Sept. 26 2012 12:00 AM

Incu-BaKe kitchen


Want to make your grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe famous? You have a couple choices: 1.) sell the recipe to a commercial pastry chef, or 2.) mass-produce it yourself. Pfff, no one gets gram-gram’s recipe, you say — slap some flour on the counter and let’s get baking. But wait just a second there, Mrs. Fields, you’re forgetting a few things. Like, say, an industrial-sized oven. And equipment. And a licensed kitchen. You know, the kinds of things that established food production companies have. If only there was a way to get rolling without shelling out all that dough … .

Enter Incu-BaKe (take that, spell check), a shared-use commercial kitchen space that was designed to launch the entrepreneurial aspirations of mid-Michigan’s bakers, sauté chefs and confectioners. There are business incubators for computer software designers and jewelry makers, so why not for custom-made salsa?

“Sometimes people come to us with a product they need to get off the ground,” says Incu-BaKe founder Marcy Bishop Kates. “And sometimes it’s just someone with an idea. We work with them from start to finish to make sure they can achieve their entrepreneurial goals.”

Kates opened Incu-BaKe in Holt in July 2011 to fill what she saw as a niche need in the area. Namely, a place where she could help people take their food business ideas to the next level. In the last 14 months, she has licensed 26 new businesses, half of which she says are in production at any given time.

“Some are seasonal, some are part-time, but they all have their own licenses,” she says. “It’s definitely a cyclical thing .”

Last week, Incu-BaKe’s new location opened inside the Lansing City Market near Uncle John’s Fruit Winery. The City Market location doesn’t have an actual kitchen, making it more of a storefront than an actual incubator. But hey, these novices have to learn to hawk their ware, too — isn’t that part of the entrepreneurial learning curve?

And rising yeast lifts all loafs. Even as these fledgling businesses take off, Incu-BaKe itself is able to expand. Kates has one full-time employee beside herself, but she says she hopes to grow that over time.

“My goal when I started was to create jobs, build business and impact the economy,” she said. “And it’s working. Now I’ve not got two full-time jobs.”

Before she started Incu-BaKe, Kates spent years as a program manager in a variety of sectors, including education, nonprofits and business. She finally quit the day job last year, and finds the new endeavor pleasantly challenging.

“Now I’m using my project management skills and my own personal hobby as a cook every day,” she says. “It just all came together. And as we continue to take on new clients, we will increase the services we offer.”

But it’s not strictly about business around here. Kates says Incu-BaKe is also involved in a variety of community activities, such as offering classes and participating in fundraisers.

“We’re trying to get people to buy locally produced food,” she says. “Most people don’t know who’s making their food. It’s about connecting business, community and farms. “

And it might just get the community addicted to gram-gram’s cookies.

Incu-BaKe Kitchen
1967 N. Aurelius Road, Holt
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Lansing City Market location
325 City Market Drive, Lansing
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues.-Fri.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat.
(517) 974-8944