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Innovation Breakfast: Moving From Big Co to Small Co

Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM (CST)

Innovation Breakfast: Moving From Big Co to Small Co

Ticket Information

Type End Quantity
Members Only Ended Free  
Early Bird Ended Free  
RSVP Ended Free  
Last Minute Ended Free  

Event Details

Moving from Big Co to Small Co: An Innovator's Daydream or An Entrepreneur's Nightmare?  Join the Innovation Breakfast to Find Out!


The Innovation Breakfast Series continues in February with three Chicago food and beverages leaders who traded in their day jobs for entrepreneurial adventure!


Our panel will feature: 


As you think about your professional journey or the talent you need to run your company, come learn what’s worked and what hasn’t from these three business leaders who bravely made the jump from Big to Small!


Innovation Breakfast -- Wednesday, February 13th** -- Doors Open 7:00 AM

**Note: To all you lovers out there, we are moving February’s Innovation Breakfast to Wednesday to avoid Valentines Day.


Introducing the Speakers:

Lesley Butler is Chief Marketing Officer of food tech startup Tovala, a cooking solution that combines a smart countertop steam oven with a fresh meal delivery service.  Lesley oversees all marketing efforts across the consumer journey including lead generation, retention, user experience, brand and design.  Prior to Tovala, Lesley founded The Growth Project , a marketing advisory business to help food & beverage startups chart a consumer-led path to growth.  She continues as an advisor to several early-stage food companies and VCs.  Before her Small Co adventures, Lesley spent 15 years in senior roles in marketing, innovation, and strategy at Kraft Foods, Bain & Company, and most recently PepsiCo. She led M&A and new business model innovation for PepsiCo’s $5B Nutrition business, and oversaw innovation for the Quaker portfolio where she launched over 30 products generating over $200MM in annual revenue.  Originally from Canada, Lesley holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and lives in Chicago with her husband and 2 young boys. 


Shibani Baluja is the Founder & CEO of lil'gourmets, which she launched in July 2018.  lil’gourmets creates fresh, nutritious, and 100% organic veggie meals designed to expand a child’s palate and teach them that vegetables are delicious.  Inspired by her experiences as a first-time mom, her vision is to transform the baby food industry into one that offers truly nutritious, delicious meals that parents can feel great about feeding to their children.  Before being consumed by baby food, Shibani spent 11 years at Kraft Foods, most recently as a Director on its Mergers & Acquisitions team, where she led a number of acquisitions, divestures, and other strategic initiatives.  Prior to that, she spent six years at Merrill Lynch's Private Client Group.  She holds a BA in Economics and an MBA in Finance & Strategy from the University of Michigan. 


Shari Matras is the Founder of BrandNext Partners, a growth strategy company, where she helps her clients create the future through strategy, branding, and innovation. She has over 20 years of experience leading businesses and building innovation pipelines. Her experience spans global and domestic, big ($66B) and early stage ($1MM), and nearly every aisle in the grocery store. In her Big Co roles, Shari led the launch of Orbit Gum, Orbit White Gum, Gevalia Kaffe Roast & Ground Coffee, K-Cups for Maxwell House and Gevalia, and new platforms for brands such as Quaker’s Breakfast Snacking and Tropicana Juice with Probiotics. Shari has also held senior roles at Grainful, Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools and Recycled Paper Greetings. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.


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Innovation Breakfast Series Location: 403 N. Carpenter, Chicago, IL 60642

Breakfast provided by Fifty Gazelles

Schedule of Events (February 13th):

7:00 AM - Doors Open, Networking & Breakfast

7:30 AM - Panel Discussion

8:30 AM - Wrap-up

Transportation Information:

Limited street parking is available on a first-come, first serve basis

Other parking options:

  • 331 N Green St. - IRT Coyne Impark Lot - $9 for 0-12 hours.
  • 408 N. Aberdeen St. - flat rate parking

The Morgan (Pink and Green) and Grand (Blue) CTA stops are close walking distance. 

Divvy stations are located at Morgan and Lake, and May and Fulton.


Come join other innovators and the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network in shining the spotlight on three leaders shaping the future of Chicago's food and beverage industry!

Have questions about Innovation Breakfast: Moving From Big Co to Small Co? Contact Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network

When & Where

Fifty Gazelles
403 North Carpenter Street
Chicago, IL 60642

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM (CST)

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Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network

Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network

Sparking innovation and building an ecosystem that supports it are key ambitions of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network. The Network stands at the forefront of the companies, technologies and business models that are reshaping Chicago. Today, more than 3,500 food and beverage companies call Chicagoland home, accounting for 130,000 employees and $32 billion in annual sales. We seek to grow these numbers as we make Chicagoland the global food & beverage hub of the future.

The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network drives inclusive economic growth by bringing together the food & beverage industry to collaborate on opportunities in workforce development, food safety, innovation & technology, and business services.  Learn more

Alan Reed is CEO of the Network.

Jeremy Anderson of Fifty Gazelles is the volunteer host and organizer of the Innovation Breakfast series. 

  Contact the Organizer

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