by Tom Sims
Through the years, I have followed and reported on many food entrepreneurs, people with vision, skill, talent, flair, and a great idea. Some have succeeded and some have failed. All have faced similar challenges: location, or buying equipment without having to invest more money than they have for acquisition and maintenance. But what if a common location existed for creating culinary masterpieces with adequate equipment, storage space, support, and 24-hour access?
Now that I am mentoring and coaching these bright people, I have been looking for a solution to the location problem, especially for people whose goal is to produce innovative products that can be marketed online, to other businesses, or in some mobile model. It turns out that I have been sleeping through a revolution, because I was unaware of the Clovis Culinary Center.
A few months ago, I was at the Fresno Women’s Conference representing Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). SCORE is an organization that is made up of thousands of volunteers who help visionary entrepreneurs plan and begin new business ventures. We do so through webinars, seminars, dissemination of information, and mostly through mentoring.
As I have mentored hundreds of people over the last couple of years, I realized that there is a need for kitchens where creative people can cook. At the Conference I discovered that an organization is already meeting the need.
If you prepare food to sell, you need a place to prepare it legally so that your food products can be marketed, and a place where you can prepare foods and other consumable products that require health department regulations to be met. The kitchens that are already approved, enable people who are either working within the cottage food industry, or want to take it beyond what they can do, to create a viable business to support their families, and people who are caterers, people who otherwise cannot afford the rent on a restaurant kitchen.The answer was two booths down from our SCORE booth. It was occupied by Lisa and Miguel Segura, the Salsa People. They were representing Miguel’s Salsa and they were giving away samples of some of the most delicious salsa I had ever tasted. They even offered a little bowl of chips. It was going fast. In fact, they sold out all the bottles of salsa that they brought with them that day.
Their business is large, mobile, and growing, and their salsa is very popular. It is on store shelves and in restaurants flowing through multiple distribution channels. It could not have happened without the Clovis Culinary Center.
I asked where they were producing this delicious salsa—and that’s when I learned about the Center.
The Clovis Culinary Center is the answer to my prayers, and it is the answer to the dreams of many people with whom I am working who have bright ideas and great skills in baking, cooking, food preparation and other culinary arts. There are so many people who have ideas, recipes, and gifts. You may have met them, and encouraged them to get into the food service business. Then, they face the barriers to entry.
The Center is such a place.Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you will find people cooking together in their own designated spaces. It can be used by multiple people at the same time and can be rented by the hour or by several hours a week, or a month, or many hours. The pricing is transparent and listed on the website. The services are priced to be sustainable with community support and to help the businesses be maintainable.
It is a place where the equipment is provided, classes can be offered, and dreams can come true. Lisa has been in the food service and marketing business for many years, even though she is still very young. Miguel is a seasoned chef who knows how to prepare his food. They have big dreams, a sophisticated plan, and goals for expansion. In recent years they moved to Fresno from the Bay Area and what a blessing that is to the food scene in Fresno. Shawn Miller says that they are like poster children for the Culinary Center. Their business is a success story, but there are several success stories of people who have used the Clovis Culinary Center.
Shawn Miller is Business Development Director for the City of Clovis. He was a prime mover in the center’s birth and growth. He has been with the project since the earliest planning stages. They have had time to establish a track record. He explained to me that, while the Center began as an arm of the City of Clovis, it soon became apparent the best model for growth was a separate nonprofit organization. Their mission statement is:
“Our vision is to provide kitchen space and create a business incubator to help assist and facilitate commercial culinary success. It’s the ideal facility to support local chefs, entrepreneurs, and foodies with their goals. Learn more about what’s coming soon by watching the video!”
Because it is open 24/7, people who are working and building a business “on the side” can find time to work at their dreams.Chef Aaron Nielsen recently participated in a Center project. He was a finalist in the San Pellegrino Next Almost Famous Chef Competition and has won a gold medal in knife skills. He is a member of the American Culinary Federation Hot Food Team and is a great endorser and representative of the Culinary Center. After being away a while, he recently returned to Fresno and started the Southern Hospitality Company, a full-service catering company.
Aaron’s philosophy is simple: Honor the Central Valley and all the wonderful bounty it produces.
I like that. I love that!
As a matter of fact, food entrepreneurship is something that is growing here in the Central Valley. It is a vital and life-giving force, and it is fueling the imagination of many young (and older) entrepreneurs. It is also being fueled by the agricultural culture of the Central Valley and by the growing interest in healthy eating and locally produced food.You’ll want to check out the Clovis Culinary Center website for ongoing events and for times you can participate in those events and the classes that are being offered. If you are a food entrepreneur, you will want to explore the opportunities for you. If you are a local food or business booster, you will want to explore the long list of people who are making Clovis Culinary Center their home base. Then support them.
It is a good thing I met Lisa and Miguel Segura or I might not have been made aware of a resource I have been saying our community needs. Lisa and Miguel were able to take the next steps of success with a great idea and a strong work ethic. Many others have and many others will.
Clovis Culinary Center
3185 Willow Ave., Suite F
Clovis CA 93612
Download their brochure:
Fresh Start Video on Clovis Culinary Center: youtube.com/watch?v=-z7clm0N-Uc