The Incubator Kitchen Collective, located at 517 W. 7th Street in Newport, has been home to not one, not two, but more than 100 local food startups since opening in 2013. You might assume that many food businesses in one kitchen would lead to tough competition and sneaky recipe stealing, but in the Collective, there are never too many cooks in the kitchen.
Upon entering the Incubator Kitchen Collective, I’m welcomed by the bright smile of its founder, Rachel DesRochers, who, as the woman behind Grateful Grahams, experienced the challenges of being a “foodpreneur” firsthand.
“People don’t realize that, in this industry, you have to ride the wave,” says DesRochers. “But that’s what I love about the kitchen. We’re an ecosystem, and that’s a special kind of support.”
This ecosystem is hidden behind three closed doors, but the impact is evident with a timeline of businesses the Incubator helped launch.
“I wanted to create a space that is supportive and helps people get started,” she says, showing me business name after business name. And she’s doing just that in the expansive facility.
Behind door number one, I find local food distributors Ohio Valley Local Food Connection and Our Harvest in a cool space filled with fresh, organic vegetables. Not only do local schools, families, and restaurants benefit from their local produce, but the businesses of the Incubator Kitchen Collective do, too.
“Being here is so awesome because we have access to business for local food,” says Tiffany Wise, owner of Healing Kitchen. “It’s extremely important for me to provide my customers with quality produce without pesticides.”
The Healing Kitchen’s offering has grown from selling flax crackers out of Findlay Market to a complete gut-healthy product line, including fermented products and bone broth, all thanks to the support of the Incubator Kitchen Collective.
“I was so drawn to Rachel and her sense of community,” she continues. “She just provides such a warm community kitchen. There’s so much good going on here.”
The next room I enter is filled with boxes upon boxes of freshly packaged goods, and soon, a group of local Cincinnatians picking up their company’s produce order.
As I open door number three, my nose is hit with a blend of smells. I had made it to the kitchen. This is where the magic really happens.
I’ve never seen anything like it: a rush of chefs moving about the kitchen, some baking sweet desserts, others savory dishes. This is where I see Wise in action and meet Mike Mandela-Brown of Midwest Meal Plans as well as Karen Durban with Prepped Girl. Each brings their food business vision to life alongside the supportive community. They’re there for each other, whether it be swapping tax preparation tips or giving marketing feedback, which only multiplies everyone’s individual success.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here in Cincinnati,” says Mandell-Brown. “Here you can build your business into what you want.”
Though their specialties vary—Mandell-Brown creates gourmet meal plans complete with macro- and micro-nutrient breakdown for his more health-conscious customers while Durban focuses on busy, on-the-go families—they all share the same passion for quality, carefully crafted food.
“The food you eat really makes you,” says Durban. “We all deserve nutritious meals.”
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The Incubator Kitchen Collective welcomes new businesses to work out of their space. Share this story and tag a friend to encourage them to make their foodpreneur dreams come true within this supportive community.
To learn more about each meal prepper's business, links to their websites are below.