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

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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