Raydiant, the leading in-store experience management platform for brick-and-mortar enterprises, today announced the five finalists for its “Rising Entrepreneur” contest. Finalists will pitch to a panel of judges on Friday, April 15th at Raydiant’s San Francisco HQ in a Shark Tank-inspired contest setting. One winner will receive the opportunity to open their own brick-and-mortar retail location at 35 Stillman Street – a commercial real estate package valued at over $50,000.
While the finalists represent unique retail offerings or concepts, they all share a passion to grow in their entrepreneurial journey and to invest in the SoMa community where the new retail space would be located. The finalists include:
Rize Up Bakery, founded by Azikiwee Anderson, is a fledgling San Francisco based Black-owned bakery focused on reinventing and rethinking the traditional sourdough. Anderson has scaled his business and recently opened a new commercial kitchen space in Fisherman’s Wharf, and is looking to the Rising Entrepreneur opportunity to establish his first owned brick-and-mortar location.
Calaca Coffee was founded by Bay Area Natives Christian Soto and José Rodriguez with a passion for food and an interest for mixing all the flavors and cultures they were surrounded by in their hometown of San Francisco. They took over an abandoned lot in Crockett, CA and converted it into the Bay Area’s first Latino-owned coffee garden space. The contest will give them the ability to operate year-round (regardless of weather) and amplify their brand.
Soto and Rodriguez are true hustlers who are excited for the opportunity to expand their small business. “We’re not new to being a big fish in a small pond and going against the current. We started Calaca Coffee at the height of the pandemic, and have already been featured in a variety of press, from The San Francisco Chronicle to Eater SF, and were invited to be a vendor at the SF Coffee Festival, all before our one-year anniversary. The Rising Entrepreneur contest will help us open our first brick-and-mortar location in our home town, and with Raydiant’s POS-powered digital signage, we’ll be able to experiment with an ever-changing menu, and really bring our brand to life.”
The Uncreamery, founded by Lisa Myaf and Mark Charette, is San Francisco’s first vegan creamery that makes shockingly delicious vegan cheeses that slice, shred and melt like their dairy counterparts. A participant of La Cocina’s incubator kitchen nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color, The Uncreamery has grown to offer their vegan cheese products across a variety of Bay Area grocery and retail outlets, as well as nationwide specialty shops and online retailers. Lisa and Mark’s cheeses won the hearts of many customers, including celebrities such as Brie Larson and Tabitha Brown. Raydiant’s offering will offer Lisa and Mark their first dedicated brick-and-mortar space for San Francisco‘ s first and only Vegan Deli and Cheese Shop, which will provide the opportunity for other small artisanal brands to be represented along their wonderful plant-based offerings. While the vegan market is heavily dominated by big name brands, it is small artisanal producers that bring innovation, unmatched quality and utmost care for their product to the table.
Whack Donuts, founded by San Francisco-native Vandor Hill, is a vegan doughnut bakery trying to flip the stigma that making vegan pastry without animal products, like eggs, can’t be delicious – and so far, he’s winning over both vegans and non-vegans alike. Hill has scaled his footprint by popping up across the Bay, from coffee shops to public markets to other vegan eateries (like Oakland’s Malibu’s Burgers), being featured in SFGATE and VegOutSF‘s best spots for vegan donuts, and is ready to take the next step in his entrepreneurial journey by opening his own dedicated brick-and-mortar space.
Hill shares, “A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, I had something vegan and it was disgusting’ – I’m trying to kill that stigma. Once people find out that my doughnuts are vegan, they honestly can’t tell the difference.'” Whack Donuts has recently partnered with Pastel to expand through delivery services across the Bay Area.
Kiss My Boba is a Tongan-owned family business started by husband-and-wife team Chelsea and Willy Tatola. The Tatolas were so passionate about their product that they decided to buy their own food truck so they could drive around and bring Bay Area residents joy via a cold cuppa tea. They’ve now expanded to Off the Grid, other public markets, launched a catering offering, and most recently, opened their first brick-and-mortar location in San Bruno at 221 El Camino Real. The Rising Entrepreneur contest will give them the opportunity to continue spreading the boba tea love through San Francisco with a dedicated location in SoMa.
“We were overwhelmed by the volume of applications we received for our Rising Entrepreneur contest,” shares Bobby Marhamat, CEO at Raydiant. “We’re feeling really good about our five finalists and know it will be a tough choice come Friday! They’re all incredibly talented, passionate, hungry, and ready for this next exciting chapter in their entrepreneurial journey.” Marhamat will serve as a judge alongside a panel of industry experts, including Akash Kapoor, CEO and Founder of Curry Up Now, and Danny Stoller, CEO and Co-founder of Square Pie Guys. Finalists will give a 10-minute pitch covering their journey, passion for the concept, vision for the retail space, and how they will continue to cultivate community in their new SoMa/South Park neighborhood.
The Rising Entrepreneur contest prize is valued at over $50,000. The package includes up to a 12-month commercial retail lease at Raydiant’s HQ, 35 Stillman Street, a busy SoMa side street near the Giants stadium and South Park. Raydiant will cover costs associated with the structural build out and work with the chosen entrepreneur to design the layout and aesthetic to their liking. Raydiant will offer the winner a $10,000 stipend to be used towards marketing and operational expenses to get their business up and running, and outfit their retail space with Raydiant-powered tech and digital signage. Raydiant’s platform will empower the chosen retailer to display digital menus, integrate with POS systems, and even power contactless check-out experiences.
Once a winner is chosen, Raydiant will kick off construction and build out with plans for the retail space to be open to the public by July 1, 2022.
Raydiant is the AI-powered, in-store experience management platform of choice for the world’s largest brands in restaurant, retail, banking and more. With Raydiant, franchise managers, IT, marketing and communications executives can more effectively scale their brick-and-mortar operations, reduce anxiety from outdated technology oversight, and seamlessly create more engaging and personalized in-store experiences that keeps customers coming back and buying more. Raydiant works with nearly 4,500 brands, from SMB to enterprise, including First Bank, Dickey’s BBQ, Harvard University, The Salvation Army, Red Bull, Chick-Fil-A, Thomson Reuters, and Wahlburgers. Founded in April 2017, Raydiant is headquartered in San Francisco, California and has raised a total of $50 million from 8VC, Atomic Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Mark Wahlberg Investments, Bloomberg Beta, Gaingels, Illuminate Ventures, Transmedia Capital, and Ron Conway. To learn more, visit www.raydiant.com.
Morgan Chaney, VP of Marketing at Raydiant