Are there perhaps no two greater friends in the universe than beer and bacon? I think not.
Kate Levenstien had worked for the Oprah Winfrey show until it came to a climactic end back in 2011. Following the grand finale, she chose to travel, and was sightseeing in Vietnam when she received a call that would go on to mold the rest of her life to date.
The call came from an old college friend about a job opportunity that had just arisen in Chicago. Given that Levenstien was summer-deep in a world of exploration she was very much reluctant to leave the wide expanse of travel.
After a few days of deliberation however, Levenstien decided the opportunity was too good to pass up on.
Her friend’s company had been bought by Living Social and they required more people for the team going forward. Levenstien had never been involved in organizing events professionally and at first thought the prospect daunting. Living Social nevertheless proved to be the perfect place to launch a new element to her career.
“The beautiful thing about working at Living Social was that they were very young, very eager and basically gave you the reigns to run your events and your city the way you wanted to,” she explains. With that, she was able to undertake any new venture with relative ease, gaining approval for most of the events she pitched.
She was at the helm of a team of 60 after only a couple of years with the platform and was readying herself to pitch her next round of events that were decidedly riskier than previous ventures because of their size. Levenstien was looking toward events for between 5,000-15,000 people, a dramatic increase but one she says she was fanatical about, and had researched extensively.
It had been two and a half years since she was travelling through Vietnam and received that fateful phone call, when out of the blue - Living Social decided that live events were a liability, and they would be cutting that arm of the platform off.
Having just pitched her biggest and most exciting event, Levenstien had another choice to make; would she stay within the company or pursue this series of events she had prepared and devized?
She had been running small Bacon and Beer dinners in Chicago with enormous success and the trend had begun to take root in other cities. The beer festival craze had really taken off in 2011 and she looked to capitalize on this.
“I was sitting on this idea,” she recalls, “I had all the research and information done and I believed that it would be a good thing - I was young and fearless.”
She was running trips on the side to garner capital and traction for the new venture, through a smaller company called Mid-West Adventures. They were putting on day adventures like wine outings, ski trips, themed days that were so popular, she would go on to gather enough money to launch the festival she’d been dreaming of. Having the aid of a few favoured clients, Levenstien was readying herself for a giant leap.
At 26 she founded her company Cannonball, with a view to bringing Beer and Bacon festivals to Chicago and further afield, in venues people wouldn't typically associate with food.
“There were other bacon and beer festivals around at the time so I thought if we’re going to do this we have to go big.”
Levenstien looked to situate the festivals in large arenas, sports stadiums etc., and liked the idea of the juxtaposition between food and venue, and the atmosphere that would create. Before a website was even launched, she was selling tickets to her first classic.
“I loved the idea of bringing this craft festival in to have a little artisanal spin on the hot dog - the footlong and the tall boy,” she says. And it’s paid off, majorly.
“I want to take a big risk and do this right."
This April 29-30 will be The Bacon and Beer Classic’s fourth year at Citifield in New York, and in the first two quarters of this year alone, Cannonball will host nine classics throughout the country, where in years previous, they were booking maybe nine in total for the entire year.
Cannonball is thus a most fitting name for a company that has veritably shook up the events world and arena gatherings for the next decade no doubt. Marrying two of this country's favorite commodities has proved her meal ticket, and this achievement is perfectly encapsulated in the company name.
“I was really struggling coming up with a name for the company and my then-boyfriend reminded me that I had loved the idea of Cannonball,” she remembers. “Really what our events - what the company about is taking a risk; doing something out of the ordinary; being a kid again and getting out of your daily routine - doing something unexpected, and that's what a cannonball is to me.”
While the jump out of a cannonball is really fun, it's the weapon analogy that is perhaps a more fitting reason for the brand name. “The weapon makes an impact, leaves an impression and is a force to be reckoned with,” she says defiantly - the company name, superbly mimicking its bold founder.
Where of course she cannot reveal all of the details about the upcoming festival this month, she did say that participants this year will be introduced to Virtual Reality in the VIP section, and the festival will launch its first blind tasting. The concept will test those who consider themselves beer connoisseurs and bacon lovers, and should bring a new element to the festival - a little beer fueled competition.
Photo Credit: afewgoodclicks.com
In 2016, Renee Wang sold her home in Bejing for $500,000 to fund her company, CastBox. Two months later, she landed her first investment. Just a half hour after hearing her pitch, she was offered one million dollars. By mid-2017, CastBox raised a total of $16 million in funding. CastBox's user numbers at that point? Seven million. Fast forward to today. Renee Wang of CastBox announces a $13.5 million Series B round of financing, bringing her funding total to a tidy $29 million. CastBox is now serving more than 15 million users.