Cooking Up Food-Based Entrepreneurs in Mid-Missouri

How CoMo Cooks, a shared commercial kitchen, prepares food-based entrepreneurs for success

Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) has supported the Boone County community for more than 30 years. One way REDI has done this is by working with community partners to create programs that support local entrepreneurs.

To work with food-based entrepreneurs in Mid-Missouri, REDI has partnered with The Loop to create CoMo Cooks, a shared commercial kitchen located at Mizzou North. The kitchen — equipped with prep stations, fryers, food slicers, convection ovens, and more — is health department-certified.

Who uses the commercial kitchen?

According to Jay Sparks, the Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator at REDI, food truck operators, farmers, chefs, and caterers are just a few of the entrepreneurs leasing commercial kitchen space at CoMo Cooks.

“The space is really for anyone ready to transition beyond their own kitchens, which can be hard to get a health department certification for, to a large-scale commercial kitchen that is certified by the health department,” Jay says.

Entrepreneurs can choose from three levels of monthly plans and have 24/7 access to the shared commercial kitchen. REDI and The Loop also provide entrepreneurs with business coaching, shared branding, pop-ups, and other promotions to help them succeed.

What are the benefits of a shared kitchen?

Jay says CoMo Cooks benefits the economy in Mid-Missouri by providing accessible, inclusive, and affordable commercial kitchen space for starting and expanding local food-based businesses.

“The local economy will only become stronger and more resilient as more diverse culinary ventures have access to resources, such as the shared commercial kitchen,” Jay says.

He adds that “by having a communal space for chefs, bakers, and caterers that works with the Health Department, those businesses will already understand proper food safety protocols when they are preparing to open their food truck or brick-and-mortar location.”

Having a shared commercial kitchen space also removes some common obstacles among food entrepreneurs. Financial concerns are the most common issue for up and coming culinary businesses, as well as committing to large leases or vehicle loans as chefs prepare to move their venture out of their homes for the first time.

“Home kitchens are rarely certified by the health department,” Jay says. “The fact that our shared commercial kitchen is certified by the health department already removes a lot of barriers for entrepreneurs wanting to step foot into the food industry.”

To learn more about the shared commercial kitchen or how REDI can support your ideas and help launch your startup, contact Jay at (573) 441-5546 or Jay.Sparks@CoMo.gov.