Fostering Creativity Through the World of Culinary Incubators

August 19, 2015

8:00 am

Imagine you’re a first-time food startup. You have a great recipe, a tried and tested product, and a little bit of money to help you launch a dream. Where do you go from here?

Launching a food startup isn’t the same as say, creating a PR firm or opening a retail establishment – which come with challenges of their own! But a food business requires a lot more red tape – insurance, health inspectors, food regulations, licensing, equipment, and the list goes on and on.

But first, you need a kitchen – your zone of creativity – and this can be the most challenging part of launching a food startup. Whether your company is looking to lease its own space, rent space in a community kitchen, or participate in a culinary incubator is entirely up to the nature of your product and its needs.

Clark wolfAccording to Kathrine Gregory, of Mi Kitchen es su Kitchen, “costs for a regular kitchen, including brokers fees, utilities, supplies, equipment, and installations for about 300 sq feet of kitchen space would run a startup anywhere from $70,000-$100,0000 of initial investment – not including the monthly rental for the space. With a culinary incubator this initial investment could drop to as low as $15,000, along with a much lower monthly rental fee.”

An additional benefit of culinary incubators is the mentorship. For first-time food startup Corey Meyer, of Little Birds Chocolates, he and his wife had no experience in starting a food business. He was an EMT, and his wife, Sara Meyer, had a background in audio design. They only knew that they loved chocolates, and his wife had a killer recipe. Little Birds Chocolates participated in The Entrepreneur Space – a culinary incubator in New York City, managed by the consulting company Mi Kitchen es su Kitchen. The space not only came with everything they needed (equipment, supplies, extra staff support, etc), but also access to legal, culinary, marketing, and business experts for consulting needs.

Mess Hall Al Goldberg, founder a culinary incubator, Mess Hall, in Washington, DC knew all too well what it felt like to launch a food startup. Five years ago Goldberg and his partners launched a catering company, but they found that securing a commercial kitchen was prohibitively difficult for a first-time startup. They estimated they could supplement a portion of their rent by sharing the space with a then-burgeoning food truck industry. A few years later, the catering partners went on to other businesses, but Goldberg was left feeling that Washington DC needed a solution to the glaring deficit of commercial kitchen space. He decided to pivot and launch a culinary incubator. Years after fundraising, space acquisition, permitting, design and construction, Goldberg says “Mess Hall opened with the hope of affording talented, passionate food entrepreneurs not only a space, but a community in which they can launch and grow.”

Culinary incubators like The Entrepreneur Space and Mess Hall are, again, more than just a shared rental space. Think of these as launch pads for businesses. They understand the needs, challenges and unique goals of their clients. And these clients are more than just an occupants in a space – they’re family.

And whether that family stays in the incubator for years at a time, or eventually leaves the nest as their business needs change and grow, there is something to be said for staying close to your tight-knit community of food startups.

“No matter the goal, we rely upon our friends, resources and relationships to help achieve ‘success,’ whatever success may look like to that Member,” says Goldberg.

To find a culinary incubator near you, check out The Culinary Incubator.

Image Source: Mess Hall



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Vanessa Ferragut, CMP is a Sustainable Event and Meeting Planner in Washington, DC. She is the founder of Ferragut Event Group, LLC, an event planning company that focuses on sustainable meetings and events. Vanessa is also a local foods enthusiast and Founder of Greenease, Inc, a mobile app dedicated to promoting restaurants, cafes and grocers that work with local farms and provide sustainable food options. She is passionate about supporting organizations that embrace sustainability in their business and service practices, promote community activism, and minimize their overall environmental impact in the hospitality sector. You can follow her at @vferragut and @GreeneaseApp.