Toronto is a hot spot for new small businesses, but space is at a premium. If you’re an entrepreneur with a great idea but you’re not making money just yet, investing in a business space and specialized equipment might sound like a far-off dream. So what’s an eager startup owner to do? In the food and beverage industry, one option is food incubators.
What Is a Food Incubator?
Startup incubators are spaces where entrepreneurs and industry professionals can "incubate" their ideas — that is, grow and develop them past the prototype stage so that the company can hit the ground running when the product is released to the public.
A food incubator is one kind of incubator that’s designed for businesses in the food industry. Basically, a food incubator is an industrial kitchen that can be rented out for periods of time or to meet specific goals.
It’s designed to replace a restaurant or industrial kitchen, allowing people who need such a facility access to one when they can’t yet invest in their own. What makes a food incubator unique is that aside from providing a space and equipment, the incubator also gives you access to mentors and experts who can help you learn to use the equipment, gain specific skills, and better understand how the industry operates.
Who Can Use a Food Incubator?
Anyone who needs an industrial kitchen for business or educational activities can use a food incubator. Toronto food incubator Food Starter has helped people start their own food-related companies when they didn’t have the space to develop a great idea. For example, one user, Jackie Kwitko, was making fruit-based ice pops at home and wanted to be able to turn her ice pops into a profitable business. She needed a space where she could not only make large quantities of the ice pops but also store them for long enough to ship out big batches.
At home, this simply wouldn’t have been possible, and without the profits from larger sales of ice pops, Kwitko wouldn’t have been able to afford to invest in her own industrial kitchen. By using the Food Starter kitchen, she was able to get her brand off the ground and start making sales, which later allowed her to invest in her own independent space.
Maybe you already work in the industry and you have a great idea for a new product but your existing kitchen is just too busy. Food incubators also work with chefs and restaurant owners who want to test out new recipes while their own kitchens are busy working with tried-and-true menu items. Food incubators help keep the food industry fresh and up-to-date.
The Mission of Food Incubators
Some food incubators run as non-profit enterprises. These incubators are in business solely to help others achieve their business goals. In Toronto, the incubator FoodShare is helping improve access to fresh fruit and vegetables in schools and communities. Another incubator, Kitchen24, is partnering with mentors in the industry to help give incubator users not only kitchen skills but practical business skills as well.
If you’re an entrepreneur in Toronto or eastern Canada, a food incubator might be your best option for getting your product, recipe, or business off the ground. Visiting a food incubator can help you develop your product while teaching you more about how to market and sell that product and, eventually, run a successful business.