Frequently Asked Questions
What is a business incubator?
Business incubators are organizations geared toward accelerating the growth and success of startups and early-stage companies. They help entrepreneurs “hatch” new ideas and shape budding business ventures by providing an array of business resources like physical space, coaching and mentoring, training, education and networking. Incubators vary in their strategies – some function in physical spaces, others operate on a virtual basis. Many incubators provide capital funding or help link members to potential outside financial sources. No matter the approach, the goal is the same – to shape and nurture fledgling startups into successful business ventures.
What kinds of businesses is Hope & Main looking for?
Hope & Main incubates early-stage food/food-related businesses that are not yet ready to occupy professional facilities of their own. From food trucks and catering companies, to specialty food manufacturers who want to bring their products to the market, our incubator program looks for the entrepreneur who has a strong food product concept and is ready to kick start or expand an early-stage food business. In short, we’re looking for people with a great idea and an appetite for entrepreneurship interested in growing a successful food-related company.
How are members chosen?
Members are vetted and accepted through an application process that focuses not only on the food product or service idea, but also on the viability of the applicant’s working business plan.
Interested startups are asked to submit an application, including a $50 non-refundable fee, describing their food-related business idea as well as early-stage thinking about their product, customer, and marketplace. Once the application package is received, Hope & Main will review the materials and contact you to schedule an interview.
Applicants are evaluated for their business concept, including uniqueness and strength of their product or service, knowledge of their costs, their market and potential customer base, as well as readiness to launch a business.
Each of our members is essentially managing his or her own company within Hope & Main. For that reason, each member must have ServSafe certification, a Rhode Island food processing or wholesale license and liability insurance, and must pass a criminal background check. While these requirements are not necessary for the initial application, they must be obtained before beginning use of the Hope & Main facilities.
How do I apply?
Hope & Main is accepts applications on a rolling, year-round basis. Once an application is submitted along with the fee, our staff will begin working with the applicant to explore the business concept and technical requirements of the product or service. In some cases, an applicant may need to wait until a vacancy is available.
What happens after I apply?
After the application, our staff works hard to help you get your business up-and-running by walking you through the licensing process with the Department of Health, obtaining the requisite permits, and accessing valuable resources. Additionally, all new members participate in a cohort made up of other emerging food entrepreneurs. Together, cohorts participants walk through a series of classes that serve as the nuts and bolts of starting a food business. Our staff also helps you get acclimated to our commercial kitchens and equipment so you can seamlessly make the transition from home kitchen to large-scale production.
Visit our Apply! page for step-by-step instructions.
How long do companies tend to stay at Hope & Main?
Length of membership varies on the ultimate goals of the business. A typical food start-up may take up to three years to scale up to the point of investment in a stand-alone operation. We work with each of our companies to develop a viable “exit strategy” so that by the end of their membership at Hope & Main, each of our members is well-positioned to transition their food business to their own independent location.
Do you rent your kitchen spaces for occasional use to non-members?
At this time we only offer kitchen space to Hope & Main members. As a licensed commissary kitchen, we must have a full health permit, insurance, and food safety certificate on file for anyone who operates at our facility. That means we cannot support one-time events or occasional hobbyists.