prlIntroducing MN Cup's Throwback Thursday's! Over the next several months we will be providing a recap on past finalists and winners of MN Cup. Today we will be hearing from Punk Rawk LabsMN Cup's 2014 Food/Agriculture/Beverage Division Finalist. 

Tell us about your company.

Punk Rawk Labs is a Minneapolis based company that makes dairy free cheeses.  Using a process that mimics traditional cheesemaking, we craft our cheeses from fermented nut milks.  Our cheeses are sold nationwide at grocery stores, cheese shops, artisan boutiques, and vegan specialty shops.

How has your journey changed after MN Cup?

The MN Cup really helped to bring things into focus.  It really forced us to get our act together and put everything down on paper which can be difficult for a startup entrepreneur to do without an impending deadline.  It is a big committment of time.  Admittedly, we've been a little relieved to get back to business since it ended as things have been busy around here.  But since it's conclusion, we have been bombarded with various media requests.  We also just obtained some additional financing for our expansion using the materials we put together for the MN Cup.  The comment we got during that process was how impressed everyone was with our business plan and other materials we put together for the contest.  So in essence, it was a fair investment of time upfront.  But it pays off in unexpected ways afterwards.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Probably feedback we get from our customer base.  One of our biggest areas of grass roots support has been people with food sensitivities/allergies.  There are not a lot of products on the market that serve this population.  So we see a lot of passion in people when they find us.  It's rewarding to see that we are helping people.  We've heard from people all over the world.  It's crazy to think a little shop in South Minneapolis can make waves around the globe.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I love the challenge of having to find creative solutions to complex problems.  That really gets my juices flowing.  I also love the camaraderie that I share with my partners on this intense but magical journey.

What’s new with you and your business?

Recently, we have expanded to the west coast. We are now distributing to San Francisco and Seattle. We were also featured on The Today Show as a hot new food trend. Watch the video segment here. 

What’s your advice for startup companies looking to enter MN Cup?

I would say do it.  What have you got to lose?  We met a lot of other folks starting up who were facing similar challenges, got a lot of great advice from people who had been through it before, and we got a lot of experience presenting what we were doing to a captive audience.