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Food Incubator Program Aims To Help Early Stage Food Entrepreneurs

Food Incubator Program Aims To Help Early Stage Food Entrepreneurs
Momentum Coffee has partnered with BUILD Chicago for the Build Momentum Food Incubator Program. Photo provided by With An Eye PR.

Food Incubator Program Aims To Help Early Stage Food Entrepreneurs

By Tia Carol Jones

Owners of Momentum Coffee, Nikki Bravo and Tracey Powell, have partnered with BUILD Chicago for a program that is meant to help businesses thrive. The Build Momentum Food Incubator is designed for early-stage food businesses.

Momentum Coffee opened its first coffee shop in the South Loop in 2019. Since then, six locations have opened throughout the city. Momentum Coffee operates a kitchen and has a coffee shop in BUILD, which is located at 5100 W. Harrison St.

“One of the things we realized as a business, when we opened our first location in the South Loop, we were being approached by a lot of food entrepreneurs, who had great food, but they weren’t properly licensed or didn’t have the things necessary for us to carry their food,” said Powell.

When Momentum opened in BUILD and started operating the kitchen, it provided them an opportunity to help entrepreneurs by creating a food incubator program. Now, Powell and Bravo feel like they can add more value to entrepreneurs who weren’t sure how to get through the process of having a food business. They want to be able to provide expertise based on their experience in the food space.

 They also want to create more businesses on the West side of Chicago who can be potential vendors at Momentum and can go into other food spaces as vendors.

The Build Momentum Food Incubator Program will have two cohorts of 10 entrepreneurs. It will include seminars, learning opportunities and licensing opportunities. The 12-week program will start with eight weeks of instruction and technical assistance. There will be a showcase in the last four weeks. The program will culminate with the participants in the program getting the opportunity to pop-up in a Momentum Coffee location and let those businesses see what it is like to be in a food space and get feedback from the community.

“Our goal is to really incubate real businesses that can really start to add value to our neighborhoods and our communities,” Powell said.

Bravo said being able to provide entrepreneurs with a safe space to showcase their products, having the support of the program, Bravo and Powell as well as the BUILD community and neighborhood, is valuable. Each one of the entrepreneurs will be starting at different points because it is intended for early-stage food businesses, which includes entrepreneurs who have an idea for a business, to people who have already started but are in the beginning stages, as well as people who have been doing pop-ups or catering and want to get the licensing to become vendors at food spaces.

While the deadline for the first cohort has already passed, applications are on a rolling basis. Bravo said they wanted to do that because they want to provide opportunities for people in different cohorts to meet with one another. They are currently choosing people for the first cohort and some businesses who have already applied include those in the pastry, soul food/comfort food, healthy and Vegan foods space.

“We know that businesses, especially Black and Brown businesses, need support. We, as entrepreneurs, know what we had to go through. There were some things we learned along the way that we want to absolutely ensure that people who are just starting out know,” Bravo said, adding that the goal is to empower food entrepreneurs who are just starting out.

To learn more and apply for the program, visit 

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