In September 2016, I was approached by the Latino Economic Development Center to continue managing a shared incubator kitchen that was previously managed by Urban Oasis MN (who employed me to the point of their dissolution that month).
LEDC is an amazing and established nonprofit organization that offers loans and education and support for entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities. They cultivate and assist creation of worker owned farmer cooperatives across the Midwest. It has been a pleasure to contract for an organization who has such a history of good work within the farmer and food business communities.
The Kitchen On The Bluff (KOTB) has been in operation for just over a year and is a work in progress to show that an incubator kitchen can be and is essential for growing food entrepreneurs here on the East side of St. Paul. My role has been to build on a budding but intimidating framework of tenant policies and procedures, create marketing infrastructure, recruit new tenants so the building can be financially stable, and reassess building equipment and policies to accommodate new and growing businesses.
The Kitchen's mission has led the charge for what I've chosen to focus in light of what seems like a daunting amount of work that all needs to be done at once:
Incubate small and minority-owned businesses
Provide a location for value-added production opportunities for immigrant + minority farmers
Foster the vitality of the East Side business community
Further create opportunities in the local food economy
Initial first steps included creating marketing materials and a website as well as meeting with stakeholders to determine which policies are prohibitive to just starting out or not yet started food businesses. The result of these meetings led to a change the hourly access to the kitchen, reassessing what may be seen as financial barriers to joining for a new food business, and initial research for what I hope will be a major resource for these individuals: a future "Pop-Up Tenant" program for yet to start food businesses. Stay tuned for updates.