Dairy Runway Program

Supporting early-stage dairy entrepreneurs using New York-produced cow milk

Based on the National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps model, the Dairy Runway program addresses the biggest reason for new product failure: lack of product fit with market demand. Through Dairy Runway, food entrepreneurs and dairy innovators with early-stage ideas for value-added dairy products using New York State cow milk participate in a FREE, virtual Cornell-hosted entrepreneurship course that introduces them to the business model canvas and customer discovery process. Program participants are led through a process to determine if their product ideas are desirable, viable, and feasible. Graduates are equipped with the skills needed to develop a workable business plan for a scalable product and are positioned to apply to various incubator and accelerator programs.

The Program

Up to 10 teams will be selected into each Dairy Runway cohort to participate in a free, virtual course that combines self-directed online learning activities with Zoom-based class meetings and one-on-one instructor check-ins. Throughout the course, industry experts and food entrepreneurs join virtual sessions to discuss product branding, consumer trends, and the challenges of bringing novel products to market.

Teams that attend and participate fully in every virtual course session will be offered fully-funded access to Cornell’s Food Processing and Development Laboratory to work, support from Cornell’s Food Science technical experts, and business coaching from a select group of Cornell Entrepreneurs in Residence, in order to bring their innovative ideas to the prototype stage and further develop their business model canvas after coursework concludes.

Instructors

Ken Rother
Heather Sandford

Industry Experts

Throughout the Dairy Runway entrepreneurship course, experts from a variety of industries participate as guest speakers to share information on consumer preferences, product branding, retail, and the entrepreneurial experience.

Maureen Ballatori

Maureen Ballatori (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Agency 29, an award-winning creative agency for food, beverage, and agriculture brands. Her experience in brand strategy helps companies scale business growth, define their unique marketing message, and attract their ideal audiences.

Maureen’s rural roots are the source of her passion for agriculture marketing and food. An active community member, Maureen holds multiple board seats for local and international organizations and she is a national speaker and workshop facilitator.

Marla Buerk

Marla Buerk is Executive Vice President of Innovation for Dairy Management Inc.’s Global Partnerships. In this role, she works with the dairy industry on strategy and innovation development based on consumer insights and product science. Prior to joining DMI, Marla led Innovation for Kraft Foods Cheese and Pizza Divisions. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University and her MBA from the University of Virginia.

Jason Goodman

Jason Goodman leads Antithesis Foods efforts to translate our best understanding of nutritional science into better-for-you foods.

He earned a Ph.D. in Food Science from Cornell university, and completed his undergraduate degree in Microbiology at Penn State University. Prior to Antithesis, Jason worked in the biotechnology field at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals and Integral Molecular, both in his native Philadelphia.

Laura Mack

Growing up, Laura Mack’s playground was not that of the usual sorts, instead, it was most often her family restaurant. In the farm-to-table kitchen of Mary’s Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek, chef-owner Doug Mack hitched his daughter to a carrier pack on his back as he worked the line. Laura grew up in the heat of that kitchen. It was from this that she learned at an early age that success depends on a strong commitment to customer satisfaction, quality, and a constant focus on the job at hand.

By adulthood, Mack had an ingrained culinary aptitude and a taste for locally sourced fare. In the summer of 2014, she channeled their know-how into something sweet: lu•lu, a “farm-to-spoon” ice cream shop on Bristol’s Main Street — just three miles down the road from Mary’s. In 2018, the shop moved to its current location in the heart of the smallest city, Vergennes, VT.

Program Timeline

April 2024

Applications Open April 17th

June 2024

Applications Close June 10th (5 p.m. ET)

June 2024

Participants Selected Week of June 17th

July – August 2024

Virtual Course July 8th – August 8th

September – December

Kitchen Incubator

Eligibility

The program is open to any dairy entrepreneur or food innovator located in New York and the New England states with an idea for a new, value-added, cow milk-based dairy product. To be eligible, participants must agree to source cow milk produced in the state of New York in their proposed dairy product.

This program is made possible through a grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Dairy Promotion Order.

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This program is made possible through a grant from Empire State Development and funded through the New York State Agriculture and Markets, Dairy Promotion Order