Sister Pie at the 2014 Hatch Off. [PHOTOS BY MAXIMILIAN DE LA GARZA]
The night has arrived, folks! That special evening when one lucky startup will walk away with a giant $50,000 check and be named the winner of the 2014 Hatch Detroit competition. Since its inception, Hatch has helped three local businesses get their companies off the ground. This year's competition had a decidedly foodie angle, so Eater Detroit contributors Serena Maria Daniels and Maximilian de la Garza are at Ford Field, liveblogging the Hatch Off, in which the final four contenders will try to convince a panel of expert judges why they deserve to win.
6:40 p.m. — We're about 15 minutes away from go time and Ford Field is already buzzing with upwards of 200 people, including the night's emcee, Craig Fahle, formally of WDET, Hatch runners-ups like the guys from Rocco's Italian Deli. There's also an assortment of catered food, including Greek, Bar-B-Q, Mexican and Asian.
7:30 p.m. — In introducing Hatch Detroit founder Nick Gorga, emcee Craig Fahle confessed he was skeptical that the concept of "crowd entrepreneurship" would get off the ground in a place like Detroit - a city that's had its share of abandonment of businesses over the years.
Gorga shot off some numbers to the crowd that Hatch has not only gotten off the ground, but it's resulted in more than a dozen new businesses to start up in the city since its founding in 2011. Fourteen of 30 semi-finalists have gone on to open up shop or are in the process of opening, including the Detroit Institute of Bagels, Detroit Vegan Soul and Spielhaus Toys.
7:45 p.m. — First up was Dameon Gabriel, of Gabriel Hall, who accompanied by a live brass band, introduced his concept of opening a music and dining hall in the city's Woodbridge neighborhood.
Gabriel told the audience he grew up on Detroit's west side, moved to the East Coast for four years but returned to the Motor City because he wanted to experience Detroit's revitalization.
8 p.m. — Second, came Lisa Cardwell, of Cockadoodle, who envisions a farm-to-table breakfast and lunch bistro on the city's Avenue of Fashion, using smoked chicken as the eatery's centerpiece. She grew up in the area but noticed as her family traveled to the suburbs to get what they needed. Opening a restaurant there, specifically on Livernois and Pembroke, would help continue the area's resurgence.
8:15 p.m. — Sister Pie's Lisa Ludwinski tells judges that the name of her business comes from a term of endearment between she and her sister. She began her love of sharing pastry and cooking with an online cooking show called "Sunny Side Up" she hosted out of her tiny Brooklyn apartment. After that she furthered her studies with pastry chefs from Momofuku Milk Bar and Blackbird 420 also out of NY. She went onto describe the legnths of travel people come to try her pies from Parker market and the amount of revenue streaming in this past year. Her argument was strong and delicious.
Finally Third Wave Music delivered a passionate speech about the dearth of musical equipment access in Detroit. Jen David said that in a city known as Motown and Detroit Rock City, it lacked a simple but necessary vibe: music. Her humble background includes a history of musical parentage and a heartfelt speech about what she would like to bring to the community with music lessons and recitals.
8:30 p.m. — Professional judges include Lydia Gutierrez of Hacienda Mexican Foods, Jackie Victor of Avalon Breads, Kirk Mayes of Forgotten Harvest and Hugh Yaro of Craftwork. They asked the contestants a slew of questions about how the finalists think their businesses will thrive, including how they plan to spend the $50,000, other sources of funding, marketing techniques and what they think their biggest costs will be. No surprise here, food and build-out are expected to be big overhead costs for the entrepreneurs.
8:40 p.m. — Time for a 20 minute break as judges mull over contestants' responses. Sister Pie's sole employee Anji Reynolds says she's ready to throw up, but is happy with how Team Sister Pie has handled the competition thus far.
9:05 p.m. — Break taking a little bit longer than expected. While we're waiting, we spoke with Hatch Detroit founder Nick Gorga and emcee Craig Fahle about this year's competitors.
Says Gorga: One of the things seen in the four years of this is these businesses are coming to the table with actual businesses, a brand and people who follow them.
Says Fahle: For far too long this city has been starved for more businesses to come into the city. This competition works because there are so few barriers here to get started. In New York and Chicago, the rents are so high and everything's a chain.
9:10 p.m. — .... And the winner is... Sister Pie! Ludwinski has been on the scene for the past two years, selling her goods at pop-ups and Parker Street Market in West Village. She recently revealed her plans to Eater Detroit to open a new brick and mortar store adjacent to the market. Gorga says Hatch Detroit will assist all of the semi-finalists to realize their own dreams. Eater Detroit will be keeping our eyes out for their stories in the coming months.
Lisa Ludwinski of Sister Pie. [Photo: Courtesy of Pam Reynolds]