Loudoun-based producers speed date to find business partnerships

Erin Saacke, left behind table, and Teri Scott, right, of Locksley Farmstead Cheese in Middleburg, talk with Michelle McIntyre and Jill Evans-Kavaldjian of Dinner Belles Kitchen and Cupboard in Lovettsville about business collaboration.

A group of 40 Loudoun-based businesses including wineries, farmers and bakers gathered at Chefscape in Leesburg Monday morning for a “speed dating-style” networking event hosted by Visit Loudoun and Loudoun County Economic Development.

The event aimed to provide a platform for local producers and growers to showcase their products to restaurants, hotels and other potential buyers. Each time a partnership formed or an order was placed a cowbell rang out.

“I have counted at least 20 times it has rung already. At times it felt like the bells never stopped ringing. This was truly an incredibly successful event and we look forward to more like this in the future,” said Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson.

Angela Marsh, founder of CoolMama, a maker of homemade gluten-free granola, said the event was productive.

“It was a great exercise and really helped me fine tune my costs so I can see what the market can bear for wholesale prices. I made some great connections,” Marsh said.

Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance and Vice Mayor Amy Marasco were in attendance in order to scout out producers who would be interested in partnering at their events held at the Old Stone School in Hillsboro. Town officials said this year they will be using 100 percent local Loudoun products for all of the wine, beer and food they serve.

“This has saved us hours of time to connect with local products. We've had a least seven buys today,” Marasco said.

Hosts and Chefscape partners Rob Batchelder and Ginny Grivas praised the event.

“From our mission of supporting the local food scene, it was a perfect match and great way to utilize this space,” Batchelder said.

Local residents Michelle McIntyre and Jill Evans-Kavaldjian of The Dinner Belles Kitchen Cupboard, a new catering company and food shop in Lovettsville, were also in attendance.

“We have lined up five or six people we want to work with, including Harvest Symphony, Tarara Winery, Dominion Tea, Sunpower Farm and Veritas Artizen Chocolate,” McIntyre said.

Middleburg-based Locksley Farmstead Cheese Co. launched a new cheese business last year. Cheese maker Erin Saacke said the event provided an ideal place to spread the word about their products.

“There are so many great agricultural producers in Loudoun, it is amazing to see that,” said Saacke.

Event organizers agreed it was a worthwhile mission to help promote Loudoun's producers.

“Based on the positive feedback from today’s participants, we will certainly organize similar events like this in the future,” said Vanessa Wagner, Loudoun Economic Development interim agriculture development officer, small business and entrepreneurship manager.

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