Community Partner Highlight: Sandra Vu, Program Director at HBK Incubates

Thursday, August 8, 2013 / Published in Featured News, Community Partner Highlights
Community Partner Highlight: Sandra Vu, Program Director at HBK Incubates
1. How long has your organization been in the business of helping small businesses?
Hot Bread Kitchen’s workforce development program began five years ago and HBK Incubates, our culinary incubator and business development program started two and half years ago. Our incubator program provides small-scale food businesses access to licensed, commercial kitchen space and annual membership to a unique culinary community. We prioritize women, low-income, minority and community members, but our incubator program is open to all food entrepreneurs. 
We offer food businesses the opportunity to grow their first 2 to 3 years without the cost of building and equipping their own commercial kitchen. We do this by offering flexible commercial kitchen rental at below market rates and business development support. Our business development support includes monthly workshops and entrepreneurial exchanges on specific topics pertinent to small food businesses, including Employment Law, Logo and Label Design, and Access to Capital. We also have a Finance Advisor on staff that meets with businesses individually to assist them with tracking expenses, budgeting and setting sales goals. 
2. What’s been your organization’s biggest hurdle in achieving its goals of helping small businesses?
A major challenge we face is helping small businesses understand their true cost of goods. Small businesses often don’t include their time when factoring costs. This is why we hired a Finance Advisor to offer financial guidance and instill best practices in the early stages that will help them throughout their growth. 
3. Describe any major accomplishments for your organization over the last year.
Over the last year, we have served a diverse group of over 50 food businesses, ranging from caterers, bakers and specialty food producers. We’ve increased the number of local and low-income businesses that we support this past year. With the support of Citi Community Development, we received a grant to help offset the start-up costs and kitchen rental for low-income food businesses that were selling informally.
We’ve also been extremely proud to see four businesses mature and graduate from HBK Incubates. These businesses reached a point in their growth where they were ready to produce in their own full-time production space, including a restaurant, bakery, another commercial kitchen, and co-packing facility. 
4. What are the key strategic goals for your organization over the next year?
We want to serve more new food businesses in our kitchen space and support their growth, while helping to improve the economy through business ownership. We are also focused on continuing to support our current businesses, particularly our women and minority-owned businesses, so that they can grow in a sustainable manner.
5. What should a small business entrepreneur know about your organization?
Unlike other food business incubators, Hot Bread Kitchen has successfully penetrated the specialty food market ourselves and can transfer industry knowledge and experience. There’s a vibrant entrepreneurial and culinary community to help businesses grow in our space.
6. Where can they get more information about HBK Incubates?
Contact Sandra Vu via email or phone 
212-369-3331 x 104
7. Discuss how a partnership with NYBDC can help the HBK incubates program achieve its mission of growing start-up food businesses. 
We’ve discussed with NYBDC about the many funding options they offer, particularly the NYC Food Manufacturers Growth Fund. We realize that these are funding options that our businesses can take advantage of and we’re excited to partner with NYBDC and be able to refer our businesses to them for funding.