- Photo by Ian McNulty
- Monique Hodges started a business for her home-baked cupcakes.
Dinner guests at Stacey Greco's home in Hahnville were forever saying her remoulade sauce was so good she should sell it. Don Militello heard much the same thing from fellow tailgaters outside Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge whenever he broke out his olive salad-style "olive mix." So did Gentilly resident Monique Hodges, when she started bringing her cupcakes to family parties.
"So good you should sell it" turns out to be fairly common praise for homemade treats, but in each of the cases mentioned here the cooks took the encouragement to heart and brought their recipes to market. Each also made the leap from home cook to food entrepreneur with the help of a unique food business incubator called Edible Enterprises (917 Third St., Norco, 985-764-1504; www.edibleenterprises.org).
A nonprofit started in 2009 by Goodwill Industries and supported by a consortium of other local groups, Edible Enterprises is located in a nondescript metal building in Norco, a town 10 miles upriver from Kenner, perhaps best known for its refinery. Here, more than a dozen small start-up food companies prepare their products in a licensed, regulator-approved facility where they rent a professionally equipped kitchen and storage space by the hour.
Some of these tenants function as caterers, like Hodges' dessert company Cake N' Cups (232-6592; www.cakencups.webstarts.com). Many other foods produced here, like the Creole remoulade from Greco's company, Omi's Gourmet Foods (985-783-6921; www.omisgourmetfoods.com), and the olive mix from Militello Gourmet Specialties (225-413-3146; www.militellogourmetspecialties.com), are now found on supermarket shelves around the region.
The 12,000-square-foot facility has three commercial kitchens, and tenants share specialized equipment that might be too expensive for them to buy on their own. These budding entrepreneurs also can count on help from Edible Enterprises staffers, who might give marketing advice for building a brand or provide technical assistance to turn household recipes into commercial formulas.
"A lot of them try out their recipes at farmers markets, and when they come here we give them the tools to reach new customers," says chef Gaye Sandoz, tenant services director at Edible Enterprises. "They might come in with one recipe, say, and from there we help them grow that into a business with other related products."
Case in point is Fromage Circa 1965 (www.fromagecirca1965.com), the company that siblings Carmen and Charles Sherrouse named for the year their mother Mattie Sue first made a seasoned cheese ball that became a fixture at family gatherings. Working at Edible Enterprises, the Sherrouse team developed a packaged version and currently are refining a creamy cheese dip and a vermouth-based marinade.
The entrepreneurial impulse also inspired Kyshun Webster, director of the New Orleans youth development nonprofit Operation Reach. In February, he started Cupcakes & Co. (410-5898; www.cupcakesandcompany.net) selling his treats from a food truck and baking them at Edible Enterprises.
"It lowered the barrier of entry into the business, and for me it really has been an incubator," Webster says. "I've had the chance to develop the business and prove that there's a market for it."
That gave him the confidence to invest in a stand-alone shop for Cupcakes & Co., which he hopes to open on Poydras Street this summer.