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“Vet Your Idea, Test Your Market and Tread Carefully” #SFSBW2016 Interview: La Cocina

#SFSBW2016 asked our business resources to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from La Cocina.6.3 Caleb Zigas La Cocina

What is your organizations mission?
La Cocina provides affordable commercial kitchen space and hands-on technical assistance to low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.

What are your organizations recent accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?
Now in its 10th year, La Cocina has graduated over 20 businesses, with 18 brick and mortar locations throughout the Bay Area. At a time when commercial real estate continues to be inaccessible, Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas secured and moved into a tamale factory, D’Maize opened their restaurant on 24th Street, and El Buen Comer will open on Mission Street shortly.

These moments are essential for our city, insuring a vibrant and inclusive economy.

What tools and resources has your organization created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?
La Cocina has worked closely with our participants to understand their needs in the marketplace. We’ve opened our kiosk at the Ferry Building, to easy entry into the packaged food marketplace, and we offer a catering brokerage, to do something similar for prepared foods.

Perhaps most interestingly, we’ve been working with community-minded and innovative developers to create viable commercial opportunities for brick and mortar businesses like El Buen Comer and El Pipila.

San Francisco has been experiencing quite the transformation. What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?
As our communities come under intense economic pressure, we have tried to be nimble enough to move where our communities move. We know that the demand for these businesses exists, but without infrastructure for owners, and employees, to live in this city, it becomes impractical for them to open businesses.

San Francisco is known for its diverse culture. How does your organization ensure that the small businesses that make this city unique are able to stay in San Francisco?
San Francisco is a city full of food. We are heralded, nationally and internationally, for that food, but we run the risk of creating a monotonous and homogenous food ecosystem without organizations like ours.

In supporting talented entrepreneurs to find opportunities for launch and growth, we make sure that it’s not just $6 million restaurants that open here but also small momo stands or beautiful Mexican restaurants. It’s inclusivity as equity and all of it as delicious.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?
Entrepreneurs will always be entrepreneurial. Vet your idea, test your market and tread carefully.

Hear from other small businesses that have used La Cocina to tap into new opportunities and grow their businesses.

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