For entrepreneurs who dream of starting a business in the food industry, one of the biggest barriers to entry is having the resources and access to professional kitchen equipment. That's why the latest addition to Downtown Hazleton's entrepreneurial ecosystem is working to make it easier for people to start their own culinary business.
The Hazleton Kitchen Incubator, located inside the Hayden Family Center for the Arts at 31 West Broad Street, is the latest project from The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC) designed to help entrepreneurs and startup companies. The kitchen incubator program gives regional food and beverage businesses a low-risk opportunity to start small, test and develop a business idea and plan, and scale their operations without the cost of equipping and maintaining their own commercially-licensed culinary facility.
The kitchen is equipped to handle the needs of most startup bakers, caterers, ethnic/specialty food producers with retail sales operations, food trucks and other small-scale food and beverage businesses.
As with all THInC projects, the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator is a collaboration between officials from CAN DO and CAN BE, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP) and Penn State Hazleton via the Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo Esq., as well as the Hazleton Art League, which operates out of the Hayden Family Center for the Arts.
DHAP Executive Director Krista Schneider said the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator encourages growth and equity in the local food economy by improving access to resources that traditionally are not available to those with limited incomes and for whom English may be a second language.
“We are so excited to give food industry entrepreneurs a place to realize their dreams with the kitchen incubator. We help our members focus on what really matters: building vibrant and sustainable food companies. Our partner organizations work closely with each member business to polish ideas and develop business models, as well as help cultivate customer connections and distribution opportunities,” Schneider said.
CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock said, “CAN DO recognizes that economic development begins by growing industry from within the community. Our organization has had a strategic focus on recruiting food-based businesses for some time, so encouraging homegrown food-based businesses is equally important to us. We're happy to support such an amazing opportunity to help grow future food-based companies out of this facility.”
Food businesses accepted into the incubator program also receive mentoring and immersion in the regional entrepreneurial environment, where they can collaborate with industry experts and peers. Additionally, several education partners, including the Hazleton LaunchBox, will offer courses and workshops in a variety of important topics, including food safety, customer discovery and market validation, business planning, and branding.
Businesses participating in the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator program receive more than a dozen member benefits, including one-on-one assistance with licensing, certifications, and permits via the CAN BE Innovation Center; opportunities to host catered events within the Hayden Family Center for the Arts and the adjacent CAN DO Community Park; 24/7 access to the facility with flexible scheduling; and access to co-working and private meeting space, WiFi, and printing services at the Hazleton LaunchBox.
Entrepreneurs can also rent low-cost, “pop-up” style retail storefront space at the HUB Welcome Center, which is co-located with the Hazleton LaunchBox at 15 West Broad Street. The retail shop provides businesses with an opportunity to test their product, either through featured promotions or special events. The shop is equipped with café style seating, a sink, commercial dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, coffeemaker and microwave, as well as a refrigerated display case, WiFi and a Square Point of Sale System for credit card payments.
For more information on the program or to obtain an application, visit the Hazleton Kitchen Incubator's website at https://hazletonkitchen.org/.