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Chef Space incubator to expand thanks to federal funds

092722_Chef Space Funding_ John Yarmuth_by Breya Jones
Chef Space president Tom Murro said the organzation plans to the funds towards expansion.

Chef Space, a small-business incubator that provides access to kitchens, equipment and other resources, has received $330,000 in federal funds to expand. 

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth pursued the community projects funding, formerly known as earmark funds, on behalf of Chef Space. He said the business accelerator in west Louisville’s Russell neighborhood was an ideal candidate. 

“These are opportunities for members of Congress to bring resources to the things they know best in their district, to address the greatest needs as well as the greatest opportunities,” Yarmuth said. 

Part of the reason Yarmuth advocated for Chef Space to receive this funding is because he has been able to watch it grow and show its worth during his time in office. 

“It’s really easy to see the benefit of it, it’s really easy to understand how it works," Yarmuth said. "And now Chef Space has a track record that guarantees how it works."

Since its 2015 launch, Chef Space has helped more than 100 businesses get started and gain traction to operate on their own.

“We’ve got over 20 businesses in the local community fully independent, some of those even have multiple locations now,” Chef Space president Tom Murro said. “Just last year we were able to graduate five businesses, and during COVID, the height of COVID, we had three businesses graduate.”

The communal kitchen space has served catering companies, food trucks, meal prep companies and businesses making packaged products, Murro said.

At the 13,000-square-foot facility, business owners from both the food and cosmetic industries are able to access resources such as convection ovens, food processors, mixers and storage space. 

“Besides just having commissary space for rent, we have education, technical assistance, in-house lending, all these things that help get a business from launch and emerging to the growth phase,” Murro said. 

Because businesses are able to access communal space, equipment and other resources, Murro said overhead costs are significantly decreased. 

This leaves more room for growth and less concern about the thin profit margins in the food industry.

Chef Space currently has a waitlist of emerging entrepreneurs seeking assistance. 

Murro said the federal funding will enable Chef Space to support more small businesses and help existing members with needs such as packaging.

“Logistics for distribution, for storage, will allow some of the current brands to grow past the bottlenecks that they have, but also be able onboard 12 additional clients,” Murro said.

Helping as many businesses as possible reach the growth phase is Chef Space’s main goal, he added.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.