The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses.
 
 

La Cocina was born out of a belief that a community of talented natural entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their community, and the whole city. The food that has come out of our kitchen since 2005 reflects that aspiration and, quite simply, tastes amazing.

 
 
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In 2016 Reem Opened an arab street food bakery in the fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, California.

her bakery employs 25 people and aims to cultivate understanding for the Arab experience in America. 

in 2018, her bakery was named a Food & Wine “Best New Restaurant” and she was a James BearD award Semifinalist in the “best chef west” category.

 

We support businesses by providing an affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. We focus primarily on providing resources to women from communities of color and immigrant communities.

Our vision is that entrepreneurs gain financial security by doing what they love to do, creating an innovative, vibrant and inclusive economic landscape.

 
 

Born in the Mission District of San Francisco
 

La Cocina (pronounced la co-see-nah, meaning “The Kitchen” in Spanish) was inspired by its current home, San Francisco’s Mission District. This ethnically diverse and economically vulnerable neighborhood thrives in part due to the many small informal businesses that serve the community. Food lies at the heart of this community, and you don’t have to look far to find hidden entrepreneurs in the kitchens of many homes.

Recognizing a need to formalize these food businesses and the opportunity created when you turn inconsistent and illegal home restaurants into sustainable legal businesses, organizations like Arriba Juntos, The Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment and The Women’s Foundation of California and one very special and visionary anonymous donor created La Cocina. La Cocina is both the space—a modern building and commercial kitchen—and the program—an innovative business incubator that supports a growing roster of small businesses.

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La Cocina is a home for close to 40 up-and-coming businesses (like mi morena, left) and a growing roster of graduates, representing all aspects of local food.

Breaking barriers towards a more diversive and equitable food industry.
 

Since 2005, La Cocina has focused, exclusively, on the project of small business incubation, with a vision to increase inclusivity in the food industry and offer equitable opportunity for living-wage work and asset generation.

Working class women of color and immigrant women, many of whom are skilled cooks, have traditionally experienced a comparative lack of opportunities in the formal job market, including in the formal foodservice industry. Being excluded from the mainstream job market and the formal food industry has prompted many low-income women to start their own, informal food enterprises.

These women, who sell homemade food on the streets or out of their homes, have learned to make their businesses profitable and sustainable on a very small scale. However, as low-income entrepreneurs they face large risks and significant barriers to entry into the formal food industry due to insufficient financial and social capital.

These and other barriers deprive working class food entrepreneurs from the opportunity to build assets through formalizing their businesses. This underscores the need for an environment, such as La Cocina, where working class food entrepreneurs can access the resources they need in order to survive the crucial start-up phase and become functioning parts of the local economy.

La Cocina's incubator program offers affordable commercial kitchen space and hands-on technical assistance to low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.

 

Creating real and lasting economic change.
 

Most La Cocina entrepreneurs approach their business as a pathway to economic freedom, seeking a way to take control of their economic lives and move away from wage-labor with a finite cap. The soft outcomes include deep community investment, hiring from within their local communities and a more robust, equitable and inclusive food economy.

When examining how financial stability influences the outcomes of multiple other systems such as housing, employment education, criminal justice and health, the impact of La Cocina’s Business Incubator Program is further amplified.

La Cocina began as a tiny grassroots organization in a city with one of the most competitive food industries in the nation. While not the first kitchen incubator, and certainly not the last, La Cocina is now the best-known incubator kitchen in the United States, if not the world, and has grown an idea into an institution. In doing so, it has inspired organizations from Salt Lake City to Ukraine to London to adopt this proven model.