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At the Incubator Kitchen, entrepreneurs can test food business without risking life savings

Hannah Johnson, of Spera Foods, making granola and flour out of tiger nuts and the Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Hannah Johnson, of Spera Foods, making granola and flour out of tiger nuts at the Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

The Next Idea

The Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is helping people with an idea for a food product or business turn their dreams into reality without risking their life savings.

The Incubator Kitchen is a full-sized commercial kitchen where hopeful food entrepreneurs can get help with business planning and the licensing required to legally produce their products and sell to the public.

Mimi Fritz is the president of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Fritz said it takes a lot of time to take a business from the idea stage, to food production. The Incubator Kitchen nurses food entrepreneurs along as they develop their recipes and products.  

“In order to help food producers produce viable products in order to sell,” Fritz said, “we help with recipe development, label creation, [and] working with the USDA and the various county boards.” 

Having the Incubator Kitchen available 24/7 means entrepreneurs don’t have to invest in commercial facilities to meet licensing requirements. Space in the kitchen is rented hourly, between $9-$25. Fritz said the Incubator Kitchen and the entire Grand Rapids Downtown Market was founded as a way of stimulating economic development, with the goal of launching and starting food businesses.

“The model was designed where they could start up in our kitchen, move up to one of our markets, eventually become a permanent vendor in our market hall, and potentially grow beyond that,” Fritz said. “What we’re seeing, is many folks are skipping a lot of those steps, and they’re moving right into their own production facilities.”

Fritz said making the kitchen available whenever entrepreneurs want to access it was important, because a lot of people with an idea for a product have other jobs. The Incubator Kitchen is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pursue those dreams without a huge investment, or the added risk of doing everything on their own. Kitchen staff help entrepreneurs construct and review business plans and offer access to legal services.

Fritz said the Incubator Kitchen is currently host to a wide range of products, from sauerkraut to cold-brew coffee and “vegan meat."

Listen to the entire conversation with Mimi Fritz, President of the Grand Rapids downtown market, below. 

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