Carrie Hegnauer was a retired senior culinary educator when she founded The City Kitch in 2014. Hegnauer identified an unmet need in the community and her passion for teaching and learning prompted her to invest in it. Her goal was to give aspiring food entrepreneurs in the Charlotte, North Carolina Metro area access to incredible commercial kitchen space. She wanted to offer an opportunity for them to collaborate with other chefs in various stages of their journey, all while providing a supportive and professional management staff.
With this vision, she converted a former cafeteria into shared kitchen space, aiming to teach food entrepreneurs about the ins and outs of running a food business, from menu planning to permitting. Since then, City Kitch has grown to a total of three kitchens in two cities, expanding their services and amenities available to members along the way, with the mission, “to create a space that is the right fit for the passion and dreams of food entrepreneurs.”
Through shared events and community service, The City Kitch makes it a point to engage in the local community. The team works with other businesses in their area, hosting joint events where their members can engage with one another and promote their businesses. They’ve also launched The City Kitch ONE Fund, “a community of supporters we are developing to act as ONE to support both small businesses and address hunger needs in the local communities where we operate,” The City Kitch explained. Each donation to this fund is a sale for a local small food business and provides a prepared meal for a community member.
The City Kitch has worked hard to identify what makes a true value add for their members, and how that will ultimately aid in propelling those businesses to the next level. They shared, “We know that the culinary industry is ever changing and it’s tough to run a successful food business. We wanted to provide a space where someone just starting out in their food business could see a path to stability or an established food business could see a path to additional growth or perfection of what they are already doing well.” The team at The City Kitch is most proud of how their facility is able to accommodate so many types of food businesses at various stages in their growth. They take pride in the community that has been fostered within their kitchens, one that supports each other and shares their wins together.
Words of advice from The City Kitch:
“Find the right place to launch your concept! You need a kitchen that you can grow with and be inspired within. As a food entrepreneur, it’s critically important to be in the company of others who are successful in the food industry and professionals that know the intricacies of food safety, permitting and business operations. Not every shared kitchen can offer you those key aspects, but we can!”