The Hatchery

320 N. Damen Ave

United States

Chicago Foodpreneurs: Startup Edition
General Assembly

Thursday, 11 February 6 – 8 pm CST

About This Event
In a city of food-lovers, we’ll delve into the complex and impressive world of food and beverage businesses in Chicago. Join some of Chicago’s early-stage food entrepreneurs and startups as they share their journeys, entrepreneurial struggles – including the business definition process, fundraising, and brand building – and what it really takes to launch and run a successful food and beverage business in Chicago. The panel discussion will be followed by drinks and networking.

Also join us for Chicago Foodpreneurs: Big Brands Edition

About the Experts

Ricky Hirsch CEO and Founder,
Think Jerky

Ricky Hirsch is the creator and founding partner of Think Jerky. Originally born and raised in Highland Park, IL. Hirsch is deeply rooted in Chicago with a love for its culinary community. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he ventured to New York to work in finance. He bought his first company in 2006, which he sold to travel the world in 2008. Upon returning from his adventures abroad, he worked for himself trading equities, while also considering how to expand into the field he loves: food. In 2013, he followed his passion and developed Think Jerky, partnering with nationally and locally renowned Chefs to create a sustainable, delicious, and healthy Chef-crafted jerky. Hirsch watched his dream come true when Think Jerky launched in the winter of 2015.

Blake Bible CEO,

Natalie Shmulik Food Incubator Consultant,
The Hatchery

Natalie Shmulik is the go to resource for everything food business related. Along with an M.L.A. in Gastronomy from Boston University she has a wide range of experience working with supermarkets, consumer packaged goods companies and food service establishments including her own restaurant in Toronto, Canada. Natalie has played a valuable role in branding and marketing food businesses around the country and specializes in trend forecasting. She currently works as a consultant for The Hatchery- Chicago’s premier food business incubator.

Lizzy Diaz-Ortiz Food Blogger,
Kitchen Nomad

Eater. Feeder. Repeater. That’s Southern born, Puerto Rican bred and German raised, Lizzy Diaz-Ortiz’s motto. One could say she is obsessed with food, but that would be a gross understatement. Lizzy professed her gastronomic love early on when a kindergarten teacher unceremoniously asked her to choose her favorite parent and, despite being a devoted daddy’s girl, she responded: “My Mami because she makes me bacon!” Thus, began her love affair with bacon that remains one of her favorite foods.

Growing up in the military, Lizzy lived and travelled around the world exposing her to various foods and cultures. Her nomadic upbringing had her devouring cookbooks, exploring food markets, taking cooking classes and entertaining friends at home wherever that happened to be. Lizzy’s yearn to learn led her naturally to create her Kitchen Nomad food blog where she shares food memories from her experiences. While she’s an attorney by education and not a trained chef, as she likes to remind her husband, she’s been cooking for over 30 years!

Jason D. Hammel Chef,
Lula Cafe

Chef Jason Hammel is the chef and owner of Lula Café in Chicago’s historic Logan Square. Opened in 1999, Lula is known as a harbinger of the local foods movement and– through its hyper-seasonal menus– an expression of restless, artistic change. Chef Hammel is also a founding member of Pilot Light, a not-for-profit, chef-centered organization that is writing a food-based curriculum for Chicago Public Schools. Through his work in education and in the kitchen at Lula, Chef Hammel seeks to bring community, creativity, nourishment, and purpose back to the table.

Drew Davis COO and Executive Chef,
Eastman Egg Company

Drew Davis graduated from Harvard with a degree in Government. He fell into the restaurant industry while searching for a job after college, and has since worked under Chefs Tony Maws, Barbara Lynch, and David Chang.

Drew began studying at University of Chicago Booth School of Business to pursue his MBA when he met Hunter Swartz. Hunter had recently launched the first food truck of The Eastman Egg Company, and brought Drew on as Chief Operating Officer to help him transform the truck into a bricks and mortar business. Drew’s goal is to change the way that people view the restaurant industry, and to make it a positive experience and environment for the Eastman Egg Company team. He is dedicated to telling the story of the company through its people.

About Our Partners

The Hatchery


The Hatchery is Chicago’s premier food business incubator helping local food and beverage entrepreneurs develop successful businesses. From startup to success, The Hatchery provides a wide range of services, resources and networking opportunities to help food businesses at every stage.For more information on becoming a member of The Hatchery please contact

Chicago Reader


The Chicago Reader, launched in 1971, pioneered the concept of the free-distribution city weekly. In its 40-plus years it has become the leading source of information about what to do and where to go in Chicago, as well as a journalistic institution prized for its in-depth coverage of city politics and civic issues.


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