Red Eye Chicago held their second Big Ideas Awards on October 13th, showcasing 16 Chicago-based startup companies which were nominated in the categories of Art & Design, Food and Drink, Technology, and Community Development and Civic Involvement. Ravenswood Event Center, where waiters floated around the ballroom passing out mini BLT’s, deep fried mac and cheese cubes and bite-sized chorizo tacos. Exotic classic cars were parked around the perimeter of the industrial style ballroom, eyeballed by attendees with Whiskey Slings and Jack n’ Gingers in hand. The Food and Drink Finalists ranged from Champagne Marshmallows to Arts and Crafts at local bars!

Here is the list of the Red Eye Big Idea Finalists:

  1. XO Marshmallows: Founded by Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks @XOXOmarshmallow

The winner of the Food and Drink category was XO Marshmallows, which specializes in the creation of flavored, handmade marshmallows, was founded by Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks who recently finished up a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,200. The idea behind XO Marshmallow began when Connor was finishing up law school and needed a cheap gift to make for her family and ended up making marshmallows. Connor later met Shanks last December, Shanks said, “Kat worked as an employee at my pop-up shop for my other business. She was one of my employees and told me she made marshmallows. I asked if she could do flavors (that’s how we ended up with our champagne marshmallow. It sold so well at my shop that once it was over in December we said ‘hey there’s something really magical here’ so now we have thirteen flavors.”

Lindzi Shanks spoke with confidence, and exhilaration: “We’re hoping that the next step is going to be to get really amazing packaging and to get into a bigger commercial kitchen. From there we’d really like to start wholesaling to other boutiques and grocery stores, maybe Mariano’s, maybe Whole Foods. Long term goal is we’d really love to have a marshmallow store where we have a hot chocolate bar, a s’mores bar and all sorts of fun stuff.”

  1. Shmeal: Founded by Justin Hamer and Craig Silver @shmeal_dudes

Shmeal, an app which allows you to buy homemade meals from your neighbors, combines technology with the cooking, “Our goal is to keep the price low. Everything is $6 and there’s no delivery options so you have to go and pick up food from people at their place. The cook gets $5.50 [the company gets 50 cents], and it’s a good way for people to connect with their neighbors and make a little money.”Shmeal, akin to a Lyft or Uber for vehicles, draws influence from however, focuses on reducing food waste, keeping food prices low, and connecting people together through delicious meals.


  1. Good Eats!: Founded by Gargi and Shivam Potdar

One of the biggest problems restaurant patrons have is figuring out what to order. Good Eats! is a platform for delineating what to order based on user reviews for each dish, compiling a top 5 or 10 list so people never have to stare at the menu too long.


  1. Crafts and Drafts: Founded by Ananda Osterhout @craftsdrafts

Crafts and Drafts is all about the idea of having arts and crafts parties in bars. Amidst the fast moving life of the city, going out to a bar to create art is a much needed change of pace from the constant nightlife/dance scene. The projects range from wall mounted beer bottle openers to holiday gifts which you can make for family or friends.