Food Business Incubators

The rapid rise in demand for specialty products and services such as jams, salsas, high end coffees, healthy meals, and food trucks, is encouraging many new, hopeful food entrepreneurs to enter the market every year. With this emergence of small food entrepreneurs, many are wondering whether their community needs a food business incubator, and how this incubator might benefit the overall food culture of their region.

There are almost two hundred food business incubators nationwide and they take many forms. Some have a shared-use kitchen that food entrepreneurs and/or farmers can rent to produce and store their products. Others offer contract manufacturing services. Some are focused on produce only, while others allow tenants to process meat, cheese and other goods. Some provide mentorship and training while others provide business services such as sales and distribution support. Some are designed to support economic revitalization while others are designed solely to support agricultural producers. Some are tiny, serving a handful of entrepreneurs while others are large scale and bring together a large network of entrepreneurs.

New Venture Advisors helps clients determine how to best structure a food business incubator to meet their specific goals as well as the needs of their region’s food entrepreneurs and farmers.

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New Venture Advisors is a team of business consultants specializing in local food system planning and new enterprise development.

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Food Business Incubator Projects

The Food Mill Operating Model

Columbus, GA

The Food Mill will become a multifunctional food farmacy to help eliminate barriers and solve issues that lead to food insecurity in Columbus, GA. Operating from the kitchen of a local restaurant and catering business, The Food Mill will offer healthy prepared meals made with locally sourced ingredients to families that are food insecure. In partnership with MercyMed Columbus, a nonprofit healthcare clinic that is located right next door, The Food Mill will also offer medically tailored meals to give patients with diet-related diseases access to proper nutrition for their specific illness. The Food Mill will also invite neighborhood entrepreneurs to build their food businesses in its shared kitchen. New Venture Advisors developed a plan that unifies these businesses under one operating model and expands the retail footprint through a mobile market that will bring prepared meals and fresh grocery items to Columbus Housing Authority locations. (2021)

Open Door Community House Incubator Operating Plan

Columbus, GA

Open Door Community House offers skills training programs for low income individuals in Columbus, including Culinary Arts classes and ServSafe certification. The organization has launched a Culinary Incubator to support graduates from the program who are interested in starting a food business. It offers a full curriculum in a classroom setting. New Venture Advisors developed an operating plan for the incubator and provided coaching support during its pilot phase in late 2020. (2020)

Food System Planning for the Waukegan Food Ecosphere

Waukegan, IL

The Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship exists to create wealth in distressed communities through entrepreneurship, community development, and living wage job creation, all through a focus on addressing food insecurity. A collective of food initiatives has been identified to be among the first projects undertaken at Adelante: an urban farm with a fresh market and café, a food pantry, farm to school programming, a food hub, a shared kitchen, and a community kitchen serving meals as part of its hunger relief programming. Pre-development work for this ambitious set of projects is underway with New Venture Advisors. (2021)

Faith in Place Community Kitchen Incubator Initiative

Chicago, IL

Faith In Place is exploring the feasibility of creating Community Incubator Kitchens in houses of worship – churches, synagogues, mosques and temples – likely the most widely distributed asset base of kitchens, especially in rural areas. In these shared spaces, area farmers can add value to their produce by creating finished products to sell year-round, community members can make food products with ingredients sourced from local farms, and food entrepreneurs can start up a new food business. New Venture Advisors created a starter guide and provided coaching for faith leaders to evaluate the opportunity. (2020)  Download guide here

Can-Do Kitchen Strategic Plan

Kalamazoo, MI

Can-Do Kitchen is embarking on a needed and ambitious expansion, potentially tripling its footprint to serve a growing number of current and aspiring food business owners in the Kalamazoo area. New Venture Advisors developed a relocation strategy and facility design that will help Can-Do Kitchen plan for programmatic growth, scale at a sustainable pace and meet the needs of entrepreneurs who rely on the kitchen for their livelihood. This included launching a microloan program in partnership with Michigan Women Forward and LISC for kitchen users and other local food business owners whose race, orientation, immigration status or credit background may place them outside of normal lending opportunities. (2021)

Oneida Community Food Center Feasibility Study

Oneida, WI

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is a federally recognized tribe of Oneida people, with a reservation located on 65,000 acres on the west side of the Green Bay metropolitan area. The tribe works to offer programs, services, and resources that enable the community to carry on with the strength and determination of its ancestors. The Food Center is a new initiative that would teach people how to process and prepare nutritious meals and traditional Oneida foods, serving not only Oneida Nation members, but also entrepreneurs and job seekers in the food industry. New Venture Advisors investigated the feasibility of this commercial and community-use, regional, and intertribal food training center. (2018)

Worcester Regional Food Hub

Worcester, MA

The Worcester Regional Food Hub has been a collaborative effort between the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts (REC) and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, made possible by the generous support of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The food hub, piloted as a kitchen incubator and aggregation hub in 2016, sought to enhance the regional economy through improved producer and consumer networks, targeted workforce development programs, and business incubation. NVA assisted REC and its partners in assessing the market and developing a business plan for the hub’s next stage of growth. (2019)

Commonwealth Kitchen Strategic Roadmap

Boston, MA

This innovative, non-profit kitchen incubator is among a small but growing class of kitchen incubators with an ambitious vision and complex model—combining shared kitchen space with hands-on business support for entrepreneurs, building co-packing capabilities, growing a brand and a sales and marketing arm, and operating with a specific focus on minority and women entrepreneurs. Through a detailed review of the current organization and business lines, NVA developed a set of proposed paths for the organization to follow to attain its financial goals, developed comprehensive financial projections for these strategies and established a five-year roadmap for implementation. (2017)

LISC Phoenix Commercial Kitchen Strategy

Phoenix and Mesa, AZ

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, known as LISC, is one of the largest nonprofits in the country supporting projects to revitalize communities, transforming them into healthy and sustainable places to live, work, and raise families. Two projects in metro Phoenix, a cultural center and an affordable housing development, include commercial kitchens that will operate with a missional emphasis on job creation and serving small businesses, particularly local, women, native and minority-owned. NVA assisted in building the capacity of the management teams, and the refinement of their operating models. (2018)

The Hatchery

Chicago, IL

In partnership with IFF, Allies for Community Business (formerly Accion) and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, New Venture Advisors assessed the market demand for a large, innovative food business incubator to be developed in East Garfield Park and serve as a job creator in this lower income neighborhood. Opening in late 2018, the incubator will combine private production kitchens, a shared-use kitchen and comprehensive business support services, filling a much needed gap for food entrepreneurs in Chicago. (2017)

Headwater Food Hub

Ontario, NY

Headwater Foods, Inc. is a thriving food hub in upstate New York with a wholesale business line and a CSA service. New Venture Advisors worked with Headwater on a market assessment to quantify institutional demand for fresh cut produce, in support of the hub’s plans for a new processing business line. (2015)

Floyd Food Company

Floyd, VA

SustainFloyd is a nonprofit organization in rural Virginia that develops new ideas to support the next generation of Blue Ridge Plateau’s rural community while preserving its resources, traditions and heritage. New Venture Advisors worked with SustainFloyd to develop a business plan for a value-added agricultural center to process and market locally-produced fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The business launched in 2014 as the Floyd Food Company, beginning with a line of frozen soups. (2013)