Food Incubators Help Budding Entrepreneurs
New York is a city obsessed with food, America a land of innovation, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that some of the most exciting and unique products in the food and drinks industry are coming from the city. The problem is that, with a bustling metropolis filled with millions, space is at a premium and it comes at a premium price.
Anything in the food industry needs space; production space, equipment storage etc. but this can be incredibly costly, especially for a business that is just starting out and doesn’t necessarily know all the ins and outs of the industry it is trying to break into which can make life hard for culinary start-ups. Fortunately, several budding entrepreneurs who experienced such problems when starting out themselves seem to have come up with a novel solution: Kitchen Incubators.
Effectively communal kitchens with a variety of equipment at hand, kitchen incubators offer the space and, in some cases, support to small food businesses for a low rental price so that they can establish their businesses before going on to larger properties of their own. One such example of these food incubators is the Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK), based in the East Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan.
HBK is a business in its own right, a 24-hour bakery that runs out of its own food incubator and provides bread to various markets and retailers across New York. Founded by Jessamyn Rodriguez, HBK then rents out the space which it is not using by charging a $500 annual fee for members, who can then rent kitchen space for $17 per hour but it’s not just the space it provides.
The successful bakery business acts as an inspiration to others using the incubator as it provides a glimpse at what success may look like for those trying to achieve it but it also draws from its own experiences in starting out and offers business counselling services on topics such as pricing structure and internet sales. Since 2011, HBK has assisted over 100 small firms. The community of budding entrepreneurs at the incubator also offers the chance of networking with those in similar industries as themselves.
Another such incubator is the Organic Food Incubator (OFI), based in Long Island City, in the New York borough of Queens and run by Mike Schwartz. Mr Schwartz was inspired to set up the incubator after he struggled to find advice and support for his own drinks business BAO Food and Drink.
OFI now incubates 60 companies, with prices starting from $220 for five days and offers advice on everything from recipe development to labelling and has a fair share of successful graduates from the incubator to attest to its usefulness.
With the growth in the local food movement and an ever greater demand for new and unique flavours and experiences within the city, both incubators are now looking at expanding further so that they might help more and more people grow and succeed.
by Vincent JS Wood