02 Jul Unicoi’s Mountain Harvest Kitchen, A Recipe For Success
How a local business incubator is inspiring regional entrepreneurs
As so many pioneering entrepreneurs have worked to find a way to share their passion with customers, the need for access to professional support is always one of the most important parts of starting a new enterprise successfully. Unicoi County hosts one of the most unique opportunities for new business professionals who want to create amazing products and experiences within the food retail and food service industries.
Mountain Harvest Kitchen–which was founded in Unicoi County in 2017 after nearly a decade of research, planning, and development offers entrepreneurs access to professional culinary resources at an affordable price to help them craft and test their delicious ideas. The facility has been a labor of love for many volunteers in the community to bring world-class commercial resources to those that would otherwise be too costly to build independently. Offering a fully furnished professional kitchen that offers shared lease terms to meet any new business developer, Mountain Harvest Kitchen is the perfect place for anyone wanting to develop their food industry skills and concept, whether they are an experienced professional or just beginning their path into commercial food production.
The kitchen is a 4,000 square foot facility with a helpful staff with a wide variety of knowledge and expertise to help regional business owners. Lee Manning, the Director of Mountain Harvest Kitchen, has a background in food science and is incredibly knowledgeable in helping business professionals develop their concepts. She, and her team, are always willing to help prospects find the right resources to develop an effective business plan, source ingredients, learn necessary skills, and build professional relationships.
Here are just a few examples of recent success stories that benefited from the support and resources that Mountain Harvest Kitchen provides;
- Comfort Foods
The owners of Comfort Foods started producing their Royal Red Stew specialty African sauces at Mountain Harvest Kitchen in 2019. They currently have their products carried in 11 states across the Southeast in over 40 stores all made at Mountain Harvest Kitchen in Unicoi, TN.
- Crumb Bakeshop
Laura and Katelyn, owners of Crumb Bakeshop, always knew they wanted to have a family restaurant but found it difficult to find affordable commercial space to work in while growing their business ideas. They found Mountain Harvest Kitchen in 2018 and enrolled in the program. The two began wholesaling their baked goods to local coffee shops soon after. With lots of hard work and planning, they opened their retail bakery space in Johnson City, TN in May of 2021. Here is an article in the Johnson City Press about their accomplishments.
- Fit Clean Meals
Ajay and his wife Chassidy, owners of Fit Clean Meals, started their catering business venture from Mountain Harvest Kitchen in 2019. They make and sell high quality, healthy, prepared meals inspired by international flavors. The couple is uncompromising in their commitment to the quality of their food and many people began to take notice. The business is continuing to grow from the Mountain Harvest Kitchen facility and now employs 13 people in Unicoi, TN.
Beyond the facilities itself, Mountain Harvest Kitchen also offers a wide variety of classes and hands-on training for young professionals wanting to learn more about the food industry. The kitchen partners with extension services, agricultural professionals, business consultants, and other key experts to provide critical information on how to successfully launch a new retail food brand, restaurant, food truck, or other food-related business. Due to the COVID pandemic, many of these classes had gone virtual, but as things improve, the plan is to reconvene in-person training in the near future. If you are interested in learning more about the classes and events Mountain Harvest Kitchen offers, visit their website at www.mountainharvestkitchen.com or follow them on social media.
Coming up in July, Mountain Harvest Kitchen is offering a Food Entrepreneurs Business Strategy Series that is a four-part virtual training event led by Andy McCarthy, founder of King of Pops and former owner of P10 Distribution. The series will provide food business enthusiasts detailed information on goal setting, pricing strategy, building a vision for your concept, financial forecasting, creating a food marketing plan, and staff development strategies. You can still sign up for the event through the link above!
If you’re looking for a community that is committed to helping you start a new business, whether around a tasty new creation or any other exciting enterprise, Unicoi County is a perfect place to call home. With a rich history of welcoming entrepreneurs and helping them build their future success, Unicoi County offers their people, rich natural resources, and a spirit of support to grow something amazing. Come join us today!