Upstart Kitchen in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood is now open after plans to open the food business incubator earlier this year were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located at 4325 W. Fond du Lac Ave., Upstart Kitchen had planned to open in the spring, but due to the pandemic, pivoted its operations to include meal preparation for Sherman Park neighborhood residents facing food insecurity.
The food incubator has served more than 25,000 meals since April and has plans to continue food distribution into the new year, said Leo Ries, PRISM Economic Development Corporation and Upstart Kitchen executive director.
“We are committed to doing this at least until the end of the year,” Ries said. “We suspect that even into the new year we’ll be doing this at least until a vaccine is readily available in the community.”
Upstart Kitchen offers aspiring food entrepreneurs with mentorship, training programs and community connections to help launch their businesses. The food incubator has helped 20 entrepreneurs earn licenses from the City of Milwaukee Health Department so far with another 20 entrepreneurs at various stages of approval, according to a press release.
The kitchen offers an affordable and state-of-the-art commercial kitchen space, including a large walk-in freezer and cooler for food storage. Upstart Kitchen can accommodate up to 40 entrepreneurs and has 24-hour daily access.
Ries says a majority of the entrepreneurs at Upstart Kitchen are in the early development stage of their businesses, adding that many of them had been working out of their homes.
“This creates an opening for a lot of minority entrepreneurs to get in the game and Milwaukee’s food ecosystem by establishing relationships, learning some of the basic skills like marketing and product development,” Ries said. “With the help of the kitchen, they’re able to come up with legitimate and licensed businesses and grow their market.”
Upstart Kitchen is a project started by PRISM Economic Development Corporation, which is an economic development and growth organization for the Sherman Park neighborhood.
In 2017, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation provided Prism with a $50,000 grant to help launch Upstart Kitchen.