Deuel Community Kitchen (Toronto, SD) - A Kitchen Incubator Story
Incubators can help a small community and food producers because they are designed to grow business!
Incubators make it financially possible for a start-up food manufacturer to take advantage of available professional kitchen space while they grow their business. This commercial kitchen facility is available to producers and packagers of specialty and gourmet food, caterers, and individual chefs that want to get their special recipe off and running. Those individuals who want to take a special recipe to market or create a food or natural resource business will want to consider the use of this kitchen. A kitchen is for start-ups and existing food processors.
Most start-up food enterprises begin in a home kitchen. But the home kitchen becomes a liability because of special licensing that is required and laws that prevent the home kitchen recipe when it goes to the marketplace. Legally then the start-up food enterprise must manufacture their product from a professional kitchen. This is where a kitchen incubator comes in. Chefs (user of a kitchen) will be able to offer long or short-term leases at reasonable rates on a flexible time-share basis. Food entrepreneurs become ‘legal’ by working in this certified kitchen space because it, in turn, can be inspected more easily.
Available to use are professional standard ovens, refrigerators, mixers, food processors, storage space, worktables, pots and pans, utensils and locked storage space. This professional space will have a list of requirements in using the space, but also guidelines that will need to be followed when using the kitchen. The entrepreneurs enter into an agreement with the facility, with each other and in this case with the non-profit Deuel Area Development (DADi) that began the incubator. Using a kitchen incubator is a relatively new concept and definitely in a rural setting.
The DCK began with a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant. With the help of DADi and assistance of Dakota Rural Action and Deubrook School District the Deuel Community Kitchen came to fruition.
Once a product is ready for marketing, the producer can help with a business plan and making connections with the Small Business Development Centers. It is the hope of USDA Rural Development that other small communities with available licensed kitchens can use DCK as a model. Other items to consider when starting a kitchen: location to 'chefs', insurance, Serv-Safe licensing, labeling, kitchen inspections and licensing, Department of Health regulations, kitchen's availability, potential users, marketing and determination, community awareness, and marketing.