Considerations for Creating a Food Business Incubator in Virginia
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Due to overwhelming current demand for affordable rental commercial kitchen space in Virginia, this report was compiled in order to assess a viable Virginia model for small food business support. The incubator business model is gaining in popularity across the country, and increasing the capacity for small food business operations in many metropolitan areas. Multiple in-person interviews were conducted with food producers, food retailers, shared-use kitchen owners, city/county officials, and food business incubator managers in Virginia and along the Eastern shore of the United States in order to gain more information pertaining to the elements required for success in food business incubation. It was discovered that most successful food business incubators are located in urban areas, with access to support from existing business development infrastructure such as local universities, hospitals, and business development service centers. Each existing facility has received significant funding from philanthropic donors, or investment capitalists who were able to supply the heavy up-front costs associated with facility establishment. The needs of the interested community will be essential in determining the type of food business incubator facility, and the equipment and services that it will provide. The main limiting factors among unsuccessful operations were shortage of dry and refrigerated storage space, and lack of adequate distribution networks, both factors of which are essential for growth and aggregation of small food businesses, and ultimate success of food business incubators.