Growing Food Entrepreneurship is Boosting Local Economy

When most people think about innovation and entrepreneurship the first thing that usually comes to mind is the suburban garage, where visionaries like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got their start. Others might imagine a state-of-the-art laboratory, where biotech breakthroughs cause the press to go wild and venture capitalists to swoon.

Here in the heart of California, people are more likely to think of almond, peach and grape farmers than traditional tech titans, and incubation is more closely related to eggs than new businesses. But that could be changing, thanks to the growth of local food entrepreneurship.

“Food entrepreneurship” broadly refers to new ventures that are redefining how we grow, deliver, and enjoy food. Food entrepreneurs may be on a mission to tackle global challenges or celebrate the value of being local. They may introduce new tastes or celebrate authentic international cultures. They may inspire intense loyalty from a small group of valued customers, or aspire to address sweeping issues like sustainability and hunger. These are all found right here in our region and there is a small group of organizations who are working hard to foster the growth of these budding business startups.

Clovis Culinary Center, What’s Cooking Fresno, and a small handful of other organizations which provide food-related business cultivation services are making it easier and cheaper for start-up food businesses start, grow, and flourish.

While the notion of creating an infrastructure that smooths the way for food entrepreneurs is new to our valley, it’s been around since the early 2000’s. Because of this, there is now enough data to show that this kind of activity is good for the local economy. Very good! More jobs are being created, and the success rate of those businesses is higher than in just about any other field.

One of the earliest, and arguably the most famous kitchen incubator in North America is La Cocina. Since 2005, the San Francisco non-profit has worked with hundreds of low income women of color and created the opportunity and tools to help them succeed.

Caleb Zigas, La Cocina’s executive director understands how difficult it can be to start a new business. “We started La Cocina because the barriers to entry have always been high,” he explained. “The changing dynamic of San Francisco only makes that more extreme.” By providing affordable kitchen space, technical training, marketing connections, and hands-on help with the nitty-gritty stuff—like permits and payroll—La Cocina is helping to level one of the nation’s most competitive playing fields, and proving that true wellness goes beyond what’s on our plates. It’s about the strength of our communities.

Here in our valley, leaders of Clovis Culinary Center do not hide the fact that their business model is based closely on what La Cocina is doing. “We opened our door one year ago and have already witnessed the tremendous growth of about a dozen of our entrepreneurs,” said Chef Don Waddell, Clovis Culinary Center’s executive director. “It’s sad to see them get to the point where they are so successful that they move on to bigger and better things, but that sure makes us proud.”

In June, We Are La Cocina, a new book showcasing more than 50 successful La Cocina entrepreneurs, will be available. It was co-authored by Zigas. “Each of these women have a story and each of those stories have influenced their recipes,” he explained. “The book is full of recipes and the stories which inspired them.”

On June 13, Clovis Culinary Center is honored to host Caleb Zigas, along with several successful La Cocina entrepreneurs as they share their inspiring tales. Please join us as we learn what’s happening throughout the state and right here in the valley, to help start and grow local food-related businesses.

Date: June 13, 2019

Time: 5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.

Place: Wedgewood Wedding and Banquets, 4584 W Jacquelyn Avenue, Fresno 93722

Tickets: $40 per person ORDER NOW

Thanks to a generous sponsorship by Fresno Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau, the first 40 ticket holders will receive a free copy of We Are La Cocina

For more information, call Shawn Miller, (559) 324-2083

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