Keynote Speaker, Author, Entrepreneur

Former Partner, Garden Fresh Gourmet / CEO, Fuel Leadership / Operating Partner, Huron Capital

Dave Zilko has been an entrepreneur for over 25 years and is on a mission to help people lead the lives they’ve imagined for themselves, regardless of what stage of their career they might be in, or their circumstances. Dave took an unassuming startup—a fresh salsa company founded in the back of a bankrupt restaurant from the unlikeliest of places, Detroit. Despite operating in a mature industry with a team that had virtually no formal training or formal education, he applied a unique, counterintuitive style and grew it into the largest brand of fresh salsa in the United States. Dave recently engineered it’s sale to a Fortune 500 company for almost a quarter billion dollars. Dave Zilko is an entrepreneurship keynote speaker, the author of a national bestselling book, “Irrational Persistence; Seven Secrets That Turned a Bankrupt Startup Into A $231,000,000 Business,” and today is a partner in, and CEO of, FUEL Leadership—a digital media property that also organizes premiere business events.

Entrepreneurship Keynote Speaker


When Dave Zilko takes the stage as a keynote speaker to talk about his years as a successful entrepreneur, he brings a breezy style that belies the challenges he faced early in his career. As Dave puts it, “Starting with nothing would have been a luxury. Try starting with way less than nothing!” With an unflinching vision and an indomitable spirit, Zilko took a $2,500 credit card loan from his girlfriend (he was turned down for a credit card himself) and parlayed it into one of the most successful premium deli-supply companies in the country. With both humor and humility, Dave describes a journey that leaves audiences inspired, invigorated and entertained. Ultimately, Dave’s story is living proof that, despite indications to the contrary, the American Dream is indeed alive and well, and most of all, attainable.

  • Former partner at Garden Fresh Gourmet
  • Engineered the sale to Campbell Soup Company for $231 million
  • Author: Irrational Persistence
  • Engaging entrepreneurship keynote speaker
  • CEO, FUEL Leadership, LLC
  • Operating partner, Huron Capital
  • Board member, Forgotten Harvest, America’s largest food rescue orginazation

Irrational Persistence By Dave Zilko

"poignant. passionate. a truly uplifting tale of genuine entrepreneurship."

What's it like to take a small salsa company, founded in the back of a bankrupt restaurant just outside Detroit, and grow it into the #1 brand in the country? And why would anyone producing 75 tons of fresh salsa a day decide to do so virtually by hand in five-gallon buckets? Then what's it like to sell it to a Fortune 500 company for almost a quarter of a billion dollars? Irrational Persistence is Dave Zilko's openly personal and informative account of the rags-to-riches entrepreneurial journey he took, and the lessons he learned along the way.

Dave Zilko In The News

"Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, Author of Irrational Persistence."

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 was a partner at Garden Fresh for 13 years, serving as Vice Chairman with primary responsibility for strategy and sales, and today is an entrepreneurship keynote speaker and author.