Bergen entrepreneurs in top 20 for Grow NY contest competing for $1 million in November


Paul Guglielmo sat at his desk chatting to his wife Ryann while completing several tasks with email and discovered a special message in the process.

He apologized for the expletive.

“I think I was literally holy, I think we were chosen for Grow New York,” Guglielmo said during an interview with The Batavian. “The realistic future of the next five years or so…this would accelerate it from a five-year plan to a two-year plan.”

Earlier this summer, in late June, Guglielmo, CEO of Craft Cannery in Bergen, submitted an application for the 2022 Grow NY competition. It was one of 390 entries. Touted as one of the largest food and farming competitions in the world, targeting businesses in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and Southern Tier, Grow-NY offers business owners the opportunity to enter a final competition with prizes up to $250,000 participate $1 million for business investment.

Guglielmo attended last year’s event and ended up looking at each and every one of the 20 finalists. They each gave a 10-minute pitch, followed by five-minute jury questions. Think: Shark Tank minus Mark Cuban.

He was impressed with these contenders, to say the least, and thought “how smart” they all were. It didn’t seriously cross his mind to take part until a trusted friend and mentor suggested he give it a try. Tom Riggio, who is also his business partner for Craft Cannery, helped Guglielmo with the application.

“We sat down together and looked through the application and sort of punched it,” Guglielmo said. “There was an option to add a video.”

As it turns out, a potential company asked Craft Cannery for help creating a line of new sauces. The company had someone who could shoot videos, so they traded to make some gravy and record a video for the competition.

Guglielmo, who is also the founder and CEO of Guglielmo Sauce, said he’s pretty confident going into it at this point. He had the two-minute promo and his own experience and knowledge of what he has — a two-year-old company that started with three employees and now has 10 — and the potential for so much more to double his workforce, said he.

He will attend an orientation and get a mentor and coach to prepare himself for the final competition on November 16 in Syracuse. His pitch, not yet fully worked out, is three-pronged:

1. Funding us means funding the creation of other companies.

“What I love about us is that you fund all these other companies too, at least a few a month,” said the 39-year-old.

2. In order to serve our larger customers, we need the equipment.

3. Sustainability: Craft Cannery takes tomatoes that are considered unsuitable for retail (they don’t look perfect) and uses them to create “perfect” sauces. By working with Intergrow Greenhouses, there is an opportunity to process 500,000 pounds of tomatoes that would otherwise be discarded for aesthetic reasons.

“We save a few tons of tomatoes every week that go to landfill…they’re too small, too big and they don’t look good,” he said. “If we worked to sheer perfection we could make around £200,000 a year. I want to make all £500,000.”

Right now, the company does much of the prep work by hand — scrubbing tomatoes, for example — and larger processing plants would streamline that for greater efficiency and the ability to accommodate more produce, he said.

Guglielmo’s vision is to create a full line of tomato products grown in upstate New York, featuring a whole range of mashed, chopped, diced and sauce-filled versions of the red fruit. All of these plans require a cash injection to expand the company’s physical footprint and fill a production room with equipment such as B. Large high pressure hot water tanks that spin tomatoes on metal wheels to peel off their skin and remove the seeds, puree and other similar seedless items.

He could easily hand out the top award of $1 million, Guglielmo said, but would be grateful for any amount and goes into the finals an optimist.

“I’m literally speaking out loud, talking to myself in my car. I want to bring some energy into the room, be energetic and enthusiastic without being cheesy,” he said. “Worst case scenario, we come out with a really finely tuned plan.”

Empire State Development is funding the competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which is associated with the three regions – Finger Lakes Forward, CNY Rising and Southern Tier Soaring. Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement administers the competition.

Craft Cannery specializes in taking recipes from individuals, restaurants or food manufacturers and adapting them for large scale productions. Customers range from marinara sauces to oils to hot sauces and BBQ sauces to salsas for brands across the region. It is the exclusive manufacturing facility for Guglielmo Sauce, Sticky Lips BBQ, Old Pueblo Grill, Coach Tony’s, Uncle Ralph’s, Red Osier, and dozens of other high-profile food brands.


File photo of Paul Guglielmo, CEO of Craft Cannery in Bergen, by Howard Owens.

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