The Launch Pad

A Culinary Entrepreneur Competition

Mess Hall is a unique culinary incubator located in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. We support independent food entrepreneurs in a brand new facility designed to foster growth through a Membership model, while creating a vibrant and diverse local food community. Mess Hall provides exclusive resources, support and innovative programs to help pave a path to success for our Members.

The Launch Pad contest is just one way we are identifying promising food entrepreneurs; connecting them with real opportunities that will help them thrive in the marketplace; and providing commercial kitchens that accommodate diverse production needs.


The winner receives an incredible set of tools and services.

  • Investment from the EquityEats CEO, and a $500,000 investment opportunity through EquityEats, a new DC-based equity crowdfunding platform for food and beverage businesses, to open your brick-and-mortar concept. In addition to listing the winning business on EquityEats, the company will provide the winner guidance about refining his/her business plan to attract investors to open his or her DC-based concept
  • A free 6-month “Unlimited” Mess Hall membership with 24-7 access PLUS the ability to host two events in Mess Hall’s Demonstration Kitchen & adjacent Event Space.
  • Six-month Mentorship from Founder of operation:eatery, Rebecca Layton Gunter
  • 6-month trial period to sell the product through Relay Foods, including supported launch of product on our platform, promotion and tastings to customers in 5 major mid-Atlantic markets, and ongoing brand advising from Relay's team for term of trial.
  • An exclusive branding/marketing consultation from Co-Founder/CEO of DC Brau, Brandan Skall
  • An exclusive distribution channel consultation from President of Route 11 Potato Chips, Sarah Cohen
  • Feature in Edible DC’s November Print Issue
  • Tax Consultation or review of previous year’s Tax Return provided by Calibre CPA Group
  • ½ Day production shoot with 2 person crew edited into a 2-3 minute promotional video by Digital Video Labs
  • Design consultation and services to meet winner’s specific needs provided by Friendly Design
  • Feature in the Industree Skinee newsletter provided by Industree
  • ServSafe Food Manager Course and Alcohol Awareness course provided by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington
  • PLUS - All finalists will have their knives sharpened by DC Sharp

Budding Food Entrepreneurs will compete for the opportunity to launch their own culinary business. This Competition is open to Startups / New Businesses only. See Eligibility section below to see if you qualify.


A business plan competition will narrow Applicants (also referred to as “Contestants”) to four Finalists who will pitch their concept to a panel of local industry experts during a live finale. Successful proposals will embody a commercially viable product and/or service; intelligent marketing and operational plans; and an emphasis on local food-sourcing and sustainable practices.

Where & When

Competition will kick off in July and conclude on September 27, 2014. See “Important Dates” below. Finale to be held at Mess Hall – 703 Edgewood Street, NE, and attended by Contestants, industry leaders, and press.


To encourage entrepreneurship within the food community and enable the launch of a business that might not otherwise come to fruition.

July 25, 2014

Registration Opens. Registration will be accepted via this online form. Registration is now closed. Applications MUST be accompanied by a $50 entry fee. See Official Rules for detailed instructions

August 11, 2014, 11:59pm

Registration deadline. Contestants must complete all of the following in order to participate:

  1. Submit basic business information
  2. Submit Executive Summary
  3. Pay $50 Entry fee via this form. Registration is now closed.
August 25, 2014 , 11:59pm

Deadline for complete Business Plan Submission Judging begins. In-person interviews begin to take place if necessary.

Week of September 1, 2014

Finalists Announced.

September 27, 2014

Finalists will present at the Grand Finale to be held at Mess Hall’s Demonstration Kitchen and attended by industry leaders and members of the press. A party will follow to celebrate the winner and the spirit of the competition which is to connect food entrepreneurs with people that can help small businesses grow.


Brandan Skall – Co-founder and CEO of DC Brau

Alisia Kleinmann – Founder of Industree

Joe Clarke – Senior Vice President, Retail Banking Manager at EagleBank

Johann Moonesinghe – Co-Founder and CEO of EquityEats

Audience Vote – Each member of the Live Audience will receive a single vote. The Audience vote will count as 5% of the overall vote.

Featuring Susan Able, publisher of Edible DC, as Emcee
Eagle Bank Logo Industree Logo DC Brau Logo Equity Eats Logo US Foods Logo
Vulcan Logo Hobart Logo Squier Associates, Inc. Logo Paxton Law Group Eco Lab Logo
Coastal Sunbelt Produce Logo Urban Alarm Logo Davis Wright Tremaine Logo Cloudburst Advisory Group
Community Supporters & Partners
Bruke Pike Productions Logo DBMC Design Logo Konnected Media Group Logo Blake Dickson Logo Friendly Design Co. Logo Think Local First Logo Vivreau Advanced Water Systems Logo Sona Logo Edible DC Logo Food Day Logo Tycon Construction Logo Calibre CPA Group Logo Digital Video Labs Logo Great Streets Logo Deputy Mayor Planning And Economic Development Logo Route 11 Potato Chips Logo Operation: Eatery Logo Cultivate Ventures DC Sharp Relay Foods Logo Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Logo Kick In DC Logo CAVA Mezze Grill Logo Boxwood Estate Winery Logo Fast Signs Logo Gordy's Pickle Jar Logo