Binghampton Development Corporation provides growth opportunities for food entrepreneurs

A commercial kitchen will support entrepreneurs in Binghampton who want to commercialize food specialties. 

Run by the Binghampton Development Corporation out the headquarters at 280 Tillman Street, the Kaleidoscope Kitchen prepares minority entrepreneurs to establish successful food businesses by providing a kitchen space and an entrepreneurship training program.

Olivia Haslop, Kaleidoscope program manager, said the name for Kaleidoscope Kitchen came from one of the owners of the Wiseacre Brewery, a community partner during the planning phase of the facility.

“If you look up the word kaleidoscope it means the combination of beautiful forms. Think about when you look into a kaleidoscope and you see different shapes and colors that come together in a beautiful pattern. It’s a gorgeous tapestry, and that’s how we feel at Kaleidoscope Kitchen about the food and people we work with,” Haslop said.

“That’s what makes Binghampton so great. It’s a combination of beautiful colors and forms and shapes that make it a really unique and awesome place to be.”

Kristin Fox-Trautman puts on gloves before preparing dishes for her food truck Inspire Community Cafe.

The diversity and identity of the neighborhood is clearly evidenced in the food that is prepared at the Kalediscope Kitchen. Haslop said within five minutes of the Binghampton Development Corp., one can get traditional home-cooked meals from East Africa, Sudan, Nepal, Syria and more. Current estimates place nearly 20 nationalities within the borders of Binghampton.

Related: Binghampton immigrants sell food to share their stories

“We officially started renting this kitchen because we heard from the community that one of the biggest barriers to food business is finding an affordable kitchen where you can produce food that’s legal for sale,” Haslop said.

“We consider ourselves the people that are here to connect entrepreneurs to whatever resources they need.”

Through the Kaleidoscope Kitchen, the Binghampton Development Corp. hopes to equip participants with the skills they need to succeed in the food industry, provide much-needed access to licensed commercial kitchen space, connect participants to job and sales opportunities and reduce the time to entrepreneur readiness.

Kaleidoscope is funded with grants from The Kresge Foundation. The $75,000 Fresh, Local and Equitable (FreshLo) Initiative grant paid for one year of research to figure out the best way to use food to spark economic vitality in Binghampton by working alongside resident food entrepreneurs.

The Binghampton Community Development Corporation also received a $200,000 two-year grant focused specifically on preparing minority entrepreneurs in the food business.

Though the kitchen officially launched September 1, entrepreneurs have been using it during past year's planning process. Haslop said that Kaleidoscope is the first incubator kitchen in Memphis.

Kristin Fox-Trautman cuts onions and green peppers in the Kaleidoscope Kitchen in Binghampton.

The kitchen rent is $12 per hour for Binghampton residents and $15 per hour for those who live outside of the neighborhood. All proceeds help to upgrade and maintain the kitchen.

The physical space is just one part of a curriculum that will prepare participants to truly launch their own businesses. 

Next spring, the Binghampton Development Corp. will launch a six-month cohort. Half of the program will focus on culinary fundamentals like kitchen terminology, cooking techniques, menu development and pricing.

The second half is a partnership with EPIcenter Memphis, an entrepreneurship service organization. EPIcenter will lead a 10-week Co.Starters program where participants will develop a solid business plan.

Related: "Made By Project: Entrepreneurs and data central to solving Memphis makers' challenges"

“Once people graduate, we’re still here to offer business support, like consulting on branding or connecting them to business services like accounting or legal,” Haslop said.

Kristin Fox-Trautman and Charlena Branch working with food at Kaleidoscope Kitchen in Binghampton.

“We want to have a strong alumni network and keep people close. The goal, down the line, is that people go through this program and create businesses that then create jobs for future cohort members who decide they want to work in the food industry instead of or before opening their own business," she added.

Kristin Fox-Trautman, Charlena Branch and Terrance Whitney, co-founders of the Inspire Community Café, have used the kitchen since July to prep their fresh ingredients.

Trautman said that as they looked for commercial kitchen space, she noticed that Kaleidoscope had the best hourly rates and the most convenient location. Partnering with the commercial kitchen helps them save time during the week and gain some storage space.

The co-founders sell breakfast and lunch out of the food truck three days a week in various locations throughout the city. Menu items include apple cinnamon pecan quinoa bowls, Southwest BBQ chicken salad and vanilla iced coffee, all under about seven dollars each.

Branch and Trautman also said it was important that they have living wage employment and operate with a 10 percent employee profit sharing model. Branch said transitioning to self-employment from barely-over-minimum wage factory jobs has been a journey.

“It’s also been such a relief to be able to spend time and focus more on my kids,” said Branch. “In warehouse and temp jobs, I felt like I was giving companies everything I had but still struggling to get by.”

Trautman said the kitchen will help them meet some of their long-term goals as a business such as eventually opening a free-standing café, providing catering and creating jobs. 
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Read more articles by Erica Horton.

Born and raised in Memphis, Erica Horton is a freelance journalist that loves to learn and write about almost anything. Email her story ideas here