The Incubator Kitchen and the secret sauce of success

You have a family recipe that everyone tells you is so good that you need to start a business and sell it because everyone will want to buy it. You will become famous! Like Amos.

So you decide to "just do it." And you begin researching, writing a business plan, and talking to the health department -- and pretty soon you are exhausted.  

It doesn't have to be that way.   

Crystal LeCoy, Incubator Program Manager at the Downtown Market, would probably tell you to take a deep breath, slow down, and then get down to business.

Grand Rapids has numerous startup support services for entrepreneurs, but until recently, there was a lack of a focused communities in town for individuals interested in starting a food- or beverage-based business. The first resource in Grand Rapids was Uptown Kitchen, a small incubator in Eastown. The most recent is the Incubator Kitchen at the Downtown Market. It's a space that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days week, and where someone with an idea for a food-based business can "get down to business."

LeCoy says services provided by the incubator include free consultation for anyone with a "seed of an idea" as well as advice and assistance for things like registering an idea, licensing, labeling, food safety training, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and business planning.

When a food business is ready (licensed), the facility leases space by the hour, where the entrepreneurs get access to equipment such as commercial ovens, mixers, grinders, fryers, and coolers. Besides hosting food entrepreneurs who might be making the next great salsa or barbecue sauce, the space provides a home for caterers, who can use the facility for food prep and storage.  

LeCoy mentions a couple of businesses, Blooms Ferment and Scrumptious Cupcakes, as examples of tenants who have used the incubator's resources and now are selling their products through multiple channels. She also acknowledges the real and perceived risks in starting a food based business: "Anyone can make a product; it is how you market and build and grow a strong business that makes a difference."

The free consultation hours are Wednesdays 10am to 12pm. Contact the Incubator Kitchen for more information.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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