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My Other Kitchen
A recipe for business success
Jane Del Rosso is cooking up a storm in the competitive food services industry, using her innovative incubator to help small businesses needing access to a commercial kitchen.
She is also working with the Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS) to ensure that her business and those she works with have every chance to thrive.
My Other Kitchen is a one-stop-shop kitchen incubator - a creative space suitable for retail or wholesale food businesses, caterers and cooking teachers. Those too small or unable to afford their own kitchen can use Jane’s commercial facilities to cook and serve their products.
The company was registered in September 2008 and opened its doors in 2009 for its first client, Pomodoro Italian Cooking Classes.
Jane was well placed to run a business. Her corporate career spanned 20 years, starting in administration and finishing in project management for large corporations including IBM, Telstra and BHP.
“Managing the office of a US-based management consulting firm in Collins Street, I decided it was time for a change,” she says. “So I studied commercial cookery at William Angliss TAFE. “After 10 years in hospitality, mostly wholesale and retail catering, I started to go back to project work and gather the funds to ‘do my own thing’.”
It soon became clear that food businesses needed resources that were expensive to set up. Tougher food regulations also made it harder for those in the cottage industry to produce from home.
After Jane saw a US business called Kitchen Chicago, she discovered the kitchen incubator concept. She couldn’t find anything similar in Australia so decided to set up her own.
My Other Kitchen now offers networking, workshops, referrals, business planning and event management in a purpose-built modern kitchen that is well equipped and standards compliant.
Commercial cooks and caterers also hire the facility to produce food, conduct classes, train staff, hold team building exercises, photograph food, test products, develop recipes and conduct product demonstrations.
Regulars include those making healthy take-home meals, sugar-free muesli, small cakes for cafes, cold smoked salt and antipasto products, bespoke spice blends and bar snacks. Others develop products or use the kitchen while waiting to move into their own.
Many clients are passionate about their food, but Jane says unless they have a business plan and help with setting goals and how to achieve them, most stay small and struggle to find their market.
Partly for this reason, Jane has teamed with the SBMS to help her business so that she can help others. She had originally discovered the service when researching her business idea.
The SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Jane met with SBMS CEO David Gregory to discuss her business and those she helps. “We discussed the future vision of My Other Kitchen, the importance of controlling costs and some ways that we might do this, potential alliances, investors and the roles of business angels,” Jane says.
“That’s a very short sentence for the amount of discussion that went on, but I came away with some interesting ideas and some leads to pursue. As a one-woman show at the moment, we discussed the issues associated with ‘being the business’ and the way that that will inhibit the growth plans.”
David offered advice on issues such as relocation, sponsorship and marketing. “We also discussed sponsorship opportunities and approaches that could be adopted to create greater awareness of her organisation, as well as approaches to ensure greater utilisation of the space when the kitchen was not in full use,” he says.
David says the discussion helped with awareness and clarity of issues and opportunities. He says Jane’s concept is “amazing” and has huge potential.
“It has a lot of potential, particularly if she moved into a larger and more accessible location,” he says. “I would like to see her linked up with the restaurants and caterers association (Restaurant & Catering Victoria) and to seek marketing opportunities through charities, Masterchef, community groups etc.”
David has also offered all businesses at My Other Kitchen a membership in The Small Business Institute and SBMS mentoring at its reduced rate. Jane says such advice from trusted sources always provides fresh inspiration, new ways of achieving outcomes and a sense of being supported.
“It’s nice to know that you are not reinventing the wheel and that there are those that have been through it before that are willing and able to help – you just need to ask,” she says. “I’m looking forward to working with David to the betterment of My Other Kitchen and my clients.”
My Other Kitchen faces a number of challenges, such as keeping the costs of its quality service, which includes access to experts and small working groups, as low as possible. It genuinely wants its clients to succeed.
Rather than employ people, Jane also outsources and supports other bookkeeping, accounting and marketing small businesses.
“Part of the feeling of ‘community’ at My Other Kitchen means we are always on the lookout for opportunities for exposure for our clients,” she says. “This helps to link the services provided at My Other Kitchen with the products that come out of the kitchen.”
They also participate in trade shows. Jane spent a day The Age Harvest Picnic at Hanging Rock with six clients and has been to events such as The Taste of Melbourne and Harvest ‘n’ Graze.
Revenue and exposure are growing, so Jane is confident My Other Kitchen and its clients can do well. With SBMS help, she feels even more confident.
"The responsibility of having so many people entrust their business journeys to us by using My Other Kitchen as a foundation is encouraging,” she says. “We also see the people that have moved out making a go of it and the high calibre of businesses coming through – all reasons for optimism.
“As long as we can continue to attract the ‘right’ market, maintain a healthy mix of clients and come up with a model that can be duplicated, I’m convinced there’s a future for the kitchen incubator.”
My Other Kitchen also encourages clients to share their knowledge and experiences with newcomers. “Moving out of My Other Kitchen is a cause for celebration! It means you are successful enough to support your own operating costs and have a customer base you can rely on,” Jane says.
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