As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to love the foods that will most likely kill me fastest. I’m a sucker for ordering anything with cheese, truffle or bacon in it! Give me a bloody mary with bacon and I’m one happy camper. Kate Levenstein, the Founder of Cannonball Productions has taken my love of comfort food to the next level by creating the Bacon & Beer Festival. She has created a whole festival where everything you try throughout the day will have bacon in it. Learn how she gave bacon more than a moment.
1. As a fellow food lover, I'm so happy you made the Bacon and Beer Classic come to life. What inspired it's creation? And what came first the Classic or your company Cannonball?
They are two of my favorite things, so I actually started throwing bacon and beer pairing dinners when I lived in Chicago. Due to their popularity, I began selling out tickets (thousands) for them and working with a diner in Chicago that was usually closed in the evenings. We were hosting over 150 people a night. I was producing festivals at the time for LivingSocial, and pitched the idea of a Bacon and Beer festival. When I realized I could do it on my own, I started Cannonball Productions with the goal of throwing just one Bacon and Beer Classic. We did 2 in Seattle and NYC in our first year and 8 in our second year.
I love hosting it inside stadiums because it has an Americana feeling with an elevated culinary spin on the tall dog and foot long you'd usually get at a game. We bring in hundreds of local restaurants and breweries to allow people to explore different variations of bacon and beer dishes!
2. In a city like NYC with multiple events happening a night how do you stay relevant and stand out from your competitors?
Execution and customer experience. It all comes down to the experience and making it better year after year. We also want to handpick as many of the best restaurants and breweries from all 5 boroughs and NJ, which is different than most events.
3. In 2.5 years you are running a team of 13! Congratulations! What have been your biggest learnings when creating a team and managing events of 15,000+?
Thanks! Our team is just the best. They are the core of these events, so we recruit really curious people who are great problem-solvers. We are a collaborative bunch and are always looking for ways to improve our company and our events. We like to think big and aren't shy to go after it. Some learnings are to be very careful with who you hire - it's the most challenging and more important thing you can do. And have a dedicated office space - it provides structure and foundation for the rest of the company. Also create a detailed process for every event and job position early on to be able to make certain areas more efficient and better understand bandwidth.
4. Let's talk balance. You've been living a very nomadic lifestyle traveling 2 out of 4 weeks per month. How do you maintain balance in your life when running your own business?
I'm just more aware of the time I have when I'm back in NYC. I schedule things weeks in advance to carve out time to see friends, go to more workout classes, and take important meetings. Some months are crazier than others, but it's all a mindset. And video calls have been the best way to "see" my team and boyfriend when I'm on the road.
5. What has been the most exciting part of building your business? Here's your chance to brag about your accomplishments.
The most exciting part is just continuing to see it grow. Scaling the Bacon and Beer Classic to 10+ venues and bringing on clients like Etsy, Greenhouse and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce were the biggest successes of 2015. In 2016 I'm most excited about branding new food and beverage concepts that will roll out in Q3 and Q4 in a few cities (including NYC) around the country. Keep an eye out for them!