Rachel DesRochers launched the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport in 2013 after starting her own food company, Grateful Grahams, a line of handmade vegan graham crackers. Her goal is to provide mentorship, support, business know-how, and occasionally funding for others looking to explore their own food or drink concepts.
The 10,000-square-foot kitchen space has hosted almost 170 member concepts, 60 percent of which are women-owned and 40 percent minority-owned. About 50 different startups will utilize the space in a typical month.
DesRochers says her goal is to help prospective startups differentiate between what’s a business and what’s a hobby. By using restaurant-grade equipment and learning from other incubator members, people figure out if they really can or want to start a business. “We provide time and space to explore,” she says. The Newport incubator, as well as a smaller second space in Covington, is meant to be a positive, supportive space for entrepreneurs. “Healthy people build healthy businesses,” says DesRochers. “Kindness will always win.”
A number of former incubator members have launched their own storefronts or online businesses, including Boombox Buns, Mochiko, Pickled Pig, Sweet Jazz Treats, and Tuba Baking Co. “But we’re never in a hurry to push them out on their own,” says DesRochers, pictured above with Jen Eisenstein (center) and Emily Lilley of Dinner to Doorbells, who work on their meal delivery service in the Newport space.