For entrepreneurs starting a food truck, small restaurant, a catering business, or perhaps selling at a farmer’s market, the lack of access to a commercial kitchen can be a major stumbling block. Building out even a small one can be expensive, especially for a company just launching.
The City of San Antonio’s Economic Development Department (SAEDD) has partnered with the Maestro Entrepreneur Center to give culinary startups participating in Launch SA programs free access to the Center’s commercial kitchen. SAEDD approved $50,000 for the Maestro Entrepreneur Center to provide 1,200 hours of free commercial kitchen access for those participating in Launch SA’s culinary entrepreneurship program Break Fast and Launch, the nation’s first culinary business accelerator.
“At Launch SA we’ve seen the need for a commercial kitchen for a while,” said Launch SA’s director Ryan Salts. “It’s great to see that partners like the Maestro Entrepreneur Center are filling a much-needed gap in our community and helping entrepreneurs grow towards sustainability.”
Launch SA debuted in 2014 as a partnership between the City of San Antonio and LiftFund, a non-profit small business microlender, to help entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting a business.
“This partnership strengthens the City’s support of local culinary entrepreneurs,” stated Michael Sindon, SAEDD assistant director. “The free commercial kitchen access provided by the Maestro Entrepreneur Center, combined with the tools and value that entrepreneurs gain through Launch SA’s programs, gives culinary entrepreneurs the best chance at starting their business successfully.”
The Maestro Entrepreneur Center is a small business incubator that partners with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in helping small, minority, and women-owned businesses. The center offers accelerator training programs and incubation spaces for entrepreneurs to office, warehouse, and access their commercial kitchen.
“The benefit for entrepreneurs going through our program, whether they speak English or Spanish, is being able to have a commercial kitchen to call their own and to be able to cook and prepare their products,” stated Julissa Carielo, Maestro Entrepreneur Center board chair. “This is a location that will help participants get used to following all the requirements needed to run a successful business while taking advantage of a very low rate which will help them keep more of their funds in their businesses.”
Stephen Paprocki completed Break Fast and Launch’s 10-week program and has since launched his Texas Black Gold Garlic product line. He applauded news of the free access for culinary startups looking to launch food businesses but lacking access to a commercial kitchen. Most chefs just starting a new business must ask to work in a restaurant or other commercial kitchen in the business’ off-hours, which translates into haphazard access at odd hours in the middle of the night.
“Austin has at least eight commercial kitchens where you can book some time, but we only have one that just opened, Alamo Kitchens,” Paprocki said. “When you’re just starting out with no revenue you need free kitchen access to develop your product and test it.”
Tracy Shelton launched Alamo Kitchens in July. She saw the growing need for a co-working culinary space that is fully equipped, licensed, shared-use commercial kitchen that can be rented on an as-needed basis.
“There are so many food- and beverage-focused entrepreneurs in the city and not enough kitchen space designed for food production,” Shelton said. “That’s a huge limiting factor in the growth of San Antonio’s food businesses.”
For local chefs and food-focused entrepreneurs in San Antonio, the announcement Friday could not have come at a better time.
“There’s 20-plus people in the Break Fast and Launch program now,” Paprocki said. That’s 20 people who need free access to a commercial kitchen. San Antonio needs this now.”