By Evan Casey
It’s been almost two years ago to the day that the Sherman Park neighborhood was literally set ablaze in the midst of tragedy. Since then, multiple private and public entities have moved into the neighborhood in an effort to heal the neighborhood. UpStart Kitchen, an incubator kitchen for entrepreneurs, is one of the latest.
A fundraiser and benefit for UpStart Kitchen was held Tuesday night by the Prism Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit started by the Parklawn Assembly of God Church. This is Prism EDC’s first major initiative, and they are hopeful that it will help connect the neighborhood.
“It’s going to be a place where entrepreneurs can start or scale their food business, to provide an ecosystem of small business development,” said Tom Keppeler, executive director of Prism EDC. “To really bring resources around the entrepreneur so they can have the best chance.”
The kitchen is designed to market to entrepreneurs in the inner-city who have a passion for food. The 1,300 square ft. kitchen, located across the street from Parklawn Assembly of God Church at 4323 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., will have shared kitchen space for training and mentoring. They are hopeful that the space will open by the end of 2018.
Mayor Tom Barrett came to the fundraiser to speak about the importance of growing businesses in the inner-city.
“In many ways, those of us who live here, are going to have to do it for ourselves,” said Mayor Barrett. “We have to spend the dollars here, we have to make sure people have the opportunity, because it is hard, and it’s going to take us… to come right here to spend our dollars.”
Robert Bergeron, a chef at Something Smells Good, helped cater the event. He started cooking in 2011, using social media to sell food out of his own house.
“This world is small, so we are all working together,” he said. “We need those incubator kitchens. It gives the small man a place to grow their own business. It’ll work out good for them.”
Keppeler said they will provide tools at the UpStart Kitchen to ensure entrepreneurs products are licensed and legal. They will also help them with funding and financing. Prism EDC completed their business plans for the kitchen, as renovations on the building began last month. They have received several private and public grants, but are asking for community resource partners going forward.