LAUNCH Gains Global Accolades, Acquires Kitchen Incubator Of Chattanooga Building

  • Friday, July 5, 2024
Co-CEOs, DeJuan Jordan and Hal Bowling with the InBIA Entrepreneurial Support Organization of the Year awad
Co-CEOs, DeJuan Jordan and Hal Bowling with the InBIA Entrepreneurial Support Organization of the Year awad

The first six months of 2024 have been busy for LAUNCH, the local non-profit organization whose mission is to empower communities and individuals through entrepreneurship, especially among individuals who are underrepresented in the field. The nonprofit LAUNCH was honored with two awards by the International Business Innovation Association: Entrepreneur Support Organization of the Year and the Julius Morgan Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Additionally, to better serve their food sector clients, LAUNCH acquired the 20,000 square foot building housing the Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga.

During its 38th annual International Conference on Business Incubation held in San Antonio, InBIA recognized organizations nationally and internationally that provide support to entrepreneurs. The Julius Morgan Diversity and Inclusion Award, named after the first African American member of InBIA’s board of directors (1990-1996), celebrates those who bring economic development to urban entrepreneurship ecosystems.

Hal Bowling, Co-CEO of LAUNCH said, “This is such a great honor. LAUNCH has been very deliberate with our mission and our strategy over the years. We truly believe entrepreneurship is the growth mechanism that can create greater equity in our communities. It is very affirming to have an international organization like InBIA recognize us for our work.”

Co-CEO DeJuan Jordan added, "We have an exceptional team that is deeply committed to our mission and to serving our clients. This recognition from InBIA is a testament to their dedication and hard work. Along with Hal, I want to extend our heartfelt thanks to InBIA for these prestigious awards and for their support. This honor not only validates our efforts but also strengthens our resolve to bring the transformative power of entrepreneurship to those who have great business ideas but lack the resources or knowledge to get started. We are excited to continue empowering individuals and fostering innovation in our community."

Many of those entrepreneurial dreams involve the food industry – both food service and packaged goods. To address this large segment and to support those dreams, LAUNCH created the Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga in 2020 to serve aspiring food entrepreneurs.

“We saw through our cohorts,” said Mr. Bowling, “that roughly 20 percent of the people coming into our programs had a business idea that involved food or food services. As many know, restaurants and the food industry can be notoriously challenging and expensive businesses to start and sustain.”

Ms. Jordan said, “The original intent of KIC was to serve food entrepreneurs in our city with a shared kitchen space that would give them access to equipment and a consistent place to prepare their food in compliance with the regulations of the health and agriculture departments. We knew this space would meet a unique need in our city and the shared kitchen concept cultivated a community of entrepreneurs that are not just growing their own business but also encouraging and supporting each other.”

In 2022, LAUNCH made an investment in renovations in the leased space that represented the organization’s long-term vision which allowed more entrepreneurs to utilize the space. Investing in the space presented a long-term challenge; although LAUNCH had a longer-term lease, it did not own the building.

When contemplating the future and the importance of sustaining the organization's efforts at KIC, they acknowledged that without ownership of the building, they would be subject to factors beyond their control. After approaching the owners of the building about their interest to sell, co-CEO’s Mr. Bowling and Ms. Jordan, alongside their team, negotiated a deal for LAUNCH to purchase the property. This acquisition secured a permanent home for KIC in Brainerd, ensuring continued support for a diverse array of talented entrepreneurs and shaping the future of food-centric entrepreneurship in Chattanooga.

"We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations whose support made this achievement possible," said Mr. Bowling and Ms. Jordan. "Our board of directors and finance committee dedicated countless hours to this transaction, playing a pivotal role in its success. We extend heartfelt thanks to Bright Bridge Financial Partners for their crucial role in securing financing as well as, a sincere appreciation to our funding partners: Benwood Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Maclellan Foundation, Footprint Foundation, the Howard Fund, and several generous individuals who believed in our mission and made significant contributions.”

"We would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the hard work of our exceptional staff, as well as express gratitude to our realtor, Natalie Hostettler of CBRE, and Chuck Fisher of Grant, Konvalinka and Harrison, whose expertise was invaluable throughout the legal process of the purchase.”

The Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga’s permanent home is at 5704 Marlin Road, adjacent to
Eastgate Mall in the Brainerd area.


The LAUNCH team, from left, Pat Rowe, Mark Holland, Karen Collins, Hal Bowling and DeJuan Jordan, in front of the KIC building
The LAUNCH team, from left, Pat Rowe, Mark Holland, Karen Collins, Hal Bowling and DeJuan Jordan, in front of the KIC building
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