Food industry entrepreneurs’ journeys land them in Wisconsin accelerator

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Ten Wisconsin food and beverage manufacturing entrepreneurs’ journeys have led them to create products and demonstrate success, earning them a spot in Wisconsin’s premier industry-specific accelerator.

Ten companies – or “Cappers” – were selected to participate in FaB (Food and Beverage) Wisconsin’s nine-month accelerator to build their capacity for growth and capitalization. The FaBcap Accelerator concludes with Capper companies each receiving a $10,000 check made possible by funding support from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and corporate sponsors.

The competitive process attracted 49 applicants from across the state. “The ten we selected demonstrated a path to success wed to their vision, authenticity, business readiness, and products that are distinct, scalable, and leaning forward for the industry,” said Brad Rostowfske, Director of Industry Growth, FaB Wisconsin. Meet the FaBcap Companies for 2018-2019:

1. Cadott, WI. Meet Sean Lenihan. Sean found his calling when a marketing research project with the National Bison Association and a desire to change his lifestyle intersected. He wanted to deliver trust, along with meat products made with the highest quality and most humanely-raised buffalo, elk, and venison, using the best regenerative grazing practices. In 2012, The Honest Bison, Inc. was formed.

2. Kaukauna, WI. Meet Amanda Santoro, a busy mother of four and nurse. Her youngest child Jake, born premature, required what she wanted for all her young children – convenient, fresh-frozen, high quality, organic crafted baby food. In 2017, Amanda started the Little Food Company.

3. Madison, WI – Meet Dominic DeSano. His story centers around his love for bees, their honey, and meadmaking – fermenting honey. His experience as the Head Meadmaker for Brazilian-based Melvino Meadery led to him starting Domeloz in 2017, making award-winning distilled mead called honey spirits.

4. Madison, WI – Meet Luke VandenLangenberg and Dan Hager. After meeting in a Physics 202 class, they came to share an ambition to transform a local sector. Setting their sights on Wisconsin’s legal, industrial hemp industry, they formed Hempire Farms in 2017 to grow and extract Cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a food ingredient. (*Hemp is the variety of cannabis with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid most known for its psychoactive.)

5. Madison, WI – Meet Nancy Potter. Nancy, with her son Peter Weber, took her bakery experience as a former owner of New Glarus Bakery in pursuit of offering consumers a deserving cracker to pair with the growing production of exceptional cheeses. In 2016, Potter’s Crackers started making small batch, artisan, organic crisps and crackers with Wisconsin’s organic ingredients.

6. Madison, WI – Meet Sascha Dhanjal. A move to Chile in a position at a private equity firm that had an investment in an olive oil farm grew her knowledge of product adulteration in the olive oil industry. In 2017, Saffi Foods was started to provide consumers and chefs unadulterated olive oils and vinegars in bulk.

7. Milwaukee, WI – Meet Qasim and Asim Khan. Born and raised in Pakistan and moving to Chicago at a young age, these brothers went on to become investment bankers. After seeing how a natural remedy of turmeric paste relieved their father’s diabetic nerve pain, they saw an opportunity to heighten the medicinal benefits of curcumin in turmeric. In 2017, they started DRINK ZYN making flavored waters infused with a high-absorption form of curcumin.

8. Milwaukee, WI – Meet Ira Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich. Ira took a love for the craft cocktail scene honing his skills at The Violet Hour in Chicago and turned it in his life’s passion. With an aspiration to stay in the craft cocktail arena, he moved to Milwaukee to start Bittercube in 2009 with his friend Nick, who added his bitters experience to the duo. They offer handcrafted bitters with real botanicals and no pre-made extracts or flavors.

9. McFarland, WI – Meet Pete Marsnik, interim CEO of Bioionix. He’s been an investor and board member since the company started in 2006. A manufacturer of disinfection equipment that uses a patented catalytic disinfection process for food industry process water and brine, they’re improving food safety and eliminating purchased chemicals. 

10. New Berlin, WI. Meet Susan Knutson. Susan always loved to bake and was known to her four sons and their classmates as The Cookie Lady. She considered culinary school before receiving her degree in accounting. In 2013, she started The Naked Baker on a mission to bake the best tasting gluten-free cookies, naked of preservatives, additives, and GMOs. 


The 2018-2019 FaBcap companies will be presented on September 20th at the FaB Innovation Café event, hosted by Marquette University from 9:30 am–1:30 pm. The event will also feature a keynote presentation and café discussion on Industry Trends of the Trends by Dr. Rachel Cheatham, founder and CEO of Foodscape Group.

Members of the press are invited to attend.


FaB Wisconsin is an economic development cluster organization focused on growing Wisconsin’s food and beverage manufacturing industry. With more than 210-member companies, government entities, and academic institutions, FaB is where the business of food meets our passion for better food and beverage. Learn more at

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