The Florida Culinary Accelerator @ Immokalee is a state-of-the-art, 5,274-square-foot shared commercial kitchen and production facility that offers paid memberships to provide chef entrepreneurs and food businesses with access to high-tech equipment that’s normally out of their reach. By providing mentors, business and culinary training, our goal is to help them develop their products, bring them to the retail market and achieve success as a food business. We’re operated by non-profit Economic Incubators Inc., with oversight by the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development and funding from the county, the state of Florida, the USDA and private donors.
Our focus is on Immokalee, which is located in Collier County's agricultural center and in Florida's only Promise Zone, one of the highest rural poverty areas in the country (it’s one of 22 designated Promise Zones nationwide and one of only four rural Promise Zones). The accelerator, which also provides dry, refrigerated and frozen storage, opened in February and is accepting applications from chefs and food businesses, as well as donations for our scholarship fund. Our goal is to boost Immokalee’s economy and to grow local food businesses.
So what will we do if we receive grant funds?
Economic Incubators Inc. hopes to offer needs-based scholarships to 10 chefs or culinary businesses from Immokalee, Collier County or Southwest Florida’s Promise Zone, which spans three counties. The $10,000 scholarships will fund education and training over three 3-month semesters to help chefs and food businesses bring a food and/or beverage product to the retail market. The scholarships will cover tuition, product development and food laboratory science and provide access to the FCA@I’s culinary equipment, mentors, managers and business office. The funds also will be used to help scholarship members obtain the necessary certifications to become a member, as well as a wholesale certification that will enable them to sell their products through various retailers.
Any money raised on CrowdRise will be used to support operational expenses and to provide partial scholarships to cover hourly rates and required certifications — enabling our lower-income chef entrepreneurs to spend more time cooking, planning their food business and learning, rather than struggling to succeed in a competitive market!