Inc. 5000 Vision Conference: Legends of the Food World

Thursday’s speaker lineup at the 2020 Inc. 5000 Vision Conference featured a celebrity chef and restaurateur, the host of a hit cooking show, and the founder of an innovative alternative-meat company. But the food business wasn’t all that was on the menu. Read on for some of the biggest highlights from the virtual event.

1. David Chang, founder of restaurant group Momofuku Group and entertainment group Majordomo Media, got personal during his session. Earlier this year Chang published the memoir Eat A Peach, in which he discusses his childhood, the sacrifices he made working in the restaurant industry, and his struggles with mental illness. More than anything, he said, overcoming himself is the crux of his success.

2. Ted Allen, the host of Food Network’s Chopped, sat down with Inc. editor-in-chief Scott Omelianuk for a behind-the-scenes look at how he prepares for on-camera appearances. Since most meetings and presentations now take place on Zoom, leaders should make sure they’re speaking authentically to their audiences, rather than simply reading to them, Allen said. His favorite trick? Memorize what you’re going to say in advance, so that you can then “inhabit the words” and sound natural.

3. Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown shared how aspiring entrepreneurs can find a world-changing idea and build it into a company. One good place to start, he said, is to read books about companies you admire and problems you care about. Then to get others invested, Beyond has used the concept of “altruistic hedonism,” where you make doing good feel inspiring–for example, forgoing traditional hamburgers in order to save the planet. Another secret to cultivating a paradigm-shifting mindset? Don’t be distracted. If you train your mind to focus on big problems, you can see them as connected and create a product like plant-based meat, which tackles the issues of animal welfare, climate change, resource use, and human health all at once. 

4. Alli Webb, co-founder of the $100 million salon chain Drybar and massage chain Squeeze, offered some very simple advice for entrepreneurs: Talk to as many people as you can. Webb explained that she was able to fine-tune her business idea prior to launching by sharing it with anyone who would listen. The key to knowing the difference between a bad idea and one worth pursuing, she added, comes down to feedback from trusted peers: “Don’t ever surround yourself with people who will tell you just what you want to hear.” 

5. Inc. and Fast Company CEO Eric Schurenberg moderated a wide-ranging discussion about the future of the internet with Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of the MIT Media Lab, and Chris DeWolfe, the co-founder of social-networking site Myspace and co-founder and CEO of video-game developer Jam City. The speakers shared anecdotes from their careers in technology, talked about the current state of social media and the digital divide, and gave advice for business leaders who want to foster creativity among their employees. They all stressed the importance of building diverse teams and encouraging people to share ideas without judgment. “What you have to do is take the risk out of making mistakes,” Negroponte said. “You’ve got to be in an environment that is very welcoming.”

6. Jim Nantz has seen the myriad connections between the sports and business worlds firsthand. In particular, the longtime CBS sportscaster identified one common thread: While many successful athletes and business owners love to win, the truly great ones hate to lose even more. “They are absolutely driven not to fail,” he said, noting that some even get hyper-competitive over one-dollar bets. Nantz himself has also been at the center of many high-pressure moments over the past few decades, and offered some advice for fast-moving entrepreneurs: “I realized a long time ago that we’re going to make mistakes, because we’re human. It used to eat me alive. And then, I realized we just have to give ourselves a break … Don’t let it bog you down.”

Free Main Stage passes are now available for the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference. Click here to claim yours.

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