Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

July 25, 2013

Would-be food entrepreneurs get their chance

BEULAH — Deb Nickerson gets lots of compliments on her homemade whole wheat bread.

She even thought she might like to try her hand at making it to sell, but the process of starting a business and getting licensed was daunting. That was, until she found out about Benzie Grow’s new incubator kitchen in Beulah, and a workshop it was offering. It seemed to be targeted exactly to people like her.

“I got phone calls the same day from two different friends who’d seen an ad for it on TV,” Nickerson said.

Nickerson, of Beulah, was one of more than 30 people who showed up for the two-day workshop recently to learn about the new kitchen and how it might transform their vague dreams into reality, said kitchen manager Lisa Richter

“What incubators do is brings folks out of the woodwork who are interested in producing a food product, but don’t have business backgrounds,” Richter said. “Folks got a solid understanding of what it takes to start up their business. It demystifies the process.”

Richter said most are aware of Michigan’s cottage food law, but a lot of their ideas involve having a shelf-stable product. For instance, one woman had a recipe for 20 years that she wanted to turn into a product but wondered how to produce it legally and sell it.

“It’s an opportunity to share this awesome food that friends and family love, and she’ll be able to bring it to market,” Richter said.

Benzie Grow’s incubator kitchen is modeled after the Starting Block incubator kitchen in Hart, whose kitchen and business manager, Ron Steiner, helped conduct the workshop. Karla Horn, food safety inspector for the region from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, also assisted. The incubator kitchen itself is a fully equipped commercial-grade kitchen with all the trimmings, including a six- burner stove, commercial refrigerator and freezer, steam kettle, two convection ovens, mixers, and place for packaging and labeling with space for storage.

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