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  • Holmes Chosen for Forbes 30 Under 30

    By Laura DeMarco, GreaterCLE

    Thirty Greater Clevelanders under age 30 have been named to their inaugural Forbes 2023 Local Leaders list.  The honorees include Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs, bankers, app designers, tree activists, developers, coffee shop founders – and a nine-year-old DJ.

    There’s even an applesauce innovator – Ethan Holmes, Founder of Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce and the inaugural Cleveland Chain Reaction winner in 2017.

    “I have applied to the Forbes national list for many years and was never chosen, so being named to this means a lot to me – especially since I will be 30 on September 3!” said Holmes in a call. “It’s like God or the universe said, ‘Hey, you did do a great job getting up this age and building this business. It’s an early birthday gift!

    “It’s also great exposure. We are launching a new product line this month. We sent our first shipment to Walmart yesterday. And we are working with Forbes to be part of their Summit in October.”

    Combined, these rising stars anticipate at least $200 million in revenue this year, says Forbes.

    And, the Leaders are:

    • Jared Anderson & Sandor Gyerman, 24 & 24 | Cofounders, andor. Creative
    • Natalie Bata, 29 | Cofounder, Cocky’s Bagels
    • Reilly Berk, 25 | CEO, Berk Enterprises
    • Devon Carter & Laura Frias, 29 & 26 | Cofounders, Recognize Education And Learning (REAL)
    • Ryan Cleary, 29 | Cofounder, FloatMe
    • David Davis II & Tim DiStefano, 25 & 23 | Cofounders, FBA Flip
    • Nichole Davis, 25 | Founder, Wayfinder Patient Advocates
    • R. Joshua Dobbs, 28 | Athlete and Founder, ASTROrdinary Dobbs Foundation
    • Conrad Geis, 26 | President, Geis Development
    • Aaron George & Dan Lozada, 26 & 22 | Cofounders, SupplyNow
    • Lily Goodwin, 9 | DJ, The Lily Jade Show
    • Palak Gupta, 29 | PhD Candidate, Case Western Reserve University
    • Elie Haoui, 23 | Cofounder, Milk + Honey
    • Ethan Holmes, 29 | Founder, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce
    • Kuan Huang, 29 | Cofounder, Aropha
    • Karim Janmohamed, 24 | Co-CEO, Karali North America
    • Jonah Katz & Andrew Hamilton, 22 & 23 | Cofounders, Layer
    • Samira Malone, 28 | Executive Director, Cleveland Tree Coalition
    • Sergio Mazzola Poli de Figueiredo, 29 | General Surgeon, Cleveland Clinic
    • Aiden Meany, 29 | Founder, Found Surface
    • Geeta Minocha, 25 | Cofounder, Ohio Public Banking Coalition
    • Andrew Newsome, 29 | Vice President, ScaleCo Capital
    • Selina Pagan, 27 | Co-Executive Director, Young Latino Network
    • Maria Paparella, 25 | Founder, Chair-ity
    • Leopoldo Peña, 28 | Cofounder, Presta
    • Nathan Sundheimer, 29 | Head of U.S. Healthcare Partnerships, Plug and Play Tech Center
    • Cameron Tolbert, 26 | Founder, Native Ingredients
    • David Tirpak, 29 | Founder, Miracle K9 Training
    • Mitchell Vargo, 26 | Partner, Forward Hospitality Group
    • Dianne Williams, 27 | Founder, Little Zen Yoga

    “It’s super cool,” says David Tirpak, who founded Miracle K9 Training, a training, boarding and daycare kennel with a staff of 15 people, in 2019. “Being young in the entrepreneurial space in Cleveland has always been unique and interesting. This validates what is possible if you put your heart and hard work into something.”

    The Local Leader lists are an outgrowth of Forbes prestigious 30 Under 30 franchise, the definitive young leaders lists that the company launched a decade ago.

    Cleveland is one of just 10 cities to make the Local Leaders list, highlighting the changemakers and groundbreakers who are innovating and inspiring the future in The Land. The other cities include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Puerto Rico, Seattle and Toronto.

    Honorees were nominated through online submissions, industry sources and Forbes alumni. Candidates were evaluated by Forbes writers and a panel of independent judges on factors including funding, revenue, social impact, scale, inventiveness and potential. Cleveland judges were Mayor Bibb; Andrew Berry, General Manager, Cleveland Browns; Ashley Keating, Partner, CincyTech;  2023 Forbes Under 30 honoree Marisa Sergi-Schumann, Chief Executive Office, L’uva Bella Winery; and Eddie Taylor, Jr., President, Taylor Oswald (who is on GCP’s Executive Committee.)

    The spotlight on Cleveland doesn’t stop there. 

    This October, Forbes brings its 2023 Under 30 Summit to Cleveland, the first of three years in Ohio. The Summit, which has already celebrated more than 10,000 young leaders, will be in Cincinnati in 2024 and Columbus in 2025.

    Holmes Chosen for Forbes 30 Under 30
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  • Applesauce Emperor: what young innovators can learn from Ethan Holmes

    Everyone has a favorite food. For Ethan Holmes, that was applesauce. Simple. Sweet. Tart. And yet it was this humble food that became the foundation of an empire.

    Ever since he was 15, Ethan dreamed of revolutionizing the applesauce market. Now, at 27, Ethan has achieved that dream. Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce has slid across the shelves of more than 300 stores across the Midwest and onto the tables of thousands of homes. How did he do it?

    It was simple. Ethan looked at a pre-existing product, ice cream to be specific, and sought to bring that same kind of variety to applesauce.

    “We’re trying to be the Ben & Jerry’s of applesauce,” Ethan said. “Nobody has been able to shape up applesauce the way ice cream has been.”

    And just like Ben & Jerry’s, Ethan set his brand apart by investing into organic production and a variety of flavors. Investors were drawn to his product for a few reasons. First, Ethan doesn’t rely on artificial preservatives. Every 100 gallons of applesauce is created from 600 pounds of fresh apples from the orchards of Cleveland. When his company was first taking root, Ethan used to drive four hours to a Mennonite community in Kentucky for his supplies. The difference shows. Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce uses fresh fruit, apple cider, and no sugar, giving every packet a fresh, fruity taste. It even comes in a few new flavors; the original applesauce, strawberry peach, and apple pie cinnamon, with pomegranate and ginger cinnamon coming soon.

    Furthermore, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce strives to be accessible to everyone; his product specifically goes out to stores in low-income areas, where fresh, non-artificial food is difficult to come by. According to a recent study conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey, one in every five African American households is inside of a “food desert” meaning that they have limited access to supermarkets and fresh food. This is especially seen in urban America, where about 18% of African American homes have limited access to fresh food. So, Holmes brought his applesauce there, and the market thrived. Holmes’ vision of bringing applesauce to the masses has led to bold strides into big name supermarkets; Ethan has his eye set on Walmart and Target as future distributors.

    In fact, this boldness is another key reason why investors were so keen to support Holmes’ new applesauce. The applesauce industry is what is defined as a “sleepy category,” meaning that there hasn’t been any disruption in the applesauce industry in a while, and Motts, the preeminent brand, still reigns supreme. The promise of a rapidly growing, innovative new product has garnered over six figures worth of investments so far. And to think, this all started with a simple cup of applesauce.

    No idea is too small. If an empire can be built on something as commonplace as applesauce, consider what your own ideas might bring. Whether you already run a business or you are looking for the next market-shaking idea, sometimes it does good to look back at the simple resources you have at your disposal and decide to make a change.

    Applesauce Emperor: what young innovators can learn from Ethan Holmes
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  • Black history in the making: Clevelander Ethan Holmes and the rise of an applesauce empire

    By Michael Collier

    Even as a young child growing up in Shaker Heights, Ethan Holmes knew that he would someday start his own business.

    “I had a huge interest in entrepreneurship,” says Holmes, 28, “and was inspired to start a legitimate kind of business, to grow from raking leaves and lemonade stands.” The idea for what exactly that business would be, however, didn’t come overnight.

    In 2005 at the age of 15, Holmes launched his first venture from the family kitchen: Holmes Made Foods. “I had to do a chocolate bar,” he says. “I’d always tell people that I was going to be the next Willy Wonka of Cleveland.” But it didn’t take long for Holmes to see that this endeavor was not his golden ticket.

    “I realized pretty quickly I can’t bake,” he says with a laugh. “People just didn't want to buy my chocolate.” Yet despite this early setback, Holmes remained undeterred.

    “I decided to pivot.”

    Growing up, Holmes found much inspiration in his grandfather’s culinary skills and entrepreneurial spirit. “He lived with us and made a lot of great food from scratch,” Holmes says of his grandfather, Elmer Buford. Among his many specialties was applesauce, and in 2008, Holmes asked Mr. Buford to teach him the recipe.

    Holmes wasn’t initially sold on the taste of the applesauce — for months he experimented to try and make a good thing even better. “I did some innovation, my own R&D, creating my own formula,” he says, eventually creating a flavor-packed, all-natural product. At the same time, Holmes, still in high school, took note of a nationwide shift towards health-conscious consumerism. Whole Foods was rapidly expanding its footprint, organic products had become a hot trend, and First Lady Michelle Obama was working to improve school lunches across the country.

    Holmes saw a real opportunity.

    “I looked at applesauce as a product that was eaten by different age groups from young to old,” he says, “and I thought ‘how could I elevate this?’”

    After perfecting his recipe, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce was launched in 2014 at the Cleveland Culinary Kitchen. Within a year, Holmes’ products had made their way to store shelves across the region, including Whole Foods, Heinen’s, Dave’s and Giant Eagle.

    Holmes has since expanded across the Midwest and the company has continued to grow, with Holmes raising approximately $800,000 in capital from sales, investors and accelerator programs like Cleveland Chain Reaction and the Chobani Incubator, of which Holmes was selected as one of five participating companies in 2020. (In 2017, Holmes was of two winners to top the initial Chain Reaction competition, receiving $130,000.)

    In 2021, Holmes decided to give the brand a refresh and launch a more competitive line of products to help expand the growing company beyond local and regional markets. Shortening the name simply to Holmes Mouthwatering, the company has shifted from a small, local production facility to a global contract manufacturer in Chile, though the headquarters will remain in Cleveland.

    The new production facility specializes in applesauce pouches — Holmes’ latest product — and produces roughly 50 million pouches per year. When it launches its new product line in the summer of 2023, Holmes Mouthwatering will be the first pouched applesauce brand on the market containing chunks of real fruit.

    And it’s not just his product, but Holmes himself, who continues to blaze a trail.

    In 2022, Holmes Mouthwatering was chosen alongside a handful of others to participate in a fellowship program with the US Apple Association, with Holmes being the only minority selected in the history of the program.

    “There are a lot of challenges being the only Black male in that room,” says Holmes. “ That pressure is on you, and you have to work three times, four times harder to make a good impression.”

    But Holmes faces those challenges head-on and is determined to make the most of it, both in his own journey and inspiring those who may wish to follow in his footsteps.

    “You can't be scared to tell your story, to take risk, and to just be unapologetically you.”

    In further helping to inspire the next generation, Holmes also launched a social arm of his company, the Holmes Entrepreneur Initiative, working with nonprofit organizations to connect with educators and provide programming, internships, and workshops. This, he believes, is but one small step in helping them see what’s possible, and that ideas shouldn’t be limited by expectations.

    “There’s something special about each one of us,” says Holmes, recognizing his own unlikely journey. “I’m a young, Black male from Cleveland that makes applesauce. I think that says a lot about what’s possible.”

    Black history in the making: Clevelander Ethan Holmes and the rise of an applesauce empire
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  • Holmes Mouthwatering grows applesauce production to international manufacturer


    By Paris Wolfe,

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Ethan Holmes of Shaker Heights is at a turning point in his business. His applesauce company, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, has grown too big for its current iteration. That’s why he’s using investor funding to shift from a small, local production facility to a global contract manufacturer in Chile. And he’s changing the name simply to Holmes Mouthwatering.

    The production move increases capacity without a huge capital outlay. “We will be able to supply larger markets than just Cleveland,” he says “We’re not moving away but growing and evolving. We’ll keep Cleveland as our headquarters.”


    The product will remain the same. Holmes describes it as chunky, homestyle, homemade-inspired apple sauce. “It will still be made with apples, pears and apple cider,” he says. “It will be kosher-certified and non-GMO-certified.”

    Holmes started his business in 2008, when he was just 15 years old. He was influenced by his grandfather Elmer Buford’s culinary skills and inspired by his entrepreneurial pursuits.

    “I had an interest in entrepreneurship,” says Holmes. “My grandfather, who lived with us, made a lot of food from scratch. I asked him to show me how to make applesauce.” Then, the two worked together to make a good thing better by replacing water with apple cider and adding pears for natural sweetness.

    By 2014, he launched Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce at the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen using apples sourced from Bauman Orchards in Rittman. A year later, the product was in Heinens, Giant Eagle, Zagara’s, and Dave’s markets. He then got the product into Whole Foods, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and smaller independent establishments.

    A former business student at Hiram College, Holmes became savvy at identifying competitions and funding opportunities. He raised $750,000 and recently invested in rebranding strategy and new packaging. The new name is simply Holmes Mouthwatering.


    During COVID, he said, it was often easier to get in front of business and financial collaborators by using virtual meetings. That helped with fundraising and growth.

    Then, in 2021, a Chilean contract manufacturer reached out to him. The company was looking for strong emerging brands and saw potential in Holmes Mouthwatering.

    Holmes visited their plant and met with the research and development department. Together they ate 50 different applesauce formulations. When they arrived at the right recipe, he returned to Cleveland with 500 samples to use for marketing and sales.

    He will be shuttering his Bedford production facility by year-end and plans to have his new product, in its new packaging, on retailer shelves in early 2023. In the meantime, he’s working with Walmart and Target among other retailers to secure shelf space.

    Holmes Mouthwatering grows applesauce production to international manufacturer
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  • A millennial founder who landed 6 figures in investments breaks down his plan to build an empire of applesauce. Yes, applesauce.

    By  , Business Insider

    • Ethan Holmes is the CEO and founder of Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce.
    • He is one of the few Black-owned applesauce brands in the country. 
    • To Insider, he breaks down his plans to expand throughout the nation. 

    Since he was 15 years old, Ethan Holmes has had one dream: to build an applesauce empire. 

    In college, he would map out his plans on the walls of his dorm room. "Anytime I could get my hands on $20, I'd buy fruit just to make applesauce," Holmes, now 27, told Insider.

    He attended Hiram College and dropped out in 2015 to launch his company.  He invested $20,000 to launch Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, which has since expanded into more than 300 stores across the Midwest, including Whole Foods, Kroger, and Acme Fresh. Last year, the company saw more than 150% increase in sales, according to documents viewed by Insider, and next, he's preparing to test-launch into more than 200 Walmart stores next year.

    "We're trying to be the Ben & Jerry's of applesauce," he said. "Nobody has been able to shape up applesauce the way ice cream has been." 

    The next phase of building his empire? Launch pouches and an organic line, and add new flavors: pomegranate and ginger cinnamon. To Insider, Holmes breaks down what attracted investors to his company, and how he hopes to expand Holmes Mouthwatering throughout the nation. Plus, his story highlights a macro opportunity for Black entrepreneurs entering "sleepy categories" such as applesauce to help secure overall sector dominance. 


    Investors were attracted to him entering a 'sleepy category' 

    In 2018, the global applesauce market was valued at over $900 million, and in the US, one name rules them all: Motts. Other big names include Musselman's, and Gogo Squeez.

    Holmes said investors were drawn to his company because he uses fresh fruit and doesn't use artificial preservatives. Making Holmes' applesauce accessible to the masses is a big deal — minority neighborhoods are more likely to be classified as "food deserts," meaning fresh, healthy food is out of reach. 

    One in every five Black households is located in a food desert, acccording to a recent report on the economic state of Black America by management consulting firm McKinsey. Additionally, counties with above-average Black populations had fewer grocery stores, meaning less access to fresh food. 


    For CNN Business, the Reinvestment Fund found within the 50 largest US metro areas, on average, about 18% of mostly Black neighborhoods have limited access to supermarkets, compared to just nearly 8% of predominantly white neighborhoods. 

    For his efforts so far, Holmes Mouthwatering says it has received over six figures worth of investments and was accepted into Chobani's Incubator program for food startups last year. He also participated in an entrepreneurial boot camp founded by Gary Hirshberg, former CEO of yogurt producer Stonyfield Farm, and the company also secured a five-figure investment from Hirshberg himself. Securing key investments from incubator programs helped Holmes expand rapidly these past five years. Holmes said investors have been so attracted to the company because applesauce is deemed a "sleepy category" — as in, the market hasn't been disrupted for a while.


    Zoe Feldman, director of the Chobani Incubator, told Insider the program was attracted to Holmes' "dynamic presence" while Findaway Adventures Managing Partner Rober Craven called him "the epitome" of an impact-minded founder. "When we met him and came to understand his personal mission and fall in love with his product, we knew right away we had to invest," Craven told Insider. 

    Producing quality products quickly is often the main roadblock faced by Black-owned businesses, Wayne Williams, assistant professor at Fox School of Business, told Insider, adding that accelerator programs can help these businesses secure and fulfill key distributions. 


    Last year, Holmes ramped up production again and says his next big foray will be into fruit snacks, as well as distribution in Canada and Europe. 

    Enter, the new age of Black entrepreneurship 

    Talks of the Roaring 20s returning might not mean just a recall to jazz and booze. The 1920s was also hailed as the Golden Age of Black Business and a century later, once again, Black entrepreneurship is thriving. 

    Holmes remembers what it took to get into Heinens, his first grocery store. He called the buyer three times a week before the buyer agreed to sample his applesauce. Of the more than 40,000 supermarkets in the US, less than 10 are owned by Black people, and within these chains, only 1% of suppliers are Black.

    Companies such as Holmes' are becoming increasingly important as more Black entrepreneurs gain footing in industries long dominated by white-owned establishments. In the same way the tiny strokes of a painter make the overall portrait, the importance of specificity in ownership is what will eventually help secure market dominance in a given industry. Examining an industry from selling, manufacturing, production, and distribution reveals business opportunities that Black entrepreneurs have been fighting to sustain for centuries. 


    For example, Holmes uses more than 600 pounds of apples to make 100 gallons of applesauce. In 2017, the National Census of Architecture found there are 3.4 million farmers in the US and only 1.3% are Black. Holmes' Mouthwatering manufactures its own products out of Cleveland, sourcing apples from various local orchards including Bauman Orchards, and Patterson's. Another opportunity for Black entrepreneurship is in the distribution of fresh produce. Black ownership of farmland peaked in 1910 and since then, mostly due to systemic discrimination African Americans have lost over 12 million acres. Any of these steps in the process could be "sleepy" categories, in need of disruption.


    In the early days of his company, Holmes used to drive four hours to a Mennonite community on the Kentucky border just to receive help making his applesauce. "They said 'hey this is some really good applesauce,'' he recalled. "As if they were surprised a Black man made it." Now, he's making plans on how to expand into Target.

    A millennial founder who landed 6 figures in investments breaks down his plan to build an empire of applesauce. Yes, applesauce.
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