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Meet Lisa Sutton of Kitchen Local in North Shore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Sutton.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lisa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Kitchen Local is the North Shore’s first shared-use commercial kitchen and is one of only a handful of shared-use commercial kitchens in Massachusetts. Located in Amesbury and opening for business in January of 2013, Kitchen Local fills a niche for small-scale food producers by providing around-the-clock, 24/7 access to a modern, affordable, convenient, and permitted kitchen workspace and storage. Culinary professionals who are launching or expanding their businesses use this facility for food production, catering, baking, cooking classes, menu planning, training, recipe testing, photography, and product development. Kitchen Local businesses include caterers, bakers, meal prep service, specialty food products, vendors of farmers’ markets, mobile food trailers and trucks, and culinary instructors.

I had always wanted to work in the food industry, but when I started looking into producing my own food product I quickly discovered that there were very few permitted culinary spaces and storage in the area for small-scale food producers to launch. With such a thriving local food community on the North Shore, I knew there was a need for a shared-use commercial kitchen. I worked closely with the City of Amesbury and the Massachusetts Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship to make sure the facility had everything needed for small-scale food producers to store, prep, produce and sell food for the public. I also networked with local food producers to make sure the kitchen was satisfactorily and fully equipped.

As a small, local business founder and owner, I take my role as a mentor, coach, strategist and foodpreneur advocate very seriously. I am excited to be helping other small business owners in their quest to launch and grow a food business. I provide consultations with those interested in learning how to launch a food business, whether planning on doing so at Kitchen Local or not, by providing pertinent information and resources to help with the exploratory and decision-making process. There is so much to know and quite a bit of misinformation out there about the food industry and my goal is to provide concrete, realistic information so that they enter the industry or strike out on their own with eyes wide open. For those who will be utilizing Kitchen Local for their permitted base of operations, I guide them through the local and state permitting and licensing process. Once they have launched, I provide ongoing industry updates, educational opportunities, social media marketing, industry connections, and work and marketing opportunities.

Fast forward five years, 25 participant businesses utilize Kitchen Local as their permitted base of operations. And for me, I am still passionately helping to create opportunities, jobs, and locally-produced food products.

Has it been a smooth road?
There were challenges from the beginning with so little information available on multiple-user, shared-use commercial kitchen facilities. I did months of research, developed a business model and set out to network with and educate those that were to be and are involved from city and state licensing/permitting officials, to contractors/vendors, to prospective clients, to the community at large. However, I embrace these “challenges” as opportunities and just part of my newfound business.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Kitchen Local – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I am proud of Kitchen Local for being hailed as a model and critical first step toward expanding and supporting the burgeoning local food economy. I provide opportunities for start-up food businesses to try their hand in a food business and to launch and grow in a legal commercial kitchen with low initial investment, lower ongoing fixed costs, no long-term contracts, convenient location, modern equipment, and work schedule flexibility.

There are those who will launch and stay in the kitchen because it fits their business model. There are several who have expanded and now are having their products co-produced and packaged on a larger scale. And there are several who have launched here and now have successful brick and mortar places of their very own. Some businesses start up and then realize that the food industry is not a good match for them and then discontinue the business. This is not a failure, but an opportunity that I provided with minimal start-up costs and risk.

I specialize in providing initial and ongoing support to prospective food businesses and those who sign on to Kitchen Local as a participant business. Food safety, permits, licensing, insurance, labeling, packaging, training on using commercial-level kitchen equipment, product development, outreach/marketing, branding, distribution, sales and industry connections are the areas I provide ongoing information, resources, and education on.

What sets me and Kitchen Local apart from others is the one-to-one attention I give each prospective and participant business. I have built solid and positive relationships with the businesses here, as well as with city and state officials, business associations, food industry affiliated associations, and other shared commercial kitchens/incubators throughout the country. The overall success of Kitchen Local is far-reaching, with more than twenty-five participant food businesses calling Amesbury home and more in the pipeline to do the same. I am right where I should be, helping to create opportunities for foodprenuers!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The North Shore/Merrimack Valley area is so easily accessible to Boston. Boston has a fabulous food industry and has embraced food start-ups. This, in turn, has set the stage here in the greater Amesbury area for small-scale food businesses to launch and expand.

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Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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