Sweet Spot Kitchen
Starting the Kitchen
End of 2016 I found myself once again unhappy to be working in restaurants, and I knew I needed to figure out a way to grow Sweet Affairs (my first business) to be my fulltime gig. Sweet Affairs was a wedding cake and dessert catering company. I had exactly 0 weddings booked for 2017 so paying rent by myself was out of the question. I needed a space to grow my business, and business coming to be able to afford the rent.
Above: Before my launch party for Sweet Affairs in 2015. I’m still smiling really big because I don’t know how hard it will get 🤣
After talking with Emma Cromedy of Southern Cake Queen, it became clear that there was a need for affordable and sanitary commercial kitchen space for small baking businesses. The larger commercial kitchens are meant for food trucks, catering, and larger more established companies. Many small baking businesses find themselves fighting to meet their minimum rent, and end up closing after a few months.
I decided the new goal was to find a space, and rent it out to a few other businesses to cover rent, and if there was some money left over maybe the power bill.
I had never been one to believe in signs or messages, but two weeks after that conversation, Mike & Lin of Bar Chocolate called asking if I would be interested in taking over their commercial space they produced in, and buy their equipment as they would be moving to Colorado within the year. The kicker was they had opened the first commissary kitchen in Mecklenburg county a few years before. I remember sitting there with goosebumps knowing this was it, a sign that I could not wait any longer.
That is how I became the lease holder for what is now Sweet Spot Kitchen on March 1, 2017. I started out with 4 tenants, AH Wright Baking Co, B-Line Natural Energy, La Piccola Gabbia, and Simply Cupcakes of Charlotte (now Bake Mohr Sweets). All are still with me with the exception of La Piccola Gabba who was able to move into her own space during Summer 2018.
Above: How the kitchen looked when we first opened!
Expanding the Kitchen
Summer of 2018 I started working on the Studio. With myself and Gabija moving out I was able to expand the commercial kitchen and add 8 more businesses. Many of the businesses coming to the kitchen were looking to leave their current rentals due to cost, or their businesses had outgrown what their homes and other kitchen situations could accommodate. Since I completely understand how difficult the startup period is, it was important to me to continue to set rates I knew a new business could afford.
Above: Always buy used refrigeration. Even with the cost of repairs on my freezer all of my units have saved me thousands.
Sweet Spot Kitchen has blossomed into a wonderful diverse community of small business owners. Everyone works together to share the space and equipment. Of the 14 businesses who have worked in the kitchen, 10 are still with me. 8 are women owned, and 4 of those 8 are black owned. Of the 4 businesses who have left, 2 were able to move into their own spaces, and 2 decided to close their businesses. The majority of my tenants have been a part of the kitchen for 2-3 years. All work incredibly hard to pursue their dreams as small business owners.
Above: Small business owners in Sweet Spot Kitchen
Expanding the Kitchen again!
I am so grateful to my tenants, and how they have helped my business to grow as well. The cash flow from the kitchen expansion allowed me to float the studio before it could cover its own expenses. I have become very passionate about assisting small food businesses with their startups. When the opportunity came up to expand the kitchen once again this summer, I jumped at it. I am currently looking for small businesses governed under the Department of Agriculture to join our community and take that next step.
When a potential new tenant first calls, I evaluate whether or not they need to be working in a commercial kitchen space yet as North Carolina has great cottage food laws. I never want to put someone in a position that will harm their business. I always say to work from home as long as you can to save money. If they are brand new, I start them out at our lowest number of hours. The beginning is very much learning to navigate the kitchen, and their production schedules. After two months we reevaluate their monthly rate based on how many hours they’ve been using per week/month.
If you are a small baking/artisan food business we’d love to hear from you! I am currently offering free 30 minute consulting sessions. You can ask any questions you have about the startup process, becoming certified with the NCDofA, what your short term and long-term goals should be, and whether or not you are ready to make the switch to a commercial kitchen. To schedule your consultation please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sweet Spot Kitchen Small Businesses
- AH Wright Baking Co.
- Bake Mohr Sweets
- B-Line Natural Energy
- Cerae’s Goodies
- City Farm Foods
- Boda Bee and the Mighty Oats
- Whisk & Wood
- The Best Kombucha
- Forget Me Not Bakeshop
- The Jelly Roger
Photos from the Kitchen