What was originally a school project turned into an opportunity of a lifetime for Kelly LeCoy. Kelly went to study business marketing at Calvin College, where a business plan she came up with for local business turned into one of her best ideas. After turning in her project, Kelly received an e-mail from her professor, asking her to enter the plan into two upcoming competitions. She won them both. And she began her journey to making her once school project into an actual business.
Now, as owner of Uptown Kitchen, Kelly has learned more than she ever thought she could, but is excited with the direction the kitchen is going.
Uptown Kitchen opened in February 2012 and is a place where local food businesses could rent out commercial kitchen space in order to help promote their own business, as well as have the opportunity to start out on a smaller scale. From salsa to desserts, sweet habañero sauce to sausages, Kelly said there is no limit to what could be produced in the kitchen.
“I love to be able to create a brand around Uptown Kitchen and to help the other businesses create a brand for themselves, as well,” said Kelly, noting that the Uptown Kitchen mission is to be there for small entrepreneurs and be an advocate for the local food system.
Seventeen individual businesses are renting out kitchen space at the facility, which also has a dining room that groups could rent for birthdays, receptions, or graduation.
“New people contact us everyday,” Kelly said, “so we’ve become the hub for those who want to start a small food business in Grand Rapids.”
One of Kelly’s goals for the coming year is to grow as an incubator and be able to provide more educational opportunities about food and how to prepare it. Not only does Uptown Kitchen house startup food businesses, but it also just launched the Grand Rapids Cooking School. An avid cook herself, Kelly says she might even one day use Uptown Kitchen as a space to springboard for own food business.
But for now, Kelly is satisfied with her place at Uptown Kitchen.
“I really enjoy how much room for decision-making and creativity I have," Kelly said. “The hard part is that at the end of the day, a lot of responsibility falls back on you.”
For more information about Uptown Kitchen, visit http://uptownkitchengr.com/. For information about the Grand Rapids Cooking School, visit http://grcookingschool.com/.
Written by: Chelsea Stoskopf, an intern at Serendipity Media. She recently graduated from Grand Valley State University, and is counting down the days to her wedding in July. Photo: Jill Devries, courtesy of Calvin College