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The Hatchery: Questions answered

The inclusive incubator removes common barriers for entrepreneurs and creates career pathways for Chicagoans.

In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural businesses. Here, Naihal Wajid, marketing and events coordinator for The Hatchery, provides insight into the Chicago-based nonprofit that started in 2019.

What: The Hatchery, an incubator offering programming and kitchen spaces for Chicago-based food and beverage companies.
When: Year-round.
Notable alumni: Ayo Foods, Lil Bucks, Nemi Holisticks.

When are The Hatchery applications open, and when is the application deadline? 

The Hatchery accepts applications on a rolling basis, so companies should apply when it’s best for their business.

In addition to programming, The Hatchery houses 56 private kitchens and a large shared kitchen. For brands interested in kitchen space we’re offering virtual tours.

What types of companies does The Hatchery assist? 

We are an inclusive incubator that supports food and beverage businesses at every stage. We have two programs for entrepreneurs: the Sprouts Incubation Program, which is a 6-month experience for entrepreneurs who are planning to launch or have just launched their businesses, and the Bloom Membership, which is a program for entrepreneurs who have launched and are committed to growing their companies. Our virtual programming is also available to everyone.

We work with all food and beverage businesses, including catering and restaurant concepts, ghost kitchens, CPG, food trucks, food tech and more.

What’s your mission in doing this work? 

The Hatchery is a nonprofit dedicated to helping Chicago’s entrepreneurs build and grow successful businesses. Through cutting-edge kitchen facilities, robust entrepreneurship curriculum and partnerships with generous corporate sponsors and foundations, The Hatchery supports local food and beverage entrepreneurs, cultivates local job opportunities and accelerates local economic growth.

Food and beverage businesses are an integral part of Chicago’s vibrant economy, and we know that these businesses create career paths for people from all kinds of backgrounds. But there are plenty of barriers that keep entrepreneurs from starting and growing successful businesses, like the high costs of production space and lack of resources for first-time founders. The Hatchery removes these barriers, allowing entrepreneurs to succeed and ultimately create more of these career pathways for others in Chicago, especially on the West Side where we’re located. We provide additional resources to women and minority entrepreneurs who often face greater challenges with getting products to market. Our model creates sustainable economic growth in the food industry and in Chicago.

What top attributes is The Hatchery looking for in applicants? 

The Hatchery looks for entrepreneurs who are passionate and dedicated but also ready to learn and collaborate with others.

What is one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs? 

Done is better than perfect. Never wait for your concept to be perfect to launch. Your customers will help shape the end result and let you know if there is even a market for your product or service. Get your concept to market and then begin the perfecting process.

What is your favorite project to have come out of your incubator? 

It’s impossible to choose a favorite! We have so many amazing companies in our community. One founder that has really taken advantage of everything The Hatchery offers is Emily Griffith of Lil Bucks. She joined our Starting a Food Business class as she was developing her concept, signed up as a member, attended many classes, networking events and coaching sessions, and then won a year-long lease in one of our private kitchens through a pitch competition sponsored by our friends at Bel Brands. We’ve gotten to see her grow from a new concept to an amazing brand that’s scaling across the country.

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