More than just a food source, Findlay Market’s business incubator is helping local entrepreneurs take flight
Standing proudly in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood since 1852, Findlay Market is nothing less than the culinary heart of Cincinnati.
Throughout the year, a collection of more than 40 merchants fills the historic market building, with standouts such as Mackie Quality Meats, Grayson’s/Mike’s Meats and Heist Fish & Poultry supplying local cooks with top-quality ingredients. The market becomes even more of a social hub on summer weekends, as farmers sell their freshest produce from outdoor stands while live music creates a festive atmosphere.
In April 2016, Findlay Market deepened its bonds to the community even more with the opening of Findlay Kitchen. Located across from the market, this nonprofit food-business incubator provides entrepreneurs with the space, equipment and knowhow required to test their ideas and develop solid business plans before committing to a permanent location.
“When you’re starting your own food business, the gap between working out of your home or a small kitchen and opening a brick-and-mortar space is huge,” says Amy Stull, Findlay Kitchen’s incubator manager and a former professional chef. “We support food entrepreneurs who want to start, grow and scale their businesses by offering 11 commercial kitchens to work out of, ample storage space and wraparound business support.”
While any entrepreneur with an idea is welcome, Findlay Kitchen makes it a priority to support businesses owned by women, minorities and immigrants, which makes the recent success of two of their first graduates especially gratifying.
“One of our biggest success stories is called The Arepa Place,” Stull says. “We were able to work with (owner Isis Arrieta-Dennis) and help her develop her business to the point where she could do the investment for a storefront.”
“Babushka Pierogies just opened a late-night window in Over-the-Rhine, and (owner Sarah Dworak) is going to open a vodka bar to go along with her pierogies,” she adds.
Not surprisingly, after nearly three years with Findlay Kitchen, Stull has learned a thing or two about what it takes to make it.
“Successful people have done their homework,” she says. “They look at the food costs, they look at the recipes, they have an interesting concept and a story to tell.”
Yet failing is always an option, and Findlay Kitchen provides for a rather soft landing if it happens.
“It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you get someone in here with a really great product that they want to grow, and they start producing it at a commercial level and hate every bit of it,” Stull explains. “It’s much better to fail fast instead of renting a space, signing a lease, and buying equipment. Here, they’re able to fail with very minimal investment.”