By: David Sullivan
Director of Economic Development & Business Recruitment
WORCESTER – The Worcester Regional Food Hub celebrated the graduation of yet another Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs class on April 6. A class of 24 entrepreneurs – primarily people of color, immigrants, and women business owners – took eight weeks of classes with the Food Hub, learning the basics of how to start a food business.
Congressman Jim McGovern, Mayor Joe Petty, State Senators Michael Moore and Anne Gobi, and Representatives Dan Donahue and David LeBoeuf all were in attendance to congratulate the graduates.
The participating entrepreneurs took their business from concept to reality, taking weekly classes on accounting, business planning, HR basics, restaurant management, wholesale distribution, menu planning, and other essentials. As part of the program, they received their City of Worcester business permit, a food retailer license, ServSafe and Allergen Awareness food safety certifications, and a micro-grant of $1,000 each.
Local small business incubator Entrepreneurship for All helped construct the curriculum and offered an opportunity for the participants to join their program after graduation. Participants also receive help from volunteer mentors from SCORE and receive a free Chamber membership for a year.
The types of food represented in the graduating class included vegan Puerto Rican, Japanese, Pakistani/Indian halal, Venezuelan, Nigerian, Dominican, and a variety of pressed juice and smoothies, bakeries, and snack bars.
“Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity, you have empowered us to reach for our dreams,” said Shannon Smith, co-owner of Simply Delight Baked Goods, a bakery focused on creative offerings of pound cakes, cookies, corn breads, and more.
The program was funded entirely by a Small Business Technical Assistance grant from Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC). MGCC has funded the Food Hub’s Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs Program two years in a row, and as an agency provides grant funding to support small businesses across the state.
Previous Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs graduates have opened restaurants such as Belen Bakery on Main Street, Mint Kitchen & Bar on Maywood Street, and Unique Café on Cambridge Street, all owned by immigrant women and their families.
“We plan to continue this program in the future,” said Food Hub Director Shon Rainford. “We have had so many success stories of business owners, particularly for people of color and immigrant entrepreneurs, and hope to continue giving people the means to build wealth for themselves and their families and contribute to a diverse local economy.”
If you are interested in the planned 2024 Launching Diverse Food Entrepreneurs class, please contact the Food Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list for more information.