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Springfield, MO

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Photo provided by CANVAS MISSOURI LLC
Photo provided by CANVAS MISSOURI LLC

Startup Corner: Drake Tillman, Canvas Missouri LLC

Posted online
Minimally viable product …
Fine dining pop-up events. We offer local, seasonal ingredients in a tasting menu format that puts the ingredients first, but always with an amount of creativity that still allows us to do something different. We also focus on intimacy and the experience, which is why we won’t do more than 20 people at a time. Quality is better than quantity.

Problem solving …
There are a lot of great restaurants in this town, but we want to offer something we don’t see happening a lot, which is a tasting menu concept, especially one that’s fairly experimental and offers a memorable experience yet feels approachable and comfortable. Events typically include five-seven prix fixe courses with a variety of crafted beverages and libations in between.

Seed money …
Exceptionally little. We’ve managed to do a lot with a little. We’ve been getting interest from potential investors, but we also like investing in ourselves. It’s very rewarding.

Hurdles overcome …
Getting people to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, meaning taking a bit of a risk when it comes to their food, especially since we don’t release the menu ahead of time so it’s a complete surprise when they arrive.

Next phase …
We’re taking baby steps, which is a good idea in this industry. Our residency at The Artisan’s Oven coming up in July and extending through September is a good step in the right direction. It’s a simulation that will serve as a good experiment for us to see how a concept like this will work in Springfield.

Pivot …
Each menu we write, we try to elevate the food in some way, be it in refining or focusing on a specific technique or trying to use an ingredient in a really unexpected way. That keeps everything new and allows us to get better. We also try to lower our prices by growing some of our own ingredients and being conscious and responsible for food waste.

Biggest mistake …
We would definitely focus more heavily on marketing from the beginning. We’re trying to play catch up now, which is a struggle, but we know there’s a market for what we want to do in Springfield. We just need to reach those people.

Best/worst advice received…
Best: Don’t stop doing dinners, and whatever you do, always fill the seats. Also, know your worth.

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