As much as I’d love to spend my days making and eating Sweet Corn ice pops, and doing little else, sadly, there are a few non-edible items to attend to when starting a food business. To be honest, I kind of love this part too– the research element activates my journalistic brain, and the need to make 10,000 phone calls to figure out each aspect of, say, acquiring a food license for the City of Minneapolis, activates the part of my brain that is usually only employed when I have to call AT&T about an errant charge on our cell phone bill. I can be like a dog with a bone with certain details.
And it’s incredibly rewarding when all that research and legwork, by myself and fellow pop diva Sarah Newberry, really starts to pay off. And what a week this was for payoffs.
The first, and most exhilarating piece of the puzzle piece that we’ve put in place, is the commercial kitchen! As you’d probably guess, and as Bob rightfully pointed out in response to my Sweet Corn post, you can’t just make ice pops in your home kitchen, and sell them to the masses. This is for a lot of good reasons that I needn’t get into–nonetheless, it can seem like a major obstacle. How can we afford to pay thousands of dollars per year to rent a space, when we’re not even sure yet how much we can make selling these suckers? And more importantly, where can one find a commercial kitchen space to rent? Thankfully, the Twin Cities have a number of options for food businesses, the leading ones being Kindred Kitchen in North Minneapolis, and the gorgeous Kitchen in the Market facility at Midtown Global Market. Kitchen in the Market (KITM) stole our heart– it’s a beautiful space, and owner/manager Molly Herrmann has helped make it a great collaborative space for small food businesses, in which everyone seems to want to help everyone else. If our business continues to grow, we have hopes of joining KITM next year. But because it’s a business, KITM requires a year-long lease, and if you can ponder for a second the idea of eating an ice pop in February, you can probably guess why we’re not yet sure whether 10,000 Licks will be a year-round business. So, where to head next?
Home sweet new home.
I won’t bore you with all of the stories of the options we didn’t ultimately choose– community centers and churches and restaurants with odd hours–we considered them all. But ultimately, we found our solution right down the street, in a location that is literally equidistant from Sarah’s apartment in St. Paul, and my house in Longfellow. Introducing… Thuro Bread, a bakery and shared kitchen facility that is literally right next door to Izzy’s Ice Cream on Marshall Ave. In a nutshell, it’s perfect, complete with an affordable monthly rate, and–get this–a walk-in freezer. A walk-in freezer! That means that instead of cramming our pops horizontally into a freezer that is currently shared with frozen chicken broth and frozen corn and ice cube trays and veggie burgers, we can now set our pop molds on a stand-up cart designed for commercial use, and simple roll it on into the freezer. This blows my mind. In conclusion, woohoo!
Keepin' it cool
And yet it didn’t stop there. Ms. Newberry, who heads up our the Department of Equipment and Acquisitions, trucked out to Shakopee in her dad’s vintage Suburban last week, to pick up our new stand-up freezer, purchased from a company that accidentally ordered 10 of the wrong freezer model, and so resold them for a deeply discounted price. Anyone in the market? They have a few more. Picture this sucker with a chalkboard mounted on the side of it, with our revolving list of flavors…pretty adorable, huh?
So far, both Uptown Farmers’ Market and Northeast Farmers’ Market have invited us to participate once we get our Market Manufacture License from the City of Minneapolis (hopefully in about two weeks). So, very soon you may be able to stroll up to that little white freezer cart, and order up one of a growing list of flavors.
This week has been, to say the least, exhilarating. While each of these breakthroughs represents a great amount of effort and persistence, the results continue to surprise me. In other words, while I continue to insist that starting a food business is completely doable, somehow when that proves to be true, even I am a little bit shocked.
It’s like I’ve been declaring to the world, “We can do this!” and yet no one is more surprised than I when I realize that we are, in fact, doing it. And here we go.