Using the concept of a business incubator, the Kitchen Council held its launch party Tuesday night in Council Bluffs as the first food startup incubator in the region.
The Kitchen Council is a shared commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs to get their food business off the ground. There are various monthly membership tiers based on the business need, similar to a coworking space.
Holly Benson, Managing Director of the Kitchen Council, said the concept started 18 months ago between the Iowa West Foundation in Council Bluffs and the Greater Omaha Chamber.
Benson said by the end of 2018, she hopes to have between 20-25 businesses using the space and hosting various workshops for members and the community. She hopes to have a broad portfolio of companies working in the space, from those working on products to food truck and traditional restauranteurs.
One business is currently working in the space and two more have signed up, Benson says.
“This general region is a fantastic spot for the food economy,” Benson said. “We’ve got great producers in our backyard and some great food companies based here that invest in initiatives like this.”
Benson said the project has also received funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Con Agra.
“We are really trying to build a community of food entrepreneurs that can not only work side by side but potentially collaborate in the future,” Benson said.
The Kitchen Council will offer members access to local experts—serving as mentors—as well as other types of programming to benefit startups.
“We will be bringing experts together to hand hold those businesses and help them get off the ground,” Benson said. “There are tech incubators in town that are successful and do wonderful things, we feel the incubator model can work in the food industry as well.”
And if nothing else, Benson said hopefully the Kitchen Council can simply serve as a reminder to buy and support local.
“We don’t expect everybody out there to be a food entrepreneur at heart but at the most basic community level I’m hoping this brings awareness to support local food business,” Benson says. “We put an emphasis on those local products, stories and the humans behind them.
“And if they are wanting to get a food business off the ground we can help them.”