The winners of the 2018 City of Binghamton Business Plan Competition will soon be residents at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, Sara Liu and Lei Liu of Parlor City Vegan received three months of free rent at the incubator.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Sara Liu expressed her gratitude to the city and partner organizations.
“We knew that Binghamton was the right place to start because of the thriving foodie scene,” Liu said. “And this support will help us continue to grow.”
Liu said she was inspired to start Parlor City Vegan, which offers a variety of vegan foods, when her father suffered a heart attack two years ago and missed eating classic comfort foods.
“We want to bring plant-based products to the meat-and-potato masses,” she said.
Parlor City Vegan currently offers full-scale catering services and is a vendor at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market every Saturday. The Lius plan to launch a line of plant-based cheese products in the near future.
Binghamton Mayor Rich David presented a $5,000 check to Liu and emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship at the local level.
“I’ve always said that from a regional standpoint, the strength of Broome County is built on the strength of Binghamton,” David said. “We’re pleased to welcome Sara to the growing list of entrepreneurs who believe this is the right time and Binghamton is the right place to invest.”
Entrants in the competitions presented business models to a panel of judges that included industry professionals and local business owners. The $5,000 award was provided by the Binghamton Local Development Corporation (BLDC), a public benefit corporation that promotes employment and economic development in the City of Binghamton.
Sara Liu graduated from SUNY Broome’s Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) last fall and also won that program’s business plan competition. The EAP requires three months of lectures and discussions, plus the production of a viable business model. Jan Hertzog, the director of continuing education and workforce development at SUNY Broome, said she wasn’t surprised to learn that Sara took the top spot in the city’s ninth business plan competition.
Currently, the Lius rent a commercial kitchen in Endicott, and are excited about the prospect of operating in downtown Binghamton.
“We’ve been working with Dan Mori and the Accelerator Program, which has been extremely helpful,” Sara Liu said. “We’re excited to use the space to meet with clients take advantage of the incubator’s resources.”
The Lius also won a slate of other services from local businesses, including some past winners of the city’s competition. They include: five hours of accounting from Davidson Fox & Co., a one-year membership to the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, $500 of website assistance from FreshySites and $500 of branding assistance from Idea Kraft.