Commonwealth Kitchen and the Economic Justice Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights have teamed up to launch a new Food Biz 101 class. The ten-week series is taught by a dynamic range of industry experts, including pro bono attorneys from Goodwin, to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the complex challenges associated with successfully starting a food business. Classes tackle issues such as recipe scaling, cost of goods, labeling regulations, licensing, permitting, PR and marketing, and entity formation. At the end of the class, participants have the opportunity to test their recipes in CommonWealth Kitchen’s fully-equipped commercial kitchens.
“The food industry offers tremendous opportunities for people of all backgrounds to build great local businesses, bring street life to a neighborhood, and create jobs with few barriers to entry.” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal of the Lawyers’ Committee. “They’re powerful economic engines for closing the opportunity gap in diverse communities across Massachusetts.”
However, food businesses are also incredibly challenging, particularly for low-income people who often lack access to capital needed to start and prove their business concept, or lack access to the business connections needed to scale their company. That’s where CommonWealth Kitchen comes in. “We provide fully-equipped kitchens for hourly rental combined with business and technical support to help aspiring entrepreneurs get off the ground. However, we find that a lot of the people coming to us with their big dream have little understanding of the complexities and challenges of what it takes to be successful. There are a lot of great business start-up programs available, but none that deal with the specific and unique challenges of working with food. The Food Biz 101 class is filling a major gap.” said Jen Faigel from CommonWealth Kitchen. The inaugural 12-person class included an extremely diverse mix of participants, including 60% women and 90% people of color.
Food Biz 101 culminates in a pitch competition where participants have the opportunity to share their business ideas with industry experts. The winner from the inaugural class, Teresa Maynard, plans to launch Sweet Teez Bakery with her cousin, Keata Hamilton, later this year. Teresa and Keata grew up in Dorchester’s Codman Square area where they are now raising their own children. Growing up with food allergies and now raising kids with similar allergies, the entrepreneurs realized a simple peanut can make the search for a good cupcake near impossible. Tired of constantly traveling outside of their community to purchase cupcakes and still having to worry about the ingredients, the entrepreneurs have set out to produce delicious, high quality baked goods that will be sold in their Dorchester neighborhood.
Sweet Teez Bakery will start by launching their catering business out of Commonwealth Kitchen’s food incubator as they establish a client base, scale recipes and build financial and inventory management systems. Their goal is to demonstrate demand and strong business management experience so that they can raise the capital needed to eventually move into their own retail café space in Codman Square. Although the Codman Square area has heavy foot traffic, there are no full-service bakeries or cafes. Sweet Teez hopes to fill this gap, and find financing to open a retail location within the next year.
Las Carolinas, a venture started by Venezuelan immigrants Carolina Salinas and Carolina Garcia, came in a close second place in the pitch competition with their delicious arepas, a savory filled corn cake. Currently selling their product at food festivals across Massachusetts, the entrepreneurs hope to open a retail location in Somerville.
The Lawyers’ Committee and Commonwealth Kitchen will be partnering again to bring the series to aspiring food entrepreneurs in February 2017. Spots are already filling up, so please email FoodBiz101@lawyerscom.org to apply or learn more about the series.
For more information and event photos click here: food-biz-101-press-release-9-20-16-final
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights: Priya Lane, Economic Justice Project Director, Plane@lawyerscom.org
CommonWealth Kitchen: Roz Freeman, Community Relations and Operations Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Food Biz 101 was prominently featured in the Bay State Banner.