Cynthia Shanmugalingam, co-founder and CEO of new kitchen incubator Kitchenette, sent this in to me earlier this week. I know it’s a bit more ‘advertorial’ than most of the pieces on this blog – and we don’t intend to make the blog a tool for promoting services or specific products. HOWEVER, there seems to be such a crazy strong demand for ‘help’ in the food area that I thought I’d make an exception and run it in case it was useful. Here’s Cynthia.
If you’d sitting at your desk in the open plan right now, daydreaming about a parallel life as a restaurateur, you’d be in great company. There are plenty of outstanding, innovative examples of corporate escapees, just like you, who have established successful food startups: the Ocado founders (ex-Goldman Sachs); the Leon founders (ex-Bain and Company), the founder of the Cinnamon Club (ex-PR) and countless others.
But if you’re not quite ready to jump ship into the great unknown, that’s perfectly understandable too. It’s daunting and the risks can be significant. That’s we’ve designed a new food business incubator, called Kitchenette, that could help you gain confidence, traction and map out how you’ll get from A to B.
Kitchenette is London’s first kitchen incubator, helping the city’s most original and promising first-time food entrepreneurs get started – on a budget, with a sustainable impact. Launching this November, in return for a 5-10% stake in your startup food business, our annual 12-week incubator programme helps you:
(1) Learn fast (with access to experienced mentors)
(2) Start selling (with access to some of London’s top food markets)
(3) Save on costs (with cheap equipment and kitchen space)
(4) Find backers (with a network of people who are interested in investment).
Startup incubators and accelerators, they aren’t a new idea, and have had perhaps most success in the tech sector. One of our team, Pete Smith, joined one of the most well-respected, the Y Combinator, in 2007 in Boston. He and his co-founders established Songkick with the help of a summer in Boston, and it’s a formula that has helped dozens of other successful companies like Dropbox, AirBnb, and others with its mix of an immersive, collaborative environment; honest, “warts-and-all” advice; and an incredible network. It all adds up to one of the greatest “start-up factories” in the world.
Food isn’t tech and there are plenty of reasons to be cautious. We’ve spent months talking to some of London’s best food entrepreneurs, and have heard scores of horror stories.There are the notorious failure rates, the build nightmares, the long hours, difficult personalities and financing. But we think its possible to help you avoid all that. Our philosophy is about lowering the barriers to food entrepreneurship, learning-by-doing, refining and testing great food by getting out of the building and really understanding your customers, bootstrapping by starting with street food, and altogether demystifying the steps from an idea to profitability and scale, with no-nonsense advice on anything from how to hire a chef to where to find a reliable builder from people who have been there before you.
If you think this might be for you, and you have originality and a passion for food; a good eye for how something looks; think you might just be a good host and have a head for numbers, apply. Consistent high quality takes a lot of work, but we’ve seen, the rewards can be exhilarating.
Danny Meyer, the famous American restauranteur behind Union Square Cafe, used the analogy of where the salt and pepper shakers go, in his book Setting the Table that sums up the kind of focus on all these components that you need in this excerpt from his book that we love:
“Listen, luvah. Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. It is the job of life. It’s the law of entropy!
Until you understand that, you’re going to get pissed off every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: That’s what they do. Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store. Just give away the f—in’ restaurant!”
Apply to Kitchenette by October 29th: www.wearekitchenette.com