For most entrepreneurs, the mention of an incubator brings to mind images of bare-bones downtown office space with shabby carpeting and aging, fluorescent lighting, or an abandoned warehouse repurposed for techies with computer cables snaking throughout cavernous open expanses of floor.
But a kitchen as a business incubator? For many aspiring chefs and bakers, the idea is as important to their success as the bargain commercial space is to the retail or tech start-up. And to help these new “food-preneurs” turn their ideas and dreams into reality, many kitchen incubators have sprung up across the country.
In a story for the miamiherald.com, writer Ana Veciana-Suarez wrote that among the estimated 150 kitchen incubators across the United States, several have opened in the Miami area, their owners hoping to add momentum to the area’s burgeoning restaurant scene.
Kitchen incubators are fully equipped, inspected and licensed commercial kitchens that allow the start-up and small operator to prepare and package their wares in quantities impossible to make in a home kitchen, and do so at a fraction of the cost of setting up a commercial kitchen of their own. The most basic of commercial operations can cost $150,000 to start. The Miami incubators rent out for $17.50-$25 per hour. Incubators can be stand-alone kitchens used only for rentals, or kitchen space in a restaurant that is rented out during off-hours.
According to Veciana-Suarez, it is not always just space the foodies are renting. Several incubators are owned by experienced restaurateurs who also offer guidance and expertise to their entrepreneurial tenants.
Kefren Aronja, who owns the North Miami Beach incubator Commercial Kitchen 305 with partner Eligia McKenna, appreciates the fact that he can provide a venue for individuals — from friends or family members to single moms who can’t work full time — to satisfy whatever need they have by starting a food business. “This gives them options without the big investment,” he told Veciana-Suarez.
But Aronja also does his due diligence on each prospective client, looking at concept, business plan, knowledge of regulatory standards, and earnestness of purpose, for starters. In essence, in return for space in their 1,500-square-foot kitchen, Aronja and McKenna seek dedication. “People have a good product but have no idea of the business side,” said McKenna. “We’re here not just to rent the space. We’re also here to offer guidance from A to Z, and we want to know what you need, what your experience is and where you want to go.”
Clara Botero, 33, turned to Aronja and McKenna when her organic baking business took off, and outgrew her kitchen. She likens the pair to coaches, and told Veciana-Suarez she is grateful to have found them and their kitchen. “They’re always on my back,” Botero said jokingly. “Kefren is after me, ‘Did you do this? Did you do that?’ ”
Veciana-Suarez, Ana. “Kitchen Incubators are Popping Up to Help New Food-preneurs“; Miami Herald. March 3, 2014