Starting a business from the ground up takes a lot of hard work, many long hours and most important, a lot of money. Especially as a small food startup, the first thing I considered was to get either a loan from the bank, borrow from friends/family or somehow raise money which in the end you will still need to pay back. Starting a business with debt is not ideal and thus making an actual profit can take longer than expected.
Usually as a new food business you need to worry about startup costs which could include monthly rent, the first and last deposit, utilities, insurance, government fees (if you invest in a location), as well as improvement costs such as tables, kitchenware, equipment, utensils, custom build-outs if needed. These costs could rack up and even hold you back from making a profit or shut you down. Health inspections could lead to major delays.
A commercial kitchen such as the Entrepreneurial Space in Queens, New York makes starting my business Paleo With Love a little easier. We launched earlier this year and have 100 clients in our neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.
Unlike the major costs associated with a startup, being at a commercial kitchen such as the Entrepreneur Space allows me to concentrate on my product and actually grow my business. There is rental fee and a few minor insurance protocols, but I do not have to worry about spending a ton of time and money on building the place out and buying equipment. The city-sponsored business incubator provides me with all the essential kitchen equipment I need for my Paleo delivery meal business, such as: convection ovens, gas range stoves and grills, huge fridges, every pot and pan you could imagine and large areas for plating and staging the meal prep. The space has a huge walk-in freezer, lots of storage room which alleviates me from bringing ingredients back and forth for my cooking shifts.
One key to picking the right commercial kitchen is making sure its staff makes it convenient and easy to book shifts. The Entrepreneur Space, for instance, updates me with any hourly changes for the facility, so I am always in the know. The last thing you want when trying to prepare your products is, literally, too many cooks in the kitchen.
Also, the availability of culinary assistants is a major plus in such a space because as the business grows, help starts to cost extra and usually needs to be vetted prior to hiring. This can result in making me lose valuable time that could be dedicated elsewhere. The culinary assistants are already hand-picked by the staff and trained.
Another amazing thing about working at a professional commercial kitchen is that they are involved in helping others by bringing in interns from the Fortune Society. Giving someone a second chance and providing work for them, at the same time getting free help to grow my business is a great addition to the resources the Entrepreneur Space provides.
Another major perk is the exposure I get to many other entrepreneurs such as myself in the area and through community events. Being around other entrepreneurs with the same end-result and vision allows me to make connections, learn from one another and watch each other grow successfully. The community events such as the Entrepreneur Space birthday party gathers all the clients from the kitchen to allow us to display our products, socialize amongst each other, learn about each other’s businesses and support one another. Being able to be connected to the Queens food scene through the shared space allows me to build a network of supporters and customers.
Capitalizing On CrossFit
The Entrepreneur Space isn’t the only community resource I rely on. I sell prepared paleo meals out of two gyms in Western Queens called CrossFit Queens and CrossFit Dynamix. Being part of the CrossFit community makes our business easier to market. Since many athletes who go to CrossFit gyms have a good handle on nutrition, health and wellbeing, the Paleo way of eating is common knowledge and the most commonly used diet when trying to lose weight, perform better and feel better.
Growing my business through a CrossFit community allows me to interact with other like-minded people and engage with my clients face to face, whether it is to help them with the nutrition or teach them some paleo recipes.
Right now, Paleo With Love is spreading through word of mouth. This saves a lot of money on advertising and it has been a potent strategy since trusted friends won’t steer you wrong when it comes to business recommendations. Through the Crossfit community, we promote our product during competitions including the CrossFit Open which takes place each year for five weeks. We’ve identified these marquee events to find our key clients, all of whom are right in or neighborhood.