Research shows that, when faced with inequities and barriers to employment, minorities and immigrants in particular increasingly turn to business ownership as a means to build assets
and achieve economic self-sufficiency. A study of informal businesses reveals that food entrepreneurship is particularly popular among Latinos, African Americans, and immigrants.
In Florida, informal entrepreneurs are allowed to sell food prepared in their own kitchens, so long as those foods are non-hazardous with sales not exceeding $15,000 per year. To grow beyond a cottage industry, businesses must produce their cuisine in a licensed commercial kitchen.
OLCDC intends to address this pressing issue in downtown Opa-locka by developing Thrive, a shared-use commercial kitchen and business incubator. In partnership with Miami-Dade College's Miami Culinary Institute, the project will offer five specific components to ensure that tenant businesses and the incubator thrive:
- Industry-specific training and technical assistance to ensure products and services meet food industry standards;
- Access to markets, distribution channels, and networking opportunities;
- State of the art commercial kitchen facilities entrepreneurs can use to scale up production;
- Individualized industry-specific business planning assistance; and
- Linkages to affordable, fair sources of microcredit and capital to allow entrepreneurs to sustain and grow their businesses.
The 19,500 square foot facility will accommodate up to 65 tenants (with space for up to 15 businesses to work in the production area at the same time). It will provide start-up and informal low-income food microentrepreneurs (businesses with fewer than 5 employees) with the licensed commercial kitchen space they need to turn their endeavors into viable businesses that can both support them and create jobs in the community. To make Thrive financially sustainable, while meeting the goal of job creation for low-income individuals, the project also will admit established and expanding businesses. With an average tenancy of three years for expanding businesses and five for start-up and informal businesses, Thrive will incubate a total of 289 businesses over 15 years.
Up to 65 businesses initially will create more than 100 jobs with potential over fifteen years to create 600 to 1,200 jobs as businesses incubate, relocate to their own facilities, and are replaced. The management jobs will include a Kitchen Manager for the Incubator, sales and management professionals for the expanding businesses, as well as full-time jobs for the informal/cottage entrepreneurs who will be able to expand their fledgling part-time businesses into full-time livelihoods.
The 19,500 square foot facility will be LEED Silver certified and include a retail space, a demo/classroom, an outdoor deck for events, 6,275 square feet of production space with 11 work stations, two back to back cooklines and bakery production area, an 1,800 square foot walk-in refrigerator and freezer, 3,847 square feet of dry storage space, a shipping and receiving area, a trash room and a dish room, 673 square feet of office space and a conference room, and women's and men's lockers.