BRATTLEBORO — A husband-and-wife team that started making dosas (thin pancakes) behind the Hooker-Dunham building on Main Street has won the grand prize in the 2022 business plan competition hosted by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.
“The finalists were all incredibly strong entrepreneurs with great passion for their businesses, and I look forward to seeing them grow and expand,” said Ed Sheldon, Key Bank’s commercial banking relationship manager for the Vermont market. “Dosa Kitchen, in particular, has done a great job articulating its growth strategy and explaining how this plan would create new jobs and bring in outside dollars to Windham County.”
Sheldon was one of six judges in this year’s competition, along with Bronna Zlochiver of the WCEDP Council, Sara Powell of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, Meg Streeter of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development, Jeffrey Thomas of Lever, Inc., and Dena Moses of Vermont Weaving, last year’s winner.
“We learned a lot just doing the business plan,” said Leda Scheintaub, who started Dosa Kitchen in 2014 with Nash Patel.
Scheintaub said that in their eight years running their food truck, they never wrote a business plan.
“Somehow we managed to miss that. We bought the food truck and started running it. I still had another job, so it wasn’t a big risk to start that. So we just went and did it.
But now, in hopes of getting their dosa paste into even more stores, they’re sizing up space in Winston Prouty’s kitchen for all the equipment they need.
“We’re really good at doing the food truck, we know how to do it really well,” Scheintaub said. “But with production, there’s a lot to learn about how to price and make [profit and loss] projections for the years to come.
Lisa Whitney, director of campus operations at Winston Prouty, said she was thrilled to have Dosa Kitchen on campus.
“Sometimes the right people show up at just the right time,” she said. “We have a great community here, and they’ll just fit in.”
Whitney said she was not surprised to learn that Patel and Scheintaub had won the competition.
“They were so mindful of this process and made sure they dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s,” she said.
Another person who wasn’t surprised was Nancy Cain, co-founder of Against the Grain, who helped Scheintaub and Patel with their business plan.
“They did this very deliberately,” she said, spending the last eight years “testing” their product. “The two things that make these things work are one, you have to have a good product, and two, you have to have a sustainable business. They have both.
Cain has known the pair for some time, when Patel worked on the Against the Grain production line in the Brattleboro Business Park, formerly Book Press, on Putney Road.
Patel and Scheintaub also thanked Debra Boudrieau, a business advisor at the Vermont Small Business Development Center located within the BDCC.
Winston Prouty’s kitchen not only gives them space to ramp up production, but also hosts pop-up events or even offers takeout during the winter when the food truck is closed for the season.
“You can’t operate from your home,” Cain said of having a commercial kitchen. “You have to have the freezer, the chilled storage. You just can’t do it away from home. If you can’t buy wholesale, you pay the retail price.
Twenty-six entrepreneurs submitted entries for the competition in June. Applicants included both startups and extensions of existing businesses across a wide range of industries.
To be eligible to participate, applicants had to be based in Windham County, they had to have a clearly identified target market, and they had to plan to hire at least two full-time employees in fiscal year 2024.
Eight companies met all three criteria and advanced to the final phase of the competition. These finalists included West River Coffee Bar in Londonderry, Hayden Rowe Candle Co. in South Londonderry, Earthen Co. in Putney, Home Grown Edible Landscaping & Nursery and Wicked Clean Grooming, both in Guilford, and The Invèntory, Forestopia L3C and Dosa Kitchen . , all of Brattleboro.
Finalists were asked to produce a full business plan using online software provided by the Windham County Economic Development Program and on October 14 they presented their business plans for seven minutes and responded to questions from a panel of judges.