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It seemed to former IT professional Michael Madigan that everywhere he looked in his home port of Portland, Oregon, was full of food trucks, pop-up restaurants, DIY bakers, cheese makers and manufacturers condiments selling on farmers’ markets.
“I asked myself,” Where are these people cooking? “”, Remembers Madigan. He also wondered if they could use help to grow their business.
After researching food incubators across the country (and only finding two), Madigan opened KitchenCru, Portland’s 4,800 square foot incubator for culinary businesses in 2011. Participants pay approximately $ 23 to $ 28 an hour, plus food storage, to rent space in the fully-licensed licensed kitchen. Professional cooking experience is not required; entrepreneurs simply need to register their business with the city and state, obtain a material handler’s license, and obtain liability insurance.
“I tried to develop something that breaks down barriers to entry,” says Madigan. “I tell people,” Bring your knives, and you’re ready to cook. “”
In addition to helping with business plans, branding and e-commerce sites, Madigan and his team of three help the founders adapt their recipes for commercial production and create sales and distribution strategies. “It’s about getting the product made and finding buyers,” he says.
More than 100 food artisans have rented the space, some twenty of which have opened stores or experienced regional success. Ben Jacobsen is one of them. He spent 18 months at KitchenCru taking off Jacobsen Salt Co., which sells locally harvested sea salt.
“The energy in this place was second to none,” says Jacobsen, whose 4-year-old company now has 35 employees. “It was so much fun and inspiring to participate.”
Madigan, who recently opened a bagel shop and wine bar, allows startups to stay at KitchenCru as long as they need it; founders usually know when they are out of space, he says. “One of the happiest days for me is when a client comes up to me, eyes wide open, and says,” I’m just quitting my job to do it full time. “”