Edible-Alpha™ podcast, Tera participated in the full arc of creating a successful investor-financed company. Now the founder of the Food Finance Institute at UW-Extension and winner of the Chancellor’s 2017 Wisconsin Idea Award, Tera is a frequent speaker, teacher and financial consultant to sustainable food and farming businesses, social venture funds and investors.


Paul Saginaw, Co-Founder and CSO, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses  

Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig joined forces to found Zingerman’s Delicatessen. They opened the doors on March 15, 1982. All they wanted at that time was a great corned beef sandwich and an organization with soul. Zingerman’s started as 1,300 square feet of combined restaurant and specialty food retail space, run solely by Paul, Ari and two employees. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now has 22 partners, employs over 750 people and generates over $60 million in annual sales from ten separate businesses: Zingerman’s Delicatessen (including Zingerman’s Catering), Zingerman’s Mail Order, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Training Inc., Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Creamery, Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, and Miss Kim, a traditional Korean restaurant that opened in 2016. Paul believes that he has been successful in spite of the fact that he has limited natural talent and abilities because he has always thought that the only real limits are those of vision.


Mark Watson, Managing Director, Boston Impact Initiative  

Mark is the managing Director of Boston Impact Initiative – a fund that is focused on economic justice, investing in opportunity for all people—especially those most oppressed or abandoned by our current economic system—to lead a dignified and productive life. He is also founder of Keel Asset Management LLC, a financial advisory firm that provides socially responsible financial planning and investment advisory services to nonprofits, public and corporation pension plans. He is currently an advisory board member of the Cape Development Partnership; an investment committee member of the Fair Food Fund; chair of the Triskeles Foundation’s Asset Management Committee; treasurer of the Roxbury Cultural District; a member of US/SIF; board president of Sustainable Cape, Inc.; and a former board member of the Social Venture Network.

Our Panelists

Buyers, Wholesalers, Distributors & Retailers
  • Auday Arabo, President – Midwest Independent Retailers Association, Moderator
  • A panel of representatives from local & regional companies
Accelerators & Contract Manufacturers
  • Mike DiBernardo, Director Food Innovation Programs – Eastern Market
  • Lucinda Wright – Snackwerks
  • Amit Makhecha, FEAST
  • Nailah Ellis-Brown, Ellis Infinity, LLC Production Facility
  • Dennis Marvin, West MI Shoreline Food Processing Initiative
Finance & Investment
  • Michigan Good Food Fund team – Capital Impact Partners, Fair Food Network, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, Northern Initiatives, Detroit Development Fund, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Michigan Women Forward
  • Bank of America


What's Included

Your reservation gives you full access to this day-long seminar. Each registered business may bring two attendees.

All seminar materials and more will be available following the event on a Dropbox site.

Full breakfast, lunch, and snacks will also be provided.


Who Should Attend

We are inviting mission-driven enterprises working to increase healthy food access who fit these criteria:

  • Growing Businesses – Businesses that are at least 2 years old, generating an annual revenue of $50K+, and on a path toward financing in the next 12-24 months. This seminar is not for incubating or startup businesses.
  • Healthy Products – Businesses that make “good for you” products featuring fruits and vegetables (ideally locally sourced), whole grains, lean proteins, and/or other whole, minimally-processed/natural ingredients.
  • Accessible to All – Businesses that ensure their products are available and affordable at retail outlets where residents of all income levels have the opportunity to buy them.
  • Entrepreneurs of Color & Female Entrepreneurs – Businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, women, and/or businesses that primarily hire from communities we serve.
  • Job Creators – Businesses with the potential to create quality jobs in their community.


Full Schedule

We’re planning a day full of industry insights, lessons learned, and best practices. See below for the day’s schedule (subject to change). Sessions will start promptly at 9am and wrap up by 5pm.

Check back for updates!

8:30 am        Networking & Full Breakfast

9:00 am        Welcome

9:30 am        Branding, Positioning & Packaging – Get industry insights on nailing your brand and hear lessons learned from a Detroit entrepreneur whose brand is reaching shelves nationwide.

  • Lucinda Wright – Senior Marketing & Innovation Executive, JPG Resources
  • Nailah Ellis-Brown – Founder of Ellis Infinity, LLC and Maker of Ellis Island Tea

10:30 am      Connecting with Wholesalers/Distributors & Retailers – Learn what it takes to get your product on the shelves, plus the chance to pitch your businesses over lunch!

  • Auday Arabo, President & CEO, Midwest Independent Retailers Association
  • A panel of representatives from local & regional companies
  • Check back for additional panelists!

11:30 am      Lunch / / PLUS Quick Pitch

1:00 pm        Launching a National Brand – Get business model best practices and lessons learned from a serial entrepreneur behind a successful national brand and food consultancy.

  • Tera Johnson, Founder, Food Finance Institute & Tera’s Whey

2:00 pm        Snack Break & Mingle

2:15 pm        Ramping Up Your Production – From white box to contract manufacturing, hear from regional operators to figure out which option is right for you.

  • Mike DiBernardo, Director Food Innovation Programs, Eastern Market
  • Lucinda Wright, Snackwerks
  • Amit Makhecha, FEAST
  • Nailah Ellis-Brown, Ellis Infinity, LLC Production Facility
  • Dennis Marvin, West MI Shoreline Food Processing Initiative

3:15 pm        Scaling for Business Growth – Learn the secret behind creating an exceptional workplace and national brand-name from the co-founder of Zingerman’s.

  • Paul Saginaw, Co-Founder and CSO, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

4:00 pm        Financing & Investment – From social impact and equity investing to loans, technical assistance, and other business solutions, learn how you can prepare to scale.

  • Mark Watson, Managing Director, Boston Impact Initiative
  • Michigan Good Food Fund Team
  • Bank of America

5:00 pm        $1,000 Award & Wrap Up (Must be present to win!)



We’re here to help! Email Jean Chorazyczewski at or call 734-213-3999 x202.