Koala’s Pantry Has the Recipe for Success at August Virtual Hatching Event

Black-Owned Baby Food Startup Takes Top Prize at August 13 Hatching

LANSING, Mich. – Five more aspiring entrepreneurs pitched at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership’s (LEAP) August 13 virtual Hatching event, bringing the series’ theme of resilience to life with their business ideas.

This month’s ideas included a health and wellness coaching startup, a virtual platform to engage people with the resources and benefits of libraries, a support network for positive community support and an app-based resale network for graduation regalia.

August’s judging panel included Kristin Shelley from the East Lansing Public Library, Jeff Smith from the MSU Foundation, Luke Hackney from Retro Duck and chair of the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA), Dr. Suban Nur Cooley and Valerie Hoag from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the venture sponsor for the first four 2020 Hatching events.

The event featured a soulful halftime set by Austhebear during the judges’ deliberations.

Top prize went to Steve Manning’s Koala’s Pantry, an all-natural, affordable baby food startup poised to become the first black-owned baby food brand. Judges praised Manning’s data-driven presentation, which focused on contaminants and safety concerns among America’s top-selling baby food brands.

A father of three, including a 7-month old baby boy, Manning has a personal stake in bringing safe, healthy baby food options to market. Manning aims to increase not just quality, but affordability with Koala’s Pantry: the company’s products will retail for $4 per 8oz serving versus his competitors, which currently sell for an average of $3.50 for just 4oz.

Manning hopes the exposure from pitching at the Hatching will help catapult Koala’s Pantry to a more mainstream market to build brand awareness.

“Participating and winning LEAP’s virtual Hatching event was an amazing experience I will never forget,” said Manning. “We hope this opportunity will help catapult Koala’s Pantry into becoming a recognizable brand where ‘Fresh Taste Better.’”

Manning plans to use the Hatching prize money to jump-start social media marketing; invest in supplies including fresh ingredients, equipment and packaging; and fund kitchen fees and product licensing costs.

The Hatching is a business pitch competition produced by LEAP. This year, LEAP has partnered with the Fledge, a one-of-a-kind space that promotes radical inclusion and provides a pathway to remove barriers in entrepreneurship, in our efforts to attract all ethnicities, cultures and genders. This year’s virtual series provides one winning entrepreneur from each event with $2,000 in cash support, as well as connection to valuable business services. The 2020 Hatching series revolves around a central theme of resilience.

“We are proud to continue offering this opportunity for Lansing area entrepreneurs to share their business ideas and engage with our entreprenurial ecosystem by pivoting to a virtual event,” said Anum Mughal, LEAP’s manager of new ventures. “This is a critical resource for aspiring business owners to gain exposure and access to resources at the beginning stages of their business journey.”

People interested in participating and pitching at LEAP’s Virtual Hatching competition can submit their ideas to www.thehatching.org. Submissions for the September 10 event are being accepted through Thursday, September 3.


About LEAP

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all — working every day to grow, retain and attract business to the Lansing region.

About The Hatching

The Hatching is a regularly occurring business pitch competition founded by LEAP, established as part of a community wide effort to support local entrepreneurs. Participants submit business and product ideas through the Hatching’s online portal, where the public subsequently votes forward the ideas that will be pitched in front of a live audience and panel of judges.