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Food startups find success with culinary incubators

Food startups find success with culinary incubators

Posted by Liliana Castaño on August 18, 2014

If you want to get in shape, you can join a gym. But if you want to start a food business, where do you go?

Try a culinary incubator.

Just as gym members share workout equipment, members of many food incubators share commercial kitchen space.

Incubators also offer business support and technical assistance — like branding, sales and distribution — to help "foodpreneurs" get off the ground.

"The food incubator model has really grown in the last several years, from virtually no food incubators to probably about 200 [ormore] in the U.S.," Andrea Bell, the founder of Chef's Kitchen in Los Angeles, Calif., tells us.

And why such growth? With the booming demand for specialty and artisanal foods, incubators can help hungry entrepreneurs get started in a licensed kitchen at a fraction of the price of leasing their own space.

In Portland, KitchenCru is thriving, and in San Francisco, there's the nonprofit La Cocina, which focuses on cultivating low-income food entrepreneurs. Incubators have sprung up in towns beyond these foodie meccas, too, at institutions like Louisiana State Univerity in Baton Rouge and Mayland Community College in North Carolina.

"Everyone wants fresh and local [food]," says Cullen Gilchrist, co-founder of food incubator Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C.

But getting started as a foodpreneur is tricky. "The failure rate of food businesses — it's enormous," says Gilchrist. His goal is to lower the barriers to entry and teach foodpreneurs what they need to know.

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