The WBENC Kroger Industry Accelerator, in its inaugural year, is an 8-week cohort-style accelerator program designed to provide a comprehensive package of education, mentoring, pitching opportunities, and more. This groundbreaking initiative represents a significant milestone in the collaborative efforts between WBENC and Kroger, solidifying their commitment to fostering supplier diversity and empowering Women Owned businesses. All applicants must be WBENC-Certified and currently registered as a supplier in Kroger’s Supplier Hub vendor system at the time of submission.

In a showcase of entrepreneurial talent and innovative products, the Kroger Industry Accelerator Program recently concluded its pitch competition, revealing two standout winners — Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies and Plucky Pickle Dip. The event, held in collaboration with WBENC, highlighted the commitment of Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery chains, to supplier diversity and empowerment of Women Owned businesses.

Sasha Millstein of Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies emerged as the $10,000 pitch winner, showcasing her delectable pot pies that won over both judges and audiences alike. This victory recognizes her culinary expertise and exemplifies the potential for small businesses to thrive in the competitive retail landscape.

Sara Doherty’s Plucky Pickle Dip secured the Kroger Pilot Contract, a testament to the dip’s exceptional taste and potential to resonate with a broader consumer base. This win grants Plucky Pickle Dip a unique opportunity to reach a wider audience through Kroger’s extensive network of stores.

A Comprehensive Educational Experience

The Kroger Industry Accelerator Program provided an enriching educational experience for the 20 WBEs participating in the cohort. They were offered valuable insights through sessions like Pitch Training 101, How to Present to a Kroger Category Manager, and How to Market Your Business. These sessions equipped the entrepreneurs with crucial skills and knowledge essential for navigating the retail industry.

Each of the 20 WBEs in the program had the privilege of being paired with a Kroger executive as a mentor. This one-on-one guidance provided valuable industry-specific advice and fostered meaningful connections between seasoned professionals and budding entrepreneurs. In addition, the cohort demonstrated an impressive diversity of offerings, ranging from translation services and vitamins to dips, wine & and spirits, snacks, spices, health and beauty products, transportation, and more. This eclectic mix showcased the cohort’s breadth of innovation and creativity, underscoring the program’s ability to nurture a wide array of businesses.

Efficiency and Engagement in the Pitch Competition

The pitch competition was a meticulously orchestrated event characterized by a profound emphasis on the overall quality of the pitches. Every participant adhered diligently to their allotted time slots, eliminating the need for abrupt interventions. Notably, the judges exhibited remarkable involvement, offering incisive and invaluable inquiries. Their questions were astutely crafted, drawing out key details and offering constructive feedback. It was evident that they had a keen understanding of the nuances of each presentation, underscoring their commitment to nurturing promising ventures.

Special recognition must also be given to WBENC Pitch Academy sessions, which undoubtedly played an instrumental role in elevating the caliber of the pitches. The guidance and mentorship provided by the academy were reflected in the exceptional quality of the presentations, further affirming its invaluable contribution to the competition’s success.

Pamela Prince-Eason, President & CEO of WBENC, addressed the attendees and engaged in a meaningful conversation with Ryan Verbecken, the Chief Procurement Officer of Kroger. Their discussion centered on the accelerator program and Kroger’s unwavering commitment to fostering supplier diversity.

Celebrating Success: The Announcement of Winners

The climax of the event was the announcement of the winners. Ryan Verbecken took the stage to reveal the $10,000 Pitch Winner and the recipient of the Kroger Pilot Contract, capping off a day of celebration and achievement for all involved.

The Kroger Industry Accelerator Program has proven to be a valuable platform for Women Owned businesses, providing them with the tools, resources, and opportunities needed to thrive in the competitive retail sector. With Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies and Plucky Pickle Dip leading the way, the future looks promising for these entrepreneurs, and their products are bound to leave a lasting mark on the shelves of Kroger stores nationwide.


Kroger Industry Accelerator Pitch Competition Winners

Sasha Millstein

Founder│ Aunt Ethel’s Pot Pies

Sara Doherty

Co-Founder│ Plucky Pickle Dip

Congratulations to all participants in the cohort for their outstanding performance in the pitch competition and their enthusiastic participation in the Kroger Industry Accelerator Program. Every individual showcased awe-inspiring talent and passion for their businesses.

We thank our Title Sponsor, Kroger, for their invaluable support. We are grateful for the opportunities they have provided to these remarkable entrepreneurs, as their dedication to fostering supplier diversity is not only commendable but also sets a shining example for the industry at large.

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