Trout Tank Gives Local Food and Restaurant Entrepreneurs a Shot at Funding Dollars

Can you handle the Trout Tank?
Can you handle the Trout Tank?
Courtesy of Denver Metro SBDC

ABC's hit TV show Shark Tank pits inventors and small-business hopefuls against one another to battle for investment dollars in front of a panel of ruthless judges. Here in Colorado, the concept has been translated into something a little less, well, cutthroat. The Metro Denver Small Business Development Center is calling its version Trout Tank, and it is putting on the event  four times a year to give local entrepreneurs a shot at funding for their clever ideas. This fall the organization, a branch of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, is teaming with Mission Yogurt to host Trout Tank: Food Frenzy, the first industry-specific edition, which will give food and restaurant aspirants a chance to "move their business from a dream to a reality,” according to SBDC director Abram Sloss.

Auditions for Trout Tank: Food Frenzy will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 this Wednesday, October 28, at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce at 1445 Market Street. If you have a great idea for a business or you're already up and running but need funds for expansion, you can register for the audition on the Colorado SBDC website and pony up $25 for entry.

SBDC expects more than 200 entrants, so polish your presentation skills. Those who make it past the audition will compete for a $5,000 cash prize on December 1 in the Denver Post auditorium. And  if you're not quite ready to pitch your idea, you can still attend the main event as an audience member; audience registration opens October 30 on the Trout Tank website.

Judges for Trout Tank: Food Frenzy will be Pat Miller, the Gabby Gourmet; chef Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class; chef/restaurateur Alex Seidel of Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision; Mark Berzins, owner of Little Pub Company; and Rod Tafoya, owner of Mission Yogurt. Tafoya's no stranger to the entrepreneurial spirit, having expanded Mission Yogurt from a simple frozen dessert concept to a food-service management company that runs multiple eateries at Denver International Airport. He's also slated to take over the building on South Pearl Street that housed Session Kitchen, where he'll open a variation of his Que Bueno Mexican Grille

The most recent Trout Tank, held in September, awarded top honors to Braden Holt, whose IndiCard app allows service-industry employees to sign up for special deals at local bars, restaurants and other establishments.


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