THE PILOT PHASE
Our pilot phase was a year long program where we helped two immigrant women take steps towards starting their own food businesses. It helped us learn about both the challenges and keys to success immigrant food entrepreneurs face when trying to enter the Seattle culinary scene.
The Selection Process
After contacting more than 160 community organizations affiliated with immigrant and refugee affairs, 37 applicants representing 18 countries came forward as applicants for our program. After participating in a business readiness training program hosted by The Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, working with professional chefs, community leaders, and culinary educators, we selected our two MarketShare Fellows.
From Selection to Opening Day
The Fellowship began in early November and our first course of action was to do some field research at local farmers markets, by studying other food stands in operation. The Fellows worked hard with teams of design and culinary consultants, brought in by MarketShare to craft resonant brands and delicious menus. After our first-ever fundraiser raised more than $22,000, the MarketShare team purchased a truck and got to work building the food stand. After one month of construction and thorough testing, our Filipino food stand debuted at the Fremont Sunday Market in early May 2015. For the duration of the summer season, the stand operated at busy markets and festivals all around Seattle. People could not get enough of the food!
What We Learned
We learned a lot during our pilot study. It proved that a better empowerment solution is necessary for food entrepreneurs in Seattle to get their start.
1. The rising minimum wage is putting increasing pressure on mobile food vendors’ to increase prices or sustain profit loss.
2. Mobile food stand vending is extremely physically grueling and difficult to sustain in the long-term.
3. Seattle crowds are difficult to predict as the number of local festivals increases yearly giving consumers more choices in where they spend their time.
4. Current permitting structures are cost prohibitive and drastically limit the mobility of a food stand.
5. Seattle weather has the potential to dramatically and negatively impact revenue potential.
6. The food was a HUGE hit!
The Market is the Solution
Operating a permanent food stall in a centrally located market will mitigate or eliminate all of these challenges encountered in our pilot phase. Vendors will save time, money, and benefit from improved physical working conditions simply by staying put in a single location. Weather will no longer be a significant factor in determining business patronage and will allow these stalls to operate at maximum capacity year-round. The market will be a community space built on the foundation of international flavors. Once open, Seattle’s new market will become an icon and testament to our values of diversity, inclusiveness, and entrepreneurship.
MEET THE FELLOWS
The Fellowship helped her realize she wanted to go on to pursue opportunities to gain more experience in the field of culinary arts. She is currently working to learn more about the inner workings of a restaurant businesses, and has plans to pursue a formal culinary education.
Her experience with the Fellowship led her to realize that her true passion lies in catering. She has begun an independent catering operation, Salu-Salo, offering many of the same dishes she created in our program. For business inquiries, she can be contacted at email@example.com