Developing Partnerships & Networks in your Shared Kitchen

Looking to expand your shared kitchen network? Here, we’ll cover some tips and tricks for developing partnerships and building a network for your shared kitchen. This information comes straight from the Shared Kitchen Toolkit

Capitalizing on the many revenue and impact opportunities for your shared kitchen takes investment in building partnerships and networks within your community. Successful kitchens do not operate in a vacuum. They are integral players in their community’s economy and food system. Depending on your mission, business model and programming, you will want to develop a wide range of relationships that may include:

  • Other shared and community kitchens
  • Co-packers
  • Business development service providers
  • Retailers
  • Distributors
  • Bottlers
  • Packaging and labeling companies
  • Local food service businesses and chefs
  • Culinary programs
  • Community development financial institutions and other community funders
  • Local investors, venture capital networks, and angel investors
  • Food security programs
  • Workforce development programs
  • Farmers, producers, and food hubs
  • Community development organizations
  • Food policy councils
  • Neighborhood organizations
  • Service organizations and empowerment groups
  • Chambers of commerce and local business networks
  • Community and economic development departments of local government
  • Local universities, extension programs, and community colleges

These partners will help you understand the needs in your community and among businesses you seek to serve. Cultivating partnerships will also expand your ability to offer programming and services in a cost-effective way. Ideally, your partnerships will deepen the impact of your project and create efficiencies that make your work easier and more valuable to clients. Collaborations can also raise the profile of your kitchen and create a reputation that attracts renters and special uses.

Additional Benefits of Partnerships

  • Expanding your capacity. Partnerships can help you achieve your mission and provide valuable services with limited staffing and budget.
  • Skill and knowledge sharing. Drawing on strengths in a coordinated way is more effective. If there is a strong demand for services, such as food safety classes, that are outside your expertise or business model, take the opportunity to let other kitchens and service providers in your area know so they can help meet the need.
  • Increased buying power. Collectively sourcing ingredients and bulk ordering supplies often can reduce costs and help make local purchasing more viable.
  • Increased visibility. Leveraging partners to market your services, events, and rental opportunities can help build awareness of your kitchen.

Tips for Creating Partnerships

  • Make it mutually beneficial. Ensure both parties bring value to the table. What are each of you receiving? What are you able to give in return?
  • Be efficient. Forging new partnerships can take time, which is a hot commodity when launching a kitchen.
  • Define expectations. Be clear about who will bring what to the table. If necessary, create a memorandum of understanding or a contract stating each party’s responsibilities.
  • Spread the word. Once you have formed a working partnership, tell those who may be interested. Did your kitchen just partner with a labeling company for discount pricing? Did you develop a sourcing relationship with a local producer network? Have you developed a new co-packing service with a workforce training program? Make sure you communicate this to your clients to maximize the impact.

When developing your network, do not discount the value of relationships with your competitors. Turning competition into a collaboration not only builds good will in your community, but it can directly benefit both kitchens by helping you differentiate your offerings and share resources. A strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and a well-connected food system will help you both succeed. Additionally, kitchen and food entrepreneur networks that offer resources and shared learning opportunities are a great way to build your knowledge and support network.

These include:

Looking for advice for operating your shared kitchen space? Check out our Shared Kitchen Operations Manual.

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