Every new business has a steep learning curve, but it can be especially difficult to start a food or beauty company. In the past, food businesses have either used their small home kitchens to start out, or been faced with the difficult task of attracting investors so that they can afford their own commercial kitchens. Beauty companies have worked in isolation to create and market their cosmetics.
Now, new food and beauty companies don’t have to struggle on their own for years before “making it big.” In the couples years, many food and beauty incubators and accelerators have popped up throughout the United States. They offer support to their members in the way of mentorship, courses, and, in some cases, shared commercial kitchen space where they can learn and grow alongside other companies.
In addition, big companies like General Mills, Coca-Cola, Sephora, and L’Oreal are partnering with food and beauty startups. These mutually beneficial relationships give the startups much needed initial capital, and they give the larger companies the chance to work with hot new startups rather than face them as competitors. Procter & Gambles’ program, Connect + Develop, invites entrepreneurs from many industries, including beauty and grooming, to share their innovations for an opportunity to partner with P&G.
Many food incubators have cropped up across the country, from Portland, Oregon to New York City. These are some of the most notable ones.
Pilotworks, Multiple Locations
Pilotworks, based in New York, and with locations throughout the U.S., including in Chicago, Brooklyn, Dallas, and Portland, Maine, offers everything from kitchen and coworking space to mentorship and education. The hope is that Pilotworks will become the WeWork of the food industry, providing kitchen space and other services to food entrepreneurs throughout the country, much like coworking spaces do for tech entrepreneurs.
Pilotworks CEO Nick Devane told CNBC, “Food entrepreneurs need a lot more than a few desks and fast internet to start a business. We give them kitchens that are up to code, equipped with everything they need whether its dry storage or blast chillers. And we help them market and distribute what they make.”
Chobani Incubator, Manhattan
The Chobani Incubator offers a 4 month program for innovative early stage food and beverage startups. They provide a $25,000 grant, mentorship, and education to the startups selected to participate in their program. Their programming includes topics such as building a sustainable business, building a team, and sales and retail strategy. Members also get access to Chobani teams, executives and experts, as well as connections with food industry leaders.
The Incubator was designed by Chobani’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya. He selects all of the startups to participate in the program, and chooses companies with affordable products and sustainable practices.
HBK Incubates, Manhattan
HBK Incubates, started by Jessamyn Rodriguez, the founder of Hotbread Kitchen, provides 3000 square feet of commercial kitchen space to its members. They offer a full suite of professional kitchen equipment, assist with product development like packaging and labeling, and will also help you look at your business plan to see if you’re going in the right direction.
In Rodriguez’s words, “I started Hot Bread Kitchen from my home and turned it into a thriving commercial bakery. We learned so much along the way and were inspired to share our knowledge, access and resources with small food start-ups – just like ours once was – to help more food entrepreneurs become successful.”
Union Kitchen, Washington D.C.
Union Kitchen has a Kitchen Membership program for D.C. food businesses that want to rent commercial kitchen space, including food storage space and a full time cleaning team. For food businesses looking for additional support, they offer a comprehensive 1.4 year accelerator program as well. Their accelerator provides courses and guidance on everything from launching a food business to scaling to a national business. They also provide connections with mentors, investors, national brokers, and their alumni network of food businesses.
Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, Florence, Alabama
Shoals Entrepreneurial Center provides commercial kitchen space for food businesses located in the Florence, Alabama area. They also offer group marketing events, ecommerce classes, and cooking classes. Their focus is specialty food production, and their facility has been used for the production of everything from gumbo to salsa, barbecue sauce to cheese straws.
The Hatchery, Chicago
The Hatchery broke ground on a $30 million facility in mid 2017 and will be opening its doors in 2018. It will provide space for 75-100 food industry entrepreneurs, along with cold and dry food storage, a coworking space, and training and coaching. While they haven’t opened their facility yet, food entrepreneurs can take classes and attend networking events at their current location. Classes offered include Starting a Food Business and Protect Your Food Business: Understanding & Choosing the Right Insurance.
Many businesses in the beauty industry have jumped on the accelerator bandwagon. These accelerators provide training, networking, and space for beauty companies to test out their products. Unlike incubators, which are more focused on long term business support, accelerators provide intense short-term support to help brands launch.
L’Oreal partnered with The Founders Factory to offer an accelerator program in which they select 5 beauty startups to mentor and support. The startups receive guidance in many areas including scaling, testing their products, and fundraising. They also get access to the L’Oreal team and are connected with investors and fundraising support through The Founders Factory.
Lubomira Rochet, the Chief Digital Officer at L’Oréal said, ”We believe that open innovation will be key to identify new disruptive ideas and co-develop new services to meet the aspirations of our consumers. We are excited to champion the next generation of beauty entrepreneurs through our partnership with Founders Factory and accelerate their development by bringing them our expertise of the beauty industry.”
Sephora Stands Accelerator Program
The Sephora Stands Accelerator Program provides a month-long program for female beauty business founders. Their program includes a week-long bootcamp that focuses on business planning, including market analysis, a growth plan, and a funding strategy. After the bootcamp, members receive mentorship from leaders in the beauty business industry and Sephora leaders. Participants also receive monetary support in the form of a grant.
At the end of the program, participants get the opportunity to present their products to industry experts and potential investors on Demo Day. Sephora’s Merchandising and Innovation teams are also present on Demo Day, and members have a chance to pitch their products to be included in Sephora stores.
Other notable beauty brand innovations
Accelerators aren’t the only way that beauty brands are innovating. Madison Reed is skipping the salon and beauty store and shipping their hair colors straight to customers. Volition Beauty offers its customers a chance to vote on new products before it brings them to market. And Melange Beauty has an innovative app that helps you find your perfect foundation just by taking a selfie.
It’s an exciting time for the food and beauty industries.
There are so many opportunities to mentorship, collaboration, and innovation. You can join an incubator or accelerator or jump on board to be mentored by a larger company in your industry.
Are you a food or beauty business founder? Have you thought about joining an incubator or accelerator? Are you looking for an expert designer to craft branding and packaging that fits perfectly with your business? Let’s talk.