Spring 2024 Dairy Runway Cohort Takes Off 

The Spring 2024 cohort of Dairy Runway is concluding the program’s six-week entrepreneurship course and advancing into the Kitchen Incubator phase of the program. Funded by the New York State Dairy Promotion Order and established in partnership with the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, this free program supports the development of early-stage ideas for value-added dairy products made from New York State produced cow milk. 

Participating teams are introduced to the customer discovery process through the online, synchronous entrepreneurship course, which is modelled after the NSF I-Corp curriculum, and includes one-on-one check-ins with course instructors. Throughout the course, leaders from various industries present on topics such as product branding, consumer preferences, and launching CPGs.  

Teams that successfully complete the course are paired with a Cornell Entrepreneur in Residence for one-on-one business coaching, as part of the Kitchen Incubator phase. During this phase, teams have fully funded access to Cornell’s Food Processing and Development Laboratory, where they work with food technicians and dairy specialists on a prototype.   

Meet the Spring 2024 Dairy Runway Cohort: 

  • Kelp Butter (Shaina Pigliacampi) 
  • Finger Lakes International Food Brands LLC (Mauricio Guerra) 
  • Collins Farm & Creamery (Sammi Collins) 
  • Seen Nutrition (Adrienne Bitar and Jennifer Han) 
  • sc/fx inc. (Zachary Strasser) 
  • Sunset Sky Farm (Lauren and Willian Northrop) 
  • Shakewell’s (Tyler Ayers) 

The instructors for the entrepreneurship course are Ken Rother, director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, and Heather Sandford, who was a founding partner at The Piggery, a category-defining farm-to-table butchery that launched a successful line of nitrate-free deli meats, cured meats, and house-made charcuterie. Both Rother and Sandford were instructors for last year’s cohort as well and look forward to coming back to teach a new cohort of teams this summer. 

“Although true that all entrepreneurs are deeply invested in their product idea, food entrepreneurs have a unique passion for getting their product to market,” said Rother. 

Graduates of the program are equipped to develop a business plan for a scalable product and competitively apply to incubator and accelerator programs.  

“Being an instructor for the Dairy Runway Cohort has absolutely been one of the highlights of my professional career,” Sandford said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience in localized consumer packaged goods product lines with amazing entrepreneurs focused on supporting our regional dairy industry.” 

Guest speakers for the program include: 

  • Marla Buerk, Executive Vice President of Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI), an expert within the dairy industry on strategy and innovation development based on consumer insights and product science, and Judy Keenan, an innovation consultant for DMI.  
  • Maureen Ballatori, Founder and CEO of Agency 29, which specializes in brand strategy for companies to scale business growth and define their unique marketing message. 
  • Jason Goodman, CEO of Antithesis Foods, a food company making healthier processed foods. Goodman also earned a Ph.D. in Food Science from Cornell University. 
  • Laura Mack, Founder of lu.lu Ice Cream, a company that produces farm-to-spoon ice cream and goat milk gelato. lu.lu ice cream was also one of the winners of last year’s Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition. 
  • Tim Mahan, Group Manager, Dairy and Frozen Foods, Wegmans, an award-winning supermarket chain.  

Applications will open in April for the next Dairy Runway cohort, with virtual instruction taking place from July to August and the Kitchen Incubator portion running from September to December.