A cohort of new food entrepreneurs will be celebrated at a graduation ceremony October 7 as they complete the Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs in Worcester program.
Implemented by the Worcester Regional Food Hub and developed in partnership with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the program was funded by a $65,000 Urban Agenda Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development. Supplemental funding was also provided by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts.
“Incubating new entrepreneurs is a major priority of ours,” said Chamber President and CEO Timothy P. Murray. “This includes those emerging entrepreneurs in the food sector who will create jobs and further the energy of local restaurants and food scene.”
Among the newly launched food businesses include a Jamaican restaurant at the Worcester Public Market as well as numerous popups and caterers featuring Caribbean, Vietnamese, and other ethnic cuisines and baked goods. These food businesses have met all requirements for food businesses and are ready to serve the Greater Worcester community.
Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. added: “This program has helped reduce the barrier to entry for often underserved and underrepresented entrepreneurs in launching their food ventures. These food ventures are not only providing new economic opportunities for Worcester residents, but also have positive outcomes with respect to community health and connecting residents and our youth to the fresh, local food produced in the Worcester region.”
The program provided diverse Worcester residents with ServSafe Manager training, access to a commercial kitchen, business plan development support, seed funding, networking opportunities, and market access to successfully launch food businesses.
While the Food Hub initially planned for 20 participants, the program was so popular, eliciting more than 50 applications, they eventually enrolled 24 participants. Representatives from Central Mass Housing Alliance, the City of Worcester, MassHire Central Region Workforce Board, Worcester Community Action Council, and the Worcester Housing Authority assisted with the recruitment and selection of participants, which include women, minorities, and immigrants.