Dave Zilko founded his first specialty food company more than 20 years ago on a $2,500 credit card loan. While today Dave remains an equity partner in several food-oriented enterprises, he recently exited active involvement in the industry when he engineered the sale of Garden Fresh Gourmet, makers of the number one brand of fresh salsa in North America, to the Campbell’s Soup Company for $231 million. Dave has written a bestselling novel about this experience, Irrational Persistence: 7 Secrets That Turned a Bankrupt Startup Into a $231,000,000 Business.” Dave was a partner at Garden Fresh for 13 years, serving as Vice Chairman with primary responsibility for strategy and sales.
Today Dave has an equity stake in and is CEO of FUEL Leadership—a digital media property that also organizes business events featuring an exclusive list of rock star-level speakers—a roster that spans the spectrum from business to entertainment.
Dave is also an operating partner at Huron Capital, a Detroit-based private equity firm with over $1 billion under management. He serves on the boards of the $60 million Grow Michigan venture fund, of Jimmy Buffett’s charitable foundation, “Singing for Change,” and is on the executive board of the largest food rescue organization in the country, Forgotten Harvest. Dave graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in finance and earned a Master of Business Administration in marketing from The George Washington University.