Factory to Host Pet Innovation Challenge in October

You know that old-fashioned way of thinking that entrepreneurs have to go it alone—that industry giants want to squash them out in order to preserve the status quo and prevent competition? Yeah, we’re not into that. We believe only good things can come from getting a bunch of up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the same room with experienced operators, business leaders and innovators. So we decided to create a reason to do that.

Together with New Hope Network (the folks behind Expo East and Expo West), we’re hosting the Pet Innovation Challenge, a competition open to cutting-edge businesses in the pet food, alternative protein, wellness and functional nutrition, and tech space.

Here’s how it works: Pet product entrepreneurs submit an application that includes what their product is, why it’s unique and a business challenge they are currently facing. If selected, we’ll invite the entrepreneur to take part in the Challenge, a two-day event at Factory’s office in Bethlehem, PA where they’ll have a chance to put their heads together with industry mentors to mastermind solutions to their business challenges.

“We’re looking for dynamic companies that are approaching the pet industry from a different perspective to challenge what’s currently out there in the market,” says Tara Jane Ortiz, director of entrepreneurial engagement at Factory. “We’re interested in novel ideas that have the potential to change the norms of the pet industry.”

The first activity of the event, on October 2, will be a networking night for the selected entrepreneurs, representatives of Factory and New Hope Network, members of the media and over 100 industry CEOs, business heavyweights, supply chain experts, marketing gurus and active investors. The entrepreneurs will take the stage to introduce themselves and their companies to the attendees, generating exposure for their products.

The Challenge itself kicks off the following morning, when the entrepreneurs will present a key business challenge they currently face to a room full of industry experts and investors. Following the presentations, attendees will split up into breakout groups with 5-10 industry mentors who are preselected based on experience and skillset.

“The participants will have a working lunch with their assigned mentors where they’ll dive deeper into the challenges their company is facing and ideate solutions,” Ortiz explains.

After a brief regroup, the entrepreneurs will be back on stage to give a recap of the most actionable ideas the group came up with. A panel of three judges will select the most intriguing business with the most viable outcome as the winner of the event.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a competition without big prizes! Valued at over $50,000, the winner will receive a coveted booth at Natural Products Expo East for 2020 and 6 months of services from Factory.

“Our goal is to help rising entrepreneurs form relationships with leaders in the CPG pet product space, whether they win the competition or not,” Ortiz says. “It’s about putting the spotlight on the innovative entrepreneurial ideas that could shape the future of the pet industry that no one is talking about yet.”