Food and drink entrepreneurs and arts and culture organizations are key players in Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Local Brewery Pivots, Perseveres, and Prospers
“Getting through the hurdles of opening the business seemed almost insurmountable. But when I look back, they’re a lot of the challenges anybody trying to get into this business faces,” admits Labyrinth Brewing Co-Owner Adam Delaura. “We’re now past the point we were before the pandemic.”
From Baker to Business Owner
“If I can do it, anybody can do it. And if something’s not working out for you, you can always reinvent yourself,” advises Little Owls Bakery Owner Stephanie Barnes.
CT Startup Serves Bespoke Scoops and Sprinkles
I always knew I wanted to be my own boss and create something cool to market to people.
Plant-Based Business Incubates and Thrives
Find out how GiGi Lawrence channeled her love of cooking and veganism into RastaRant Experience, a thriving business that provides Caribbean-infused, plant-based meals.
CT Food Entrepreneur Sets and Achieves Goals
“As long as you’re consistent and dedicated, you can always achieve your goal. It may take time, but being consistent every single day will get you one step closer to that goal,” advises CrAves By Aves Founder Avery Beamon.
Enthusiastic Foodie Incubates and Grows Her Business
“The best advice I can give anyone is to listen to yourself and stick to your gut and know what you want to do. When you’re authentic, your people will find you,” advises My Vegan List LLC Founder R’Ryana DeCordova
Creating Connecticut’s First Libation Library
“The networks are amazing in Connecticut, especially in the Hartford area with all these youth organizations, business groups, chambers of commerce—everybody’s been welcoming us with open arms,” says Moxi On the Rocks Founder Tomas Nenorta.
Celebrate Juneteenth By Giving Back
On Saturday, June 18, the Berkins Family is hosting Juneteenth 2022 – Berkins Family Fund Inaugural Event at their Berkins On Main location in the Wadsworth Antheneum. “Juneteenth is a time for jubilation,” emphasizes co-owner Andréa Hawkins. “Not only that, the historic date marks the seventh anniversary of our first café launch. We’re amplifying an historic date, celebrating our evolution, and creating an opportunity to support the Berkins Family Fund, which we hope will enable others like us to do good in the community.”
CT Family Business Seoul BBQ
Seoul BBQ Owner Mark Moon shares about his journey “from office to kitchen” when he stepped in to run his family’s business.
Meet Forge City Works New Executive Director Ben Dubow
“The dynamics are shifting and changing, which creates a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to figure out what’s next and address the needs of this new population that’s living in Hartford,” says Executive Director Ben Dubow.
From Cottage License to Bakery Owner
“Definitely ask for help. It’s out there. If you don’t know where to look, your local chamber of commerce or town are a great place to start. There’s always somebody who can help you. Don’t be afraid to ask,” advises Bakery On Maple Founder Erika Stirk.
CT Startup Invites You To Enjoy A Proper Cup Of Tea
“When I decided I wanted to do something else, I was excited at the prospect of making my dream come true, but I also realized I needed to get some information I didn’t have,” explains Take Tea Owner Nann Thomson, who worked with a SCORE mentor to refine her business plan.
Semilla Café + Studio Creates Community
“I’m just glad that we’re able to do what we’re doing here and grateful for people wanting to utilize and interact with the space and being supportive of the way we’re trying to go about operating the space,” says Semilla Café + Studio Co-Owner Aimee Chambers.
CT Butchers, Brewers, Bakers, and Coffee Makers
Local butchers, brewers, bakers, and coffee makers—from a cottage licensed home baker to a microbakery to a small businesses that pivoted to better serve its customers—provide insight about starting and growing these types of small businesses in the Hartford Region.
Baking Enthusiast, Community Supporter, Food Entrepreneur
Find out how Bria Day turned her passion for baking and giving back to the community into Disheveled Diva, a cottage food business that creates bespoke sweet treats and makes a local impact.
Ovelle Brings Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee to Connecticut
“I’ve always been entrepreneurial. It feeds my spirit and soul,” says Ovelle Coffee Co-Founder Sasha Fay.
Small State Provisions Finds Its Home at GastroPark in West Hartford
"In terms of the future, I want to be a place where people can come and feel connected and have a great experience," says Small State Provisions Founder Kevin Masse.
Specialty Coffee Company Aims to Diversify The Food And Beverage Industry
“From a traditional point of view, starting this business was challenging because we’re in a pandemic. But my passion for business ownership, coffee, our community, and making an impact made it easier,” says Jermaine Frazer-Phillips of Big Up Brew.
Hartford-Based Startup Bakery is Blooming
“Something we constantly remind ourselves is to stay true to the vision and the initial goals that we had set out,” says Alex Pilon of Bloom Bake Shop. “As a family-run business, communication is really important.”
Hartford-Based Phantom Brewing Company
“Phantom Brewing loves being part of the beer community in Connecticut. We love being on the scene and contributing as much as we can,” says Co-Owner and Head Brewer Jonathan Patrei.
Local Juice Bar Meets Community Needs In Many Ways
“A good business plan is beneficial, even if it’s not very specific,” advises Liquid Nirvana Owner Rosy Kapur. “Just having an idea of your financial strategy, marketing strategy, and operational strategy helps.”
Hartford River Cruises Provides a New Way of Touring the Region
"Right now, the Connecticut River is teaming with all kinds of wildlife. On the boat, you get a much better appreciation for this natural resource that is flowing right through your city," emphasizes Hartford River Cruises Founder Brian Downey.
Dom’s Coffee Talks Success, Growth, and Expansion
“I think with everything in life, especially with business, you don’t need to be afraid to ask,” advises Dom’s Coffee Co-Owner Andrius Plankis.
Capital Ice Cream—A Happy Place in Hartford
"Do the work, stretch yourself beyond your own expectations, and be kind at all times," advises Capital Ice Cream Co-Owner Chantell Boissiere-Kelly.
Connecticut Forum Leadership Transition Inspires and Empowers
“In terms of an entrepreneurial spirit, The Forum lives in that space. We’re always thinking about how to do things better, newer, and with more impact and ways to extend our mission, our reach, and our brand,” explains Ruth Cullen, who will step into an Executive Director role in June with Co-Founder and CEO Doris Sugarman steps aside.
Connecticut’s Coffee Scene Is Brewing
The Hartford Region has plenty of great coffee shops to keep us fueled—whether we’re working from the office or working from home.
Perfect Poundcakes Finds Success in East Hartford
Find out how Perfect Poundcakes Founder Tamika Mitchell took a well-loved family recipe and turned it into a thriving bakery.
Startup Brewery and Roastery Coming to West Hartford
“The concept has been to create a communal gathering place with a community-based feeling where you can support local. A place to connect with your community, sip craft beverages, and share your lives/thoughts/ideas,” says WeHa Brewing and Roasting Founder Cody McCormack.
CT Entrepreneur Brings Cajun Restaurant to Greater Hartford
“Being able to go out on my own is something I love doing. I don’t mind the risk. You have to be able to take risk if you’re going to open a restaurant, especially during COVID-19,” says Roux Cajun Eatery Owner Stephanie Civitillo.
West Hartford Coffee Entrepreneur Makes an Impact
“The beauty of entrepreneurship is the flexibility. This year, if we want to go in a different direction, we can. There’s nothing that binds us and it opens these new opportunities,” says J.René Coffee Roasters and Victus Coffee Principal Owner José René Martínez.
El Pollo Guapo Grows Business with Three Locations in the Hartford Region
El Pollo Guapo Co-Owners Heather and Roy Riedl share about their business growth and plans to continue takeout to keep the community well fed.
Winter Support for CT Restaurants
With winter’s chilly weather, now, more than ever, we need to help our local restaurants stay afloat.
Hartford Organizations Collaborate to Create Unique Experiential Dining Experiences
Find out how Lumi Agency and weHartford Founder Melissa Melonson collaborated with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations to create experiential events.
CT Photographer Launches Low-Waste Lifestyle Brand
“I love to work with clients who have mission-based companies like mine,” explains Allegra Anderson, who recently launched Allegra Anderson Home and Lifestyle.
Hartford Prints! Is Happy on Pratt
“Having a business in downtown Hartford, we’ve found the community in Hartford is always so supportive,” says Hartford Prints! Co-Owner Rory Gale.
Food Entrepreneur Brings Experiential Dining to West Hartford
“Our ability to provide a large, open outdoor space where people can socially distance dine and access mobile outdoor kitchens that are being operated by far fewer individuals, I think, is ultimately a wise thing,” says GastroPark co-founder Tate Norden.
Hartford Has Colt Park
Designated as part of the Colt Industrial District, Colt Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1976.
Helping Sustain Historic Keney Park
“I enjoy the work I do because I feel our parks are our saving grace. They’re how we can turn our cities around and make them into destinations,” says Keney Park Sustainability Project Founder/Executive Director Herb Virgo.
Riverfront Recapture: A Regional Asset
“We’re thrilled that our Riverfront Park system is more popular than ever before,” says Michael Zaleski, President & CEO Riverfront Recapture, Inc.
Hartford’s Own Sea Tea Improv
“We’re proud to be part of a growing, healthy, exciting, artistic community in Hartford,” says Sea Tea Improv Co-Founding Member and Managing Director Julia Pistell.
CLARO Celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride
“We welcome all types of people from every race, gender, and orientation,” says CLARO Marketing Director Jalmar DeDios.
Parkville Market Is Open for Business
“Every business, large or small, is finding a way to forge ahead and, for us, not opening was not an option,” says Director of Operations Chelsea Mouta.
Hartford Restaurant Embraces Opportunity During Challenging Times
“We’re in a situation we can’t control and how you come out of it is going to define your business,” says Place 2 Be Owner Gina Luari.
Rebel Dog Coffee Founders Share Entrepreneurial Experience
Rebel Dog Coffee co-owners Peter Lemnotis and Harrison Poltorak and Digital and Community Manager Kaitlin Higgins share about the business’ growth since its 2017 launch.
Hartford-Based Eatery and Catering Company Stella’s and Mazie’s
Stella’s and Mazie’s has been cooking and serving African-American, West African, and Caribbean food to takeout or enjoy at Stella’s Eatery on Capital Avenue or for catered events through Mazie’s Catering since the two chefs decided to go into business together in 2016.
Hartford Community Theater Explores Social Justice
ActUp Theater is intentionally located in the inner-city of Hartford, CT, where many have limited or no access to quality arts. One of our driving forces is Hartford is where we call home.
Hartford Has The Wadsworth
“We’re becoming a more visitor-focused organization than we’ve ever been in our history. That, in itself, is innovation. And, despite what people sometimes say, Connecticut has always been a place of innovation,” says Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art Director and CEO Tom Loughman.
Hartford’s Charter Oak Cultural Center
Find out how Charter Oak Cultural Center makes arts and culture accessible to everyone in Greater Hartford—and beyond. Read our interview with director Rabbi Donna Berman.
Serial Entrepreneurs Open Pokeworks Location in West Hartford
Find out how and why serial entrepreneurs and lifelong friends Sonny Chen and Max Condren decided to open Pokeworks – West Hartford.
CT Coffee Shop Creates and Supports Local Community
For Silk City Coffee, serving the community creating a community space and giving back by supporting local programs.
Hartford Has Winterfest
“Winterfest brings together people from all different ages and all different backgrounds who are just having a fun time in downtown Hartford in the middle of winter in a beautiful, historic park,” says iQuilt Executive Director Jackie Mandyck.
Serial Entrepreneur Creates a Food Presence in Hartford
Find out more about serial entrepreneur Cary Wheaton, who is Founder and Owner’s Representative at Firebox Restaurant and Executive Director of Forge City Works.
CT Business Owners Reinvent Café to Provide Jobs for People with Disabilities
BeanZ Co-Founder Kim Morrison talks about her entrepreneurial evolution and the importance of creating inclusive work environments.
Urban Lodge Brewing Co. Shares Startup Experience
Urban Lodge Brewing Co. Co-Owners Michael Gerrity and Ryan Fagan became friends and brothers-in-law when they married sisters. The two took a brewing class together about five years ago, which is when the idea to open a local brewery began.
Hartford Creatives Are Building a Music and Dance Space for the Hartford Arts Community
Parkville Sounds Founder Stephen Cusano and Hartford Dance Collective Artistic Director Jillan Foley are collaborating to create a home for thriving Hartford artists.
CT Female Entrepreneurs Celebrate Five Years in Business
Popover Bistro & Bakery owners Pam Paydos and Sara Allen recently celebrated five years in business. Learn about their experience starting out, how they’ve evolved, and some of the challenges they’ve overcome.
Greater Hartford Brewery Supports Local Community and Businesses
Find out how Brewery Legitimus has been working to build its clientele and support local businesses.
Parkville Market Creates Economic Development in Hartford
“This neighborhood is an amazing community that wants to work together and develop Parkville as a destination. People are so happy to work and live here,” says Parkville Market with Director of Operations Chelsea Mouta.
The 10th Annual Hartford Rib Off
Local small business owner Guy Neumann grew a backyard BBQ party into a charitable event that draws thousands of people to Hartford and has raised more than $150,000 since 2009.
CT Founder Shares Updates About Her Healthy Food Startup
Let’s Start From Scratch offers an online order system and provides prepared meals and boutique catering, prepared meals, and cooking classes.
Hartford-Based Craftbird Food Truck Shares Startup Experience
Craftbird Food Truck co-founder Mallary Kohlmeyer shares about her experience starting a small business in Greater Hartford.
With Dozens of Choices, CT is a Destination for Beer Lovers
Connecticut startup breweries are all the buzz right now. Innovation Destination Hartford has had the pleasure of touring several throughout the Greater Hartford area.
CT Dance Companies Put Their Spin on Entrepreneurship
Four Connecticut-based creative entrepreneurs share how they turned their dance companies into successful Hartford-area businesses.
CT-Based Back East Brewing Company Shares Updates
"It's challenging because the market is continually changing. It is important for breweries to listen and respond to what their customers want," says Back East Brewing Company Co-Founder Tony Karlowicz.
Hartford Entrepreneur Puts a Spin on the Local Café Scene
Kyle Mayer has been making efforts to roll out Petrolhead Café, a coffee shop/bar/restaurant concept that is currently seeking social and financial backing so it can launch in Hartford.
Hartford-Based Dance Collective Empowers Creative Women
Find out how Jillian Foley was encouraged to launch The Dance Collective based on a need to provide an innovative platform for dance and create choreographic and leadership opportunities for women.
Serial Entrepreneur Brings Axe Throwing to Connecticut
“I have a very vivid imagination, so I knew what this place could do and what it could feel like. It’s exceeded every vision I had,” says Montana Nights Axe Throwing founder Merle McKenzie.
Hartford-Based Sonia Plumb Dance Company
Sonia Plumb of Sonia Plumb Dance Company always knew she wanted to dance. She eventually found her passion for directing and choreographing. However, “Being an artist and an entrepreneur are two very different things,” she emphasizes.
Parkville Sounds Provides a Creative Space for Musicians
Parkville Sounds Founder Stephen Cusano shares about his startup, which provides space for Hartford-area musicians and artists as well as touring bands passing through the city.
Hartford Startup Restaurant Is The Place 2 Be
“Hartford has so much potential—and so many people are striving for it. You don’t find that kind of energy everywhere,” says The Place 2 Be Co-Owner Gina Luari.
Hartford-Based Hog River Brewing Shares Updates About the Startup
Find out what's new with Hog River Brewing.
Entrepreneur Helps Launch Fine Dining Bistro in Manchester, CT
“If Main Street Manchester can become a food destination in a way West Hartford Center or Middletown can be, then everybody wins. That’s how it works. When a business succeeds, it benefits the community,” says Bistro on Main General Manager Ben Dubow.
Connecticut Valley Brewing Company
“Local breweries definitely help each other out. We and ask questions or ask for supplies. Everyone works together. It’s a good environment,” says Connecticut Valley Brewing Company Owner Steve Palauskas.
Hartford Entrepreneur Shares Updates About CONNetic Dance
"Connecticut has amazingly talented artists and much young talent coming up through schools. I see it as my responsibility as an art creator to keep talent here in Connecticut with professional opportunities that are innovative and inspiring," says Carolyn Paine, who is Founder, Director, and Choreographer of CONNetic Dance.
Relic Brewing Shares Updates About the Startup
Read our update with Relic Brewing Owner Mark Sigman.
Hartford-Based Coffee Startup Story and Soil
“There’s an opportunity here. We’re all anticipating the momentum that’s already been happening within the whole food scene in Hartford,” says Story and Soil Founder Michael Acosta.
Thomas Hooker Brewery Finds a Home in Hartford
Thomas Hooker Brewery Owner Curt Cameron shares about his entrepreneurial experience and why the brewery created a presence in Hartford.
Entrepreneur Launches Startup Brewery: Boondoggle Beers
“As far as being innovative, I guess it’s just a matter of trying to keep up with some of the newer trends,” says Boondoggle Beers Founder Micah Kerr. “And, obviously, it’s not about a hobby, it’s about a business. So, you have to earn revenue at some point.”
Family-Run Business Continues Success in Newington, CT
IDH learns about the evolution of Saccuzzo Coffee Co. and how the family business has maintained success in Greater Hartford.
CT Social Influencers Launch Startup Marketing Agency
“What I’ve learned from working with Kristen as an entrepreneur is we have such different skill sets, yet it really helps when we’re working together. We are able to bring different experiences to our clients,” says Eat IN Connecticut Marketing Co-Founder Jeannette Punsoni Dardenne.
CT Startup Brewery: New Park Brewing
New Park Brewing Co-Founder John Doyle on the importance of partnerships: “Having people you can trust in, depend on, and believe in is huge. If you don’t have that strong partnership, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s not going to work.”
CT Startup Brewery: Alvarium Beer Company
"I would highly recommend going through the exercise of developing a business plan, tearing it down, and tweaking it several times," says Alvarium Beer Company co-founder Brian Bugnacki.
CT Startup Brewery: Outer Light Brewing Company
Interested in trying new craft brews made in Connecticut? Head to Groton to check out the tasting room at Outer Light Brewing Company. Find out how the startup brewery got up and running—read our interview with Outer Light Brewing Company Co-Founder Matt Ferrucci.
Startup Improv Troupe Finds Its Place in Hartford
“We love serving the Greater Hartford community. And we are very Hartford proud because there’s so much opportunity here,” says Julia Pistell, Co-Founding Member and Managing Director at Sea Tea Improv.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Firefly Hollow Brewing
“Our goal is small and beautiful,” says Firefly Hollow Brewing Co-Founder Bill Collins.
CT Startup Brewing Company: Powder Hollow Brewery
Michael McManus, Owner of Powder Hollow Brewery, on his outlook for the future of the company: “The two- to five-year year plan is in my head, but it’s always happening faster then you’re prepared, which is great. It’s a lot to manage this much growth so quickly.”
Hartford Stage Enhances Arts, Community, and Innovation in Hartford
“One of strengths of the City of Hartford is its cultural assets,” says Hartford Stage Managing Director Mike Stotts.
CT Startup Brewery: Black Hog Brewing
Business advice from Tom Sobocinski, Co-Owner at Black Hog Brewing: “I think it’s important in any business to always continue to innovate and try new things while maintaining great quality and good customer service.”
Entrepreneur Brewers: Labyrinth Brewing Company
Find out how childhood friends Adam Delaura, Sean Gaura, and Chris took their love of homebrewing and decided to launch Labyrinth Brewing Company.
Coffee Entrepreneurs Open Café in Hartford, CT
Working downtown? Stop by Blue State Coffee at 777 Main Street, Hartford for an coffee and read our interview with Alexandra Bigler, Director of Outreach and Marketing at Blue State Coffee.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Still Hill Brewery, Rocky Hill, CT
“Along with the tremendous growth in craft beer in Connecticut, there is a strong market desire for locally crafted beers. It’s the perfect time to start a brewery in Connecticut,” says Scott Barbanel, Head Brewer and Founder, Still Hill Brewery
Startup Teahouse Finds Success in West Hartford, CT
Startup The Green Teahouse has found its place in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
Hartford’s Vintage Cocktail Bar Is a Startup Success Story
Little River Restoratives co-owners Chris Parrott and Patrick Miceli discuss startups, cocktails, and small business growth in Hartford.
Entrepreneur Brewers: Broad Brook Brewing Company
“This business is recession-proof. When times are good people drink; when times are bad they drink some more,” says Tom Rossing, Co-Founder of Broad Brook Brewing Co. in East Windsor, CT.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Cold Creek Brewery
Find out how the startup brewery got up and running—read our interview with the Cold Creek team.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Relic Brewing
“I always wanted to own my own business,” says Mark Sigman, Founder of Relic Brewing. “When I reached a point in my life where it was realistic, I researched a lot of different business opportunities. In the end the one I thought was most viable was opening a brewery.”
Hartford-Based Dance Troupe with an Emphasis on Community
Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price met with Paine over coffee to discuss CONNetic Dance, the Hartford-based dance troupe Paine formed in late 2009. She is currently Founder, Director, and Choreographer.
Connecticut Startup Business Success: Krust Pizza Bar
“Connecticut is evolving and changing. I really feel like there’s a heartbeat going on in Connecticut,” says Krust co-owner Kevin Wirtes.
Hartford Baking Company: Entrepreneurial Success in Hartford County
Leaving Wall Street to start open a bakery café was a lucrative decision for Scott Kluger, Founder of Hartford Baking Company, who says he knew he wanted to do something entrepreneurial.
Startup Food Truck, Catering Business Finds Success in Greater Hartford
Mercado Co-Founder Heather Riedl talks about turning a passion for cooking and working in the food industry into a successful business venture.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Witchdoctor Brewing
Witchdoctor Brewing Company, which plans to open in the spring of 2016, is all about supporting the local talent. According to President/Owner/Brewer Josh Norris, the brewery plans offer local food, featured works by local artists and live music from local musicians.
Entrepreneur Brewer: Hog River Brewing Company
Born and raised in Connecticut, Hog River Brewing Company Founder and Owner Benjamin Braddock says the goal was always to open in Hartford.