Local nonprofit LAUNCH has been steadily working to plan a kitchen incubator over the past two years, with an opening slated for 2021. In light of recent events, along with partnerships from Footprint Foundation and Urban Story Ventures, the organization is set to start earlier than planned with the LAUNCH Provisions Project. Beginning in May, the kitchen incubator will start with a 3-month long project to help feed senior citizens in and around the Chattanooga area who are in need due to the pandemic.
The LAUNCH Provisions Project will operate out of the former Virginia College culinary institute and will serve the community in two ways; getting meals to those in need and contracting food entrepreneurs whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19. Business owners currently on board to participate include Pat Rowe of BBQ Rowe and Catering, Brandon Ellis of Chatterbox Cafe, Christine Nguyen of Mama Crunk’s Pies, and Mark Holland of Belaire Catering.To distribute and deliver the meals, LAUNCH will be teaming with The Chattanooga Housing Authority and We Over Me. Through this initiative, the goal is to deliver 2,000 meals a week.
Local real estate developer Urban Story Ventures owns and operates the Midtown Office Park, where the former Virginia College is located. The fully-equipped, commercial kitchen and classroom space is approximately 8,000 square feet and offers ample parking, a loading dock, and a large walk-in freezer and refrigeration.
"We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit of LAUNCH. Urban Story Ventures feels LAUNCH is servicing a need in our community and we are excited to form a win-win partnership during these difficult times," says Urban Story owner, Jimmy White.
This project will also serve as the pilot program for LAUNCH’s new initiative, the Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga. The incubator will provide access to commercial kitchen space for caterers, food trucks, and those with delivery-based food services, as well as a program for new food businesses as they get started.
Lisa Pickney with Footprint Foundation says, “Footprint appreciates how quickly LAUNCH moved to take an idea they were already exploring and fast track it in response to COVID-19. Many of LAUNCH’s entrepreneurs run owner-operated small businesses in the food sector and these are particularly trying times for them. With the Provisions Project, LAUNCH has the opportunity to keep its entrepreneurs working, provide food relief during the pandemic, and test its kitchen incubator concept in real time. The project is a win for all involved and will benefit some of the most vulnerable during this period of uncertainty.”
"About 20 percent of the entrepreneurs that walk through our doors are ones with dreams of food-centric businesses,” says LAUNCH Executive Director Hal Bowling, “One of the obstacles we noticed was that finding a commercial kitchen that is affordable and accessible for food entrepreneurs is very difficult in our city. We’re extremely excited to be working not only to meet an immediate need through the LAUNCH Provisions Project, but to also have the opportunity to utilize the space that will become the Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga.”