This business incubator helps entrepreneurs produce, package and market food products in an industry that’s notoriously competitive—especially for those who face racial and social barriers.
If you’ve ever eaten Mike’s Famous Michigan Bean Dip, enjoyed a sweet treat from Luna Delights, or savored Cave-Aged Gruyere from The Cheese Lady, you’ve been part of just a few of the success stories that Can-Do Kitchen has helped write. It’s the place local entrepreneurs go when they’re ready to grow their food business.
Can-Do Kitchen is an incubator, collaborator and hub for people who create and sell food products.
“We break down barriers that keep people from starting their own businesses,” said Sheena Foster, the non-profit organization’s director of operations. These include racial, economic, gender and language barriers.
Through their Can-Do Camp and commercial kitchen rental, Can-Do Kitchen makes starting and running a food-based business accessible to those who might not otherwise have access to such resources.
The organization was founded in Kalamazoo 10 years ago as a program of another nonprofit.
“It was a small 20-foot trailer with commercial kitchen equipment and licensed for food production,” Sheena said. “Later, we realized that people needed help starting their businesses and it became an organization with a social mission.”
Today, Can-Do Kitchen’s mission is to build foundations and remove barriers to food business ownership through experiential education and access to an 1,800-square-foot commercial kitchen and other resources.
“Just as it’s Can-Do Kitchen’s purpose to advance entrepreneurship through education and opportunity, Consumers tries to do likewise for our members on their journeys to financial wellness,” says Consumers’ Downtown Office Manager Clarence Lloyd.
“For many families in our community, achieving financial independence by owning and operating their own food business is that dream. We are honored to support Can-Do Kitchen in their amazing work!”
Incubating food businesses at Can-Do Camp
Those who already have a food business and those who aspire to have one find all the guidance they need at Can-Do Camp. This 12-week incubation course teaches people about the requirements and best practices for starting a food business.
In addition to providing business development education and mentoring, Can-Do Camp provides opportunities to network with professionals in the community who can help support food start-ups. Professionals in labeling, packaging, food safety, licensing, regulations, insurance and more share their expertise with “campers.”
Campers come from all backgrounds. Some already run a catering business or a small cottage business. Others simply show up with a tasty idea and a desire to make it into a profitable business. Can-Do Kitchen works with people at all levels of experience.
Once a camper completes the program, they can become a member and rent the commercial kitchen. Membership gives them access to ongoing guidance, resources and networks. (The next camp starts in September; get application details here.)
Can-Do Kitchen also hosts food business development workshops and tours that are open to the public.
Breaking down barriers
As part of their focus on breaking down barriers, Can-Do Kitchen works with those who need translation. All resources are available in Spanish. The organization also arranges for translation on a one-on-one basis and for groups. For example, they recently provided a workshop in Arabic for a group of Syrian refugees.
“We also provide scholarships for those with income limitations and marginalized identities to create access they might not otherwise have,” said Sheena.
How you can help: volunteer or donate
Can-Do Kitchen operates with a paid staff of three, a Board of Directors and relies on a team of volunteers. (Full disclosure: We’re delighted that Clarence Lloyd, manager at Consumers’ downtown Kalamazoo office, serves on Can-Do Kitchen’s board of directors.)
Can-Do Kitchen always welcomes volunteers who can help with:
To volunteer, contact Can-Do Kitchen online or call 269-492-0261.
Can-Do Kitchen also relies on donations to support programs, keep the facility running and provide scholarships. You can donate here.
We’re so proud of the work Can-Do Kitchen does for local food entrepreneurs, and we’re honored to be your credit union!
Building relationships to help you succeed is what our business development managers do best. Call 800-991-2221. We’re here to help you grow your business!
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