The 17,000-square-foot center at Isleta and Bridge boulevards, which launched in 2005 with assistance from Bernalillo County and the Rio Grande Community Development Corp., has helped more than 60 food and other businesses graduate from its commercial kitchen and its incubation offices and programs over the past decade, said center director Josué Olivares. Another 38 startups are now in various stages of incubation.
“So many people have helped us get to where we are, so we’re throwing a party to give back to the community,” Olivares said. “Creating the center’s services and programs have been a huge task and a long time in the making. We want to show how grateful we are in the South Valley.”
The center runs one of the country’s largest commercial kitchens, dubbed “The Mixing Bowl,” where aspiring entrepreneurs can create commercial food products in a fully certified facility with all needed equipment. That includes commercial ovens, mixers, tilting skillets, steam kettles, flat-top ranges and saute burners, said Mixing Bowl executive director Ernie Rivera. Users also have access to freezers, coolers, storage bins, packaging equipment and labeling utensils.
Over the years, businesses have launched to produce things like hot salsas, sweet sauces, pastries, beef jerkey, jams and teas. The companies sell wholesale to stores, restaurants and institutions, and retail through farmers markets, home-delivery and catering.
Husband and wife David and Jessica Swan launched their company, Swan Kitchen, at The Mixing Bowl to market fully prepared fresh, organic meals. They started out as a catering company and have since branched into bulk meals for two local schools.
“This has given us the ability to build our business at a certified commercial kitchen,” David Swan said. “It provides the tools we need to do everything without spending thousands of dollars on equipment. We can now save up to eventually establish an independent facility on our own.”
Apart from the commercial kitchen, the center provides a full slate of business incubation services, from developing business plans and managing accounting and financial tasks to help with marketing.
“These are real hands-on programs with strong mentoring to help businesses grow all the way from startup to graduation,” Olivares said. “Our surveys show that 95 percent of our graduates are still in business today.”
In addition to food, the center has helped incubate many other businesses, such as mortgage, video, staffing, massage and printing companies.
The center also manages a weekly networking event in Spanish for aspiring entrepreneurs to share ideas, learn from one another and gain access to assistance and services. The event, part of the “1 Million Cups” networking program that takes place in Downtown Albuquerque and other cities, has helped draw more Spanish-speaking people into programs, Olivares said.
The anniversary celebration is free and open to the public. It runs from 5-8 pm at the center, 318 Isleta SW.