Rentable kitchen space helps small businesses save costs

AKRON, Ohio — An organization in Akron is helping small businesses in the food industry get started with less red tape and bureaucracy.

What You Need To Know

  • Akron Food Works is a shared kitchen space small businesses can rent
  • Entree by Fino is one of the businesses that’s been using the shared space
  • Akron Food Works is part of The Well Community Development Corporation, which helps improve the Middlebury neighborhood of Akron

Stephanie Zakich said she gets up bright and early for kitchen time. 

“We get up at 4 A.M. and we’re usually here by 5:30 in the morning. So it’s a full-blown operation, super early,” said Zakich.  

At 22-years-old, she’s the head chef for Entree by Fino, an organic meal prep service in Akron. Known as Chef Steph, she said she started the business with her sisters in a family where she’s been cooking for half her life.

“Ever since I was, I don’t know, 11, I remember making family dinners just because I enjoyed it. I would just go into the kitchen and make cookies or make dinner and leave the kitchen a bomb. My mom never said anything,” Zakich explained.  

Starting a food service business can be tough, so she said she rented kitchen space from Akron Food Works. Akron Food Works allows small businesses to use the kitchen to handle food prep and business needs. Zakich said it saves her a ton of money.

“I would probably have to go about $20,000 in debt. So this, we were able to start with no overhead, which is absolutely awesome,” said Zakich. “It is literally so risk-free. Like, completely risk-free. They prepare everything for you. They help you.” 

Social Enterprise manager Kyle Koerner said the shared space also provides businesses with food business incubation, connects them with local retailers and provides access to funding sources. He said the hope is to give small businesses more chances and less bureaucracy. 

“We like to say we cut the red tape. There aren’t many places out there that’ll advocate for food businesses. A lot of people hear food and they say, ‘We’re not going to touch that,’ but we do deal with that,” said Koerner. 

The kitchen is open 24/7. Koerner said the spaces have become more popular across the country in recent years. He said he believes it makes starting a business easier and less risky. 

“We have all of those risks covered and we make it really easy to get in the kitchen and actually start cooking,” said Koerner. 

And for Zakich and her sisters, they said they will continue working to make healthy foods, hoping to grow their business the healthiest way possible. 

“My hope for my business is to be able to reach as many people in northeast Ohio as possible, so just to kind of grow from here,” said Zakich.  

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