TO ASSIST FOOD ENTREPRENEURS AND ADVANCE THEIR BUSINESSES
With funds provided by a $200,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Urban Innovation21 has joined forces with La Dorita, LLC to provide opportunities for aspiring business owners from underserved communities to break into the food industry.
La Dorita was founded in 2009 by Josephine and Gaston Oría. They provide low cost access to a licensed kitchen and professional grade equipment in Sharpsburg, PA. Also as the makers of La Dorita Dulce de Leche, Josephine expresses that “The food industry is a perfect opportunity to assist those individuals in starting their own business.”
She continues, “We were led to this opportunity through conversations with Bill Generett, President & CEO at Urban Innovation21, around the continued technical growth in the Pittsburgh region. It seemed clear that there should be some attention given to the food industry that could offer individuals entrepreneurship opportunities.”
Oría shares, “Working together, we will help food entrepreneurs to get past some of the hurdles they face, the main one being that of cost.” She adds, “The food industry is one of the most expensive to start and it is one of the most highly regulated—our goal is to help break these barriers.”
Food entrepreneurs need to have access to a commercial kitchen and also obtain licenses issued by Allegheny County Health Department and the Department of Agriculture. When you factor in rental space and equipment, the food business presents high start-up cost. This collaborative aims to assist with these challenges and provide resources to underserved communities like the Hill District, Homewood, and Sharpsburg.
To date, a series of free workshops, which were open to the public and a grant competition have been held to expose potential candidates to this program. Via the grant competition five different companies have the chance to receive up to $70,000 in incubation services, entailing rental time in the commercial kitchen, getting licensed and receiving one-on-one coaching in all areas of starting their business. The coaching can include assistance in developing a logo, product packaging, lab testing for nutrition panels and additional services.
While currently the grant competition has the capacity to award five businesses, a Food Start-Up Resource Guide serving as a curriculum for new business start-ups will be accessible online at http://bit.ly/2bGDZCj for those who participated in the competition, as well as all area entrepreneurs seeking to start a food business in Allegheny County. Josephine says, “We expect to go live with this by the end of August—this 200 page downloadable document will be continually updated as the industry changes and is available at no cost to the user. We are excited that this can be a tool that will expand our reach beyond the five companies who will receive the grant.” Both Urban Innovation 21 and La Dorita hope that those seeking entrée into the food industry will be able to take advantage of this tool.
This partnership is yet an additional opportunity for Urban Innovation21 to operate in direct alignment with it’s mission of supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in our region’s innovation economy and connecting that growth to underserved communities and the residents who live in those communities.