Area Food Businesses Win Grants to Expand Their Reach

Five local food entrepreneurs get a financial boost from hometown food giant Kroger and the Incubator Kitchen Collective to help launch commercial kitchens.

When Rachel DesRochers launched her first company, Grateful Grahams, in 2010, she quickly noticed that she didn’t have a peer group of like-minded business owners that she could tap into to share experiences.  

Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport

Photograph courtesy of Rachel DesRochers

“As we kept growing, I saw there was no real space or community for food entrepreneurs,” says DesRochers, who founded the Incubator Kitchen Collective (IKC), a shared-use commercial kitchen space that supports small food businesses, in 2013. “Looking back on the past 11 years, I realize it takes a community of passionate people who show up every day and work hard to make dreams come true.”

Kroger helped those dreams along when its Cincinnati/Dayton Division partnered with Incubator Kitchen Collective to offer grants to local food entrepreneurs. Earlier this month, the hometown food giant and IKC announced that five companies were selected to receive grants through the partnership.

DesRochers was introduced to Erin Rolfes, corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Cincinnati/Dayton Division, through a friend in 2019. “When we met, [DesRochers] shared that she meets many entrepreneurs who would benefit from the incubator experience but are so early in the business that they don’t have the funding to participate,” Rolfes says. “At that point, it was an easy decision to create the fund.”

The grants will cover their rent at IKC for 2021, which will allow them to focus on getting their businesses fully launched in a commercial kitchen. The winners are:

Braziel, co-founder of the minority business incubator MORTAR, says the grant will help him launch Pata Roja Taqueria’s taco cart and expand the business’s taco kit production. 

Derrick Braziel of Pata Roja Taqueria

Photograph by Jonathan Medina

“I have worked to help Pata Roja grow our sales by almost 200 percent this year, adding staff and positioning our business to grow into 2021,” he explains. “Access to a subsidized kitchen space will enable us to truly focus on growing a business we’ve been working so hard to prove over the past two years.” 

Braziel notes that he’d previously had space at the Incubator Kitchen but had to leave because he couldn’t afford it while simultaneously trying to grow his business. “This opportunity will enable us to have the equipment we need to grow our business the way that we want to,” he adds. 

For Fawzeya Owda, whose bakery combines Middle Eastern and American baking techniques, the money will allow her to take more orders and not turn away customers. “In the past, I couldn’t take all the orders that come to me because working from my kitchen is not a big place with all the equipment that I need,” says the FreshLo Chef program graduate and mother of three. “Winning the grant was a great opportunity for me because renting a kitchen is not cheap. I’m looking forward to the chance to work in such a big industrial kitchen.” 

IKC currently operates out of a 10,000-square-foot space in Newport, supporting nearly 50 small food entrepreneurs. Over the years, the nonprofit has worked with more than 150 companies. Twenty of those companies, including Whirlybird Granola, Babushka Pierogies, Tuba Baking, Rose & Mary Bakery, and Pickled Pig, have incubated out into storefronts or larger production facilities.

“Local businesses are an important piece to keeping our economy healthy,” Rolfes says. “We’re proud to play a small role in helping these amazing food entrepreneurs bring their businesses to the next level—and I look forward to being able to purchase their delicious items in Kroger one day.”

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