Food

Innovative incubator initiative offers Melbourne’s foodpreneurs to make a comeback

An initiative led by Melbourne Innovation Centre is giving training, professional development, and industry experience to early-stage food start-ups and founders to help them expand. 

The Food Incubator + Network Centre (FoodINC) programme seeks to serve as a launchpad for food business startups and entrepreneurs to help facilitate Melbourne’s hospitality industry recovery.

Following the negative effects of COVID-19, the initiative’s backers – Melbourne Polytechnic, Melbourne Innovation Centre, and Melbourne’s North Food Group, with support from the City of Whittlesea – hope that FoodINC will help those aspiring to work in Melbourne’s food business ecosystem.

Fuelling the passion

FoodINC provides customers with access to commercial kitchen spaces that meet the greatest food-safety standards, allowing them to take their food businesses to the next level.

The incubators aim to remove the barriers that prevent small business owners from accessing premium facilities to improve their skill sets, such as recipe testing and batch food production.

Kerryn Lester-Smith, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Melbourne Polytechnic, discusses how the institute is assisting newfound passions as a result of the pandemic.

“We’re seeing a new wave of entrepreneurs as a result of COVID-19, with many Melburnians having that extra time to harbour an idea or consider making a career change,” Ms Lester-Smith says.

“After a time of uncertainty, Melburnians are considering their true passions. Now more than ever is the time to invest in brighter career aspirations.”

The initiative offers valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their food-related businesses. Small business owners can begin to take steps toward expansion by receiving the necessary support and guidance.

“The FoodINC initiative is tailored to support business owners at multiple stages in their journey to starting or growing a successful business,” continues Ms Lester-Smith.

“From those looking to explore an idea but unsure where to begin to people operating small businesses from home and looking to upscale, FoodINC nurtures many facets of small business recovery.

“For many, the option to invest in costly kitchen appliances and hospitality equipment is out of the question, but we don’t want that to stop budding entrepreneurs in their tracks. Access to commercial kitchens on our campuses will help provide the tools businesses need to flourish without breaking budgets.”.

What does the initiative offer?

Melbourne Polytechnic will monitor FoodINC users’ needs and provide training opportunities in compliance, food safety, and occupational health and safety as needed. Additionally, the institute’s industry-expert educators will lead these specialised short courses and vocational learning.

The Melbourne Innovation Centre will also provide professional development for small businesses and entrepreneurs in areas such as strategy, digital solutions, and business growth.

Commercial kitchen access, when combined with the training available, will create a path for new and existing hospitality workers to transition into beginning their own enterprises. In light of the evolving hospitality landscape, Lou Zarro, Manager of the Kitchen & Food Incubator at Melbourne Innovation Centre, emphasises the necessity of the initiative.

“As the Melbourne hospitality and food manufacturing sectors come to terms with the disruption of COVID-19 – from staffing issues to the rise of food delivery services and the changing tastes of the community – the ability to readjust to industry trends is crucial”, Mr Zarro concludes.

The collective strength of Melbourne Polytechnic, Melbourne Innovation Centre and Melbourne’s North Food Group will help ensure that aspiring and early phase food startups can access a wealth of training, professional development and industry expertise to fuel their business success.

Furthermore, it will provide businesses with opportunities for industry collaboration and networking, as well as connect them with operators and mentors based on their individual business idea and level of business experience.

Members will have a direct connection to Melbourne’s North Food Group, the incubator’s founding partner and Victoria’s leading industry group for advocacy, trade, and supply chain excellence.

For more about accessing the workspaces, equipment and advisory services of FoodINC, Businesses and owners can register here

For more information, please visit here

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