Jess Daniel is the founder of FoodLab Detroit, an infrastructure, resource and repository of knowledge for eateries that make community a priority. Calling herself the “Chief Enabler,” Daniel created the coalition two years ago to connect likeminded business owners and food entrepreneurs. The barriers to creating small local food businesses can be steep, but FoodLab aims to empower startups, and help them cut through the red tape (the worst kind of tape) with projects like their Detroit Kitchen Connect, which will match promising new ventures with underutilized commercial kitchen space.
This year, Daniel is working to launch the FoodLab cooperative platform, yet to be named, that will be the infrastructure through which business members inform, access, and contribute to building FoodLab's suite of shared services and engagement with Detroit's food movement. Daniel hopes the systems FoodLab has put in place, including online infrastructure to complement offline organizing, can be ported to other cities and regions.
“Until now, we’ve evolved very organically,” Daniel says, “and this year, we're working on building organizational systems and processes to support our members.”
One major sub-component of this effort is Detroit Kitchen Connect, which will create a city-wide network of kitchens that offer low-cost, easily accessible space to up-start food businesses. Lack of access to consistent, licensed kitchen space is a major hurdle to growing Detroit's good food economy, yet many commercial kitchens already exist that are currently vacant or in operation for only a few hours each day. Many of these kitchens belong to churches, community organizations, and small businesses who would be open to let food businesses use their space, yet don’t have capacity or desire to intake, manage, and support entrepreneurs ongoing.
“We envision DKC as the technical assistance, coordination, and management hub that will support the operation of a distributed network of kitchens across the city,” Daniel says.
DKC will launch at a FoodLab event this Fall.
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