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Culinary incubator sets the table for West Philly's top food entrepreneurs

International foods company Bertoli began in a Tuscany basement as an olive oil stand. The company now known as Progresso Soup started with two families importing Italian food to the U.S. for their families and friends. In an effort to pull Philadelphia's next foodie phenom out of a rowhouse kitchen or barbecue pit, West Philadelphia's Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation has launched Philly Food Ventures, a development program for home-based food entrepreneurs looking to take their businesses to the next level.

"When we grade applicants, we are looking for three things: managerial capability, the strength of their business idea and then we are looking for what we call entrepreneurial spirit," says Enterprise Center Managing Director Greg Heller. "People who come in with small or home-based food businesses and have the ability to run the business and take it to the next level but they don't necessarily have the know-how or the resources to get there."

Philly Food Ventures serves as a precursor to TEC's forthcoming Center for Culinary Enterprises, a 13,000 square foot food incubator with three community kitchens, urban farmland, and a training restaurant. The project is slated to transform a long-vacant grocery store at 48th and Spruce into a results-based food venture program, creating 130 new permanent jobs within its first two years and 20 new food ventures yearly.

"We are rolling this program out slowly so we can build up a client base so when our Center for Culinary Enterprises is open, we have a program and a set of clients and we can just plug and play," says Heller. "Every week, I get calls from folks who are trying to start food businesses, who have existing businesses and need assistance so this type of program is very timely."

Source: Greg Heller, The Enterprise Center
Writer: John Steele
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