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September 2, 2013

Benzie incubator kitchen offers recipe for success

BENZONIA -- Grow Benzie opened its new incubator kitchen a scant two months ago, but the facility already is proving to be a valuable resource for Benzie County entrepreneurs.

The nonprofit farmstead’s 1,600-square-foot commercial kitchen in Benzonia offers workspace at reasonable hourly rates to small food production businesses that don’t have their own licensed facility. And volunteer instructors are ready to offer advice and suggestions for others interested in testing the waters in the local food production marketplace.

At the moment one person is using the kitchen’s equipment to make bread, and 10 others are going through the application process, Grow Benzie director Deb Query said.

Grow Benzie will take its program a step further this fall by offering a free, eight-week series of workshops titled “Making It Count” and designed to lead participants through the basic steps of starting their own food product business.

Kitchen manager Lisa Manrow said the national and global movement toward buying locally is ripe with interest in food product startups.

“Benzie has a large agricultural community, and overall the growing-local food movement is inspiring people to turn their food interests into personal businesses,” Manrow said.

The Monday evening workshops begin Sept. 9 and continue through Oct. 28, each starting with an informal potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m. followed by the weekly presentation at 6:30 p.m.

The Sept. 9 workshop “How We Did It” introduces Simone Scarpace of Wee Bee Jammin’, her Bear Lake retail store and online business that features locally produced jam and honey products.

“Simone will share how she turned a fun pastime into a full-time business that started in a similar incubator kitchen, and we’re excited to have her start off the series by sharing her inspiring story,” Manrow said.

Scarpace began making her products in 2008 at The Starting Block incubator kitchen in Hart and turned to her recipe file after becoming discontented with a job that required steady weekend work.

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