Kindred Kitchen Helps Food Entrepreneurs Get A Start
By: Paige Elliott, Freelance Community Journalist
Kindred Kitchen is advancing the possibilities of shared kitchen spaces. Billed as a “hub” for food entrepreneurs, the 24/7-access licensed kitchen facility has served the Northside community from 1206 W. Broadway Avenue in Minneapolis since 2010, when it launched under the urban development nonprofit Catalyst Community Partners.
Since its beginning, the organization has offered affordable commercial kitchen space to new for-profit and non-profit business owners. “We really want to serve our neighbors first — Northside residents who are interested in opening businesses,” says Katie Myhre, Kindred Kitchen Business Development Manager. “We also focus on diversity, so we want to work with people of color, women-owned business and minority-owned businesses.”
Over the years, the business has had to adapt and collaborate to stay afloat and fit the growing needs of the community. Myhre explains, “In 2014, Catalyst handed over [Kindred Kitchen], and it became a social enterprise under Appetite for Change,” a community-led organization that uses food as a tool to effect social change in North Minneapolis. The area is commonly referred to as a “food desert” for its lack of fresh food offerings.
In addition to Kindred Kitchen, Appetite for Change (AFC) is the parent organization for Breaking Bread Café & Catering, a youth-led social enterprise offering career development and fresh food. AFC also serves as an incubator for Northside Fresh, a network of organizations and businesses committed to building a more sustainable and equitable food system on the city’s North Side.
Many Users, Flexible Space
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The business model of Kindred Kitchen “requires a lot of different businesses using the same space in a lot of different ways,” says Myhre. Forty-seven clients or members currently use the space, not including the staff of Breaking Bread Café & Catering who often work side-by-side with new entrepreneurs. Among the amenities offered are two side-by-side studio kitchens, and a food prep room with affordable and flexible pricing.
Kindred Kitchen recently revamped its incubator program to better support the influx of new entrepreneurs. “As of January of 2017, we began offering an incubator program with Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON),” says Myhre “to provide more development for new business owners — everyone from an Italian Ice food truck to a very traditional catering company run by a family.” Myhre adds that the breakdown of Kindred Kitchen members is pretty evenly split between catering and food truck companies.
“As a nonprofit organization, we have to share resources and we have to collaborate,” says Ann Fix, NEON Food Business Incubator program manager. “Last year Appetite for Change and NEON collaborated for a grant — a true partnership.
“The incubator program combines Appetite for Change’s knowledge about everything food, and NEON’s knowledge of small business development. The thought was, we’re going to offer a double whammy of giving small business owners the services and tools they need to grow their business from a sustainable business model.
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“Even the incubator program has evolved drastically,” continues Fix. “We launched our pilot in January, and now that that cohort has come to an end in October, we’ve changed the entire program because we found that in having a six-month cohort, we’re really only focusing on a few small businesses.
“All these businesses were coming to us and we saw that the need is greater. So now we have people in an incubator program rotating at all times. Whenever they come into the pipeline, we pull them into the business development and services, and as they have different success and reach another level, they get deeper and deeper into the incubator program.”
To begin, prospective incubator members fill out a free assessment, akin to a free health check-up for their business. From there, new business owners are linked to classes and resources, such as product and menu pricing, marketplace opportunities, and access to financing and capital, to name a few.
“Not every business needs marketing help,” explains Fix. “Not every business needs finance help. Well, 99.9 percent of businesses need financial help, but not every business needs help with their social media or recipe development.
“Now we can see exactly where the business is at,” says Fix. “We assess them thoroughly. We can provide support through affordable rates and all the knowledge of licensing requirements…and we can help a lot more people. This model proved more efficient in that it catered to the business owner’s specific needs.”
Fix adds, “A lot of places have started shared kitchen space and they say, ‘Oh, we’re going to incubate. We’re gonna help you start your business.’ But they don’t offer this level of small business assessment and development that we have with our partnership with Appetite for Change. We are the only ones in the Twin Cities who are doing something like this. And we’re leading the way nationwide.”
Food Gallery Catering, a family-operated business based out of Minneapolis, didn’t go through the incubator program when it began using Kindred Kitchen’s space, but owner Sarah Enrico credits the nonprofit for enabling her business to save money and grow.
“We started our company a little over three years ago,” says Enrico. “In order to legally start up a food business you have to have a commercial kitchen that you work out of, and there’s only a handful in town — maybe four or five when we started out. [Kindred Kitchen] was the most reasonable, and we liked the mission of Appetite for Change, so we ended up there.”
Utilizing Kindred’s affordable shared space has enabled Enrico’s business to flourish to the point that she is now looking to expand. “We’re actually in the process of building a new kitchen with another company that also works [at Kindred], one of the food trucks. There will be a little more room,” says Enrico.
“Kindred is an amazing place to start a company,” continues Enrico. “As I’ve learned in this process of trying to build a kitchen on my own — it’s incredibly expensive. We go off premise; we go all over town catering large events. To be able to do that, you have to have storage, you have to have equipment, and to just fund that up front when you’re not sure if your concept is going to really fly is a pretty huge risk. So, a place like Kindred gives you the ability to start a business with the least amount of capital risk.”
She adds, “We’ve grown to the point where it’s no longer enough space, but it’s given us three years to save money and create a big customer base and get our name out there. It’s given us the opportunity to do all of that stuff without this enormous debt over our head. We still haven’t taken any loans out or anything like that. It’s all self-funded, and I credit Kindred Kitchen for that.”
Paige Elliott welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.