Union Kitchen NapkinA food incubator is a shared commercial kitchen that allows a early-stage businesses to have access to a licensed space and operate legally. Food incubators offer a variety of services and support to new food businesses, but one of the major benefits of these organizations is that they allow entrepreneurs to test a business idea with less financial risk than would usually be associated with a food startup.

Traditionally, entrepreneurs would need to sign a long-term and expensive monthly lease at an approved facility. With a self-funded venture, it can be tough for most would-be business owners to take on this type of risk. If the business doesn’t end up working as planned, the owner may find him or herself with debilitating debt. Fortunately, incubators like Union Kitchen in Washington D.C. are popping up in large metro areas to help support young food businesses like beverage makers, catering companies, and food trucks.

In today’s podcast, Mike Darman, General Manager of Union Kitchen shares some of the benefits of working with a food incubator, including examples of specific businesses that have found success and how to become a member. All this and this week’s mobile food news is available in episode 57.

Quotes from the Show

We always recommend to people first and foremost, before anything that they have a product.  I mean you can make a gluten-free cookie at home, but that doesn’t mean you have a product. Do you have something to sell? Do you have something that you can scale up? – Mark Darman on critically asking yourself whether or not you have a potential specialty food business.      

Union Kitchen Event

What You’ll Learn

  • What is a Food Incubator?
  • How operational expenses like electricity and water fees are kept in check through a shared model.
  • Ways Union Kitchen helps to reduce cost and increase profits for their members
  • How to increase your chances of becoming a member at Union Kitchen
  • The importance of having clear goals when starting a food business
  • Why Union Kitchen is in the process of building a second location for its members
  • How Union Kitchen partners with chains like Whole Foods and smaller mom and pop operations to help both stores and the entrepreneurs that come out of the incubator.
  • Tips when applying for a food incubator
  • Why you need to get critical feedback about your food product from people that are not friends and family.
  • Key characteristics of successful food startups.

Mentioned During the Show

Union Kitchen – This is the official website of Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the food incubator, including it’s current members, partners, and contact information to get in touch with the organization.

Recipal – If you have a recipe for a food product, use this service to quickly create nutritional labels for the item. This can save you hundreds of dollars and weeks of time going the traditional route.

“W’ich, Please: Kickstarter Campaign – Malcom is an example of someone that’s running a Kickstarter campaign the right way to help fund their Rockland, Maine, based food truck. He’s not jumping into it willy nilly like so many other would-be food truckers. No sir! Malcom has been extremely active emailing blogs like FoodTruckEmpire.com and among others to help spread the word prior to launch. He’s also invested years of effort into cooking up a unique food concept and blogging about his food at FromAway.com. Most importantly, there’s no doubt that Malcom and his wife are approaching their mobile food venture like a business… as they should.  If you want to learn more about this awesome food truck concept or donate, check out their KickStarter Campaign link.  They deserve it!

Capital Kombucha – The first kombucha beverage producer ever in Washington D.C. This beverage maker got their start with help from Union Kitchen. For those who may not be aware, kombucha is a type of tea that has been consumed for roughly 2,000 years across Asia and Eastern Europe. Visit their website to view their full line of flavors ranging from peach to basil lemongrass.

District Doughnut and Coffee – Another recent “graduate” of Union Kitchen that has opened up their own storefront in Washington D.C. Watch the video below to learn more about this innovative business that’s changing the way people think of donuts.

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

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