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Starting a new business is challenging in any industry, but especially so for new food businesses. Not only do many new food businesses lack a licensed commercial kitchen with the right equipment, but food entrepreneurs often encounter structural challenges that prevent them from establishing their enterprise, such as limited access to capital, strict licensing and inspections, a lack of business planning and marketing assistance and product development. Micro-entrepreneurs in the industry also lack critical access to bidding, contracting, and market opportunities, making starting their new businesses even more challenging.
These obstacles are further amplified in East Baltimore, an underserved area of the city with a history of extreme unemployment and economic hardship. In 2014, EDA awarded $75,000 in local technical assistance funding to American Communities Trust, Inc., to support a culinary enterprise program in East Baltimore. The project will provide critical technical resources and support for entrepreneurs seeking to launch or grow a food-related business. The “Cooking Up Business” program will focus on high-need entrepreneurs with the goal of small business development, wealth creation, and job creation for low-income, immigrant, and minority individuals. Working directly with micro-entrepreneurs and workforce readiness programs, this project will accelerate small business development and create new opportunities for a trained workforce in Baltimore’s growing food and restaurant industry.