StartUP FIU launches food business incubator

Professor Michael Cheng, the director of the Food and Beverage Program at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, and Anna Etienne, the director of StartUP FIU FOOD, will help local entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

StartUP FIU, the university-wide initiative in innovation and entrepreneurship at FIU, has announced the opening of its second program: StartUP FIU FOOD.

In cooperation with the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Biscayne Bay Campus and with a grant from Citi Foundation, StartUP FIU FOOD helps food entrepreneurs within the community to grow their businesses. The program leverages the scarce resource of a large commercial kitchen and also provides formal programming, workshops for skills development, food science training, mentors and access to financing.

Recent studies by groups such as Endeavor, the international entrepreneurship network, show that 90 percent of new food entrepreneurs fail within five years. The statistic is particularly alarming when one considers the large number of minority-owned food businesses that South Florida attracts. In addition to its programming in entrepreneurship, StartUP FIU FOOD helps business owners to incorporate, generate financial statements and apply for micro-finance loans and traditional commercial bank loans.

Access to traditional commercial bank loans also opens the door for local food entrepreneurs to address another big issue. According to Emily Gresham, cofounder of StartUP FIU and an assistant vice president in FIU’s Office of Research and Economic Development, “The prosperity gap is widening, where the chasm between the rich and the poor is among the nation’s biggest.” “We know that talent is equally dispersed and opportunity is not,” she continues. “There is an unmet need in Miami for not only affordable commercial kitchen space, but also for startup incubator services, business advising and entrepreneurial networking. Sometimes we have to create opportunity.”

Anna Etienne, the director of StartUP FIU FOOD, leads day-to-day activities and a focused program for community outreach to address the wealth disparity. She and her team will accept new applications to the program throughout the year. The inaugural cohort includes these local food entrepreneurs:

  • Joe’s Sweets: Joe’s offers specialty fresh baked pastries and bread.
  • Greathouse Gourmet Inc: Greathouse Gourmet specializes in gourmet condiments and sauces that blend the Caribbean’s most delectable flavors to create a unique and unforgettable culinary experience.
  • Lemon City Tea: Lemon City strives to offer high-quality, ethically sourced teas inspired by the crazy, complex, diverse and exciting city we call home: Miami.
  • Helene’s Ice Cream, LLC: Helene’s Ice Cream handcrafts artisanal frozen desserts: ice cream, frozen custard, sorbet and custom ice cream cakes.
  • Frice Cream: Frice Cream is a neighborhood ice cream shop creating handcrafted ice cream and pastries using locally sourced and natural ingredients.
  • Timeline Brewery: Delivering decades of soul, culture, memories in a bottle, Timeline has a mission is to brew quality beer with flavors influenced by culture and build a brand defined by history
  • Sweet Jalane’s Inc: Sweet Jalane’s offers a wide variety of “made from scratch” desserts, flavored cakes and cupcakes, mini bundt cakes, pies, pastries, fruit cobblers and cookies.

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