Am I ready for a kitchen incubator?

Things to consider before working in a kitchen incubator.

Kitchen incubators are popping up around the state, providing great opportunities for food entrepreneurs to grow and learn. But are you and your business ready to take advantage of their resources? All kitchen incubators offer different and unique benefits, but overall they have lowered the barrier to entry for food entrepreneurs. Renting time in a commercially licensed kitchen to test a concept, establish a process and launch a product is less of a commitment than trying to buildout, buying or leasing a facility. Even though kitchen incubators can limit your risk and investment, it is important you are prepared. So, are you and your business ready for a kitchen incubator?

Do you have a business plan?

Business planning can feel daunting, intimidating and nebulous but is a necessary step in reaching your goals. A business plan doesn’t need to be a novel; however, it is vital to create a road map for you to stay focused as you start on this journey. A business plan will assist you in assessing opportunities, identifying competition, determining your market and so much more. This process will allow you to commit to an appropriate course of action. Without a business plan, it is easy to lose your way as you start and grow your business.

Do you know your product costs?

Knowing your ingredient, packaging, labeling and labor costs are important, but now that you are renting space in a kitchen incubator, how does this change your costs? Most kitchen incubators charge a reasonable hourly or monthly rent, but it adds up much quicker than you may think. This cost must be factored into your product costs. Before making a commitment to a kitchen, determine if your cost structure can support this additional cost.

Where are you going to sell?

Before moving forward with licensing at a kitchen, identify where you plan on selling your product. This needs to be more comprehensive than just listing the local grocery stores, farmers markets and other retailers. Being intentional and deliberate in pinpointing who your target market is and where they shop will go a long way in your success.

Can you be flexible?

Kitchen incubators by nature are full of many businesses utilizing the same space. As you look to utilize a kitchen incubator, you must determine if your schedule is flexible enough to accommodate a shared space with multiple users. Consult with the kitchen staff to confirm that the time you need is available at the space. 

Do you have the needed paperwork?

Kitchen incubators require additional paperwork, so contact them to determine what specific documentation is needed. Most incubators will require you to have a structured business (LLC, LLP, Corp, etc.), a ServSafe certificate or other food handlers certification and general liability insurance.

Kitchen incubators can provide you with a great opportunity to launch your business, but make sure you are equipped to take advantage of the resource. Make sure you have done your homework and you are adequately prepared to grow your business in a shared use facility.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development, packaging and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food, value-added agriculture, and natural resource products. For more information, visit the MSUProduct Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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