JWM MAGAZINE 41 JWMARRIOTT.COM
FOOD + DRINK
Food incubators provide startups with
the community, materials and expertise
they need to get off the ground.
BY MARK ELLWOOD
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER AND MARIA HOEY
Back home in Sydney, Australia, Hetty McKinnon ran a thriving salad delivery company, Arthur Street Kitchen, before her husband’s job brought the
couple to New York. Though no longer green,
McKinnon needed help booting the business up
stateside. Around the same time, Brooklyn-based
Venus Sutton had started a catering company,
Everything Sticks, offering kebab-style versions of
dishes like chicken and waffles. Once her daughter graduated culinary school, the duo sought
to expand their fledgling firm. The answer for
both McKinnon and the Suttons lay in the same
place: inside a former Pfizer factory in Bedford-Stuyvesant — the headquarters of Brooklyn
Food Works, a 10,000-square-foot food incubator.
The company’s president, Drew Barrett, explains
the concept. “We’re a shared commercial kitchen,
where businesses of all shapes and sizes can come
in and work in a licensed commercial setting.
They don’t have to worry about the headaches of
running a kitchen, like permitting, and they have
a community of other food entrepreneurs around
them.” Tenant-members like the Suttons and
McKinnon sign up for monthly dues of between
$300 and $2,000. Each can reserve hourly slots
in the kitchens using a shared calendar (the space
is open 24/7, with prices varying according to
demand — night hours, for example, are cheaper).
The secret ingredient of this startup, though,
isn’t its health-code-approved cooking spaces but
the expertise it offers members. For its newbie
food entrepreneurs, Brooklyn Food Works acts
much as an A&R executive might when coaching a would-be pop star. The organization offers
business-boosting classes — how to deal with
trademarking, for example, or packaging 101—
and has a roster of on-call food-world mentors
available for counsel and one-on-one meetings
(it’s an impressive lineup, including the board chairman of Whole Foods Market, Dr. John Elstrott).