Rhode Island: It's All in Our Backyard

Cooking up a future in food

November 17, 2014 by cgrosch

Hope & Main has been open less than a month, and president and founder Lisa Raiola says the state’s first food-business incubator is already attracting entrepreneurs who “are simply hell bent on a new idea.”

Raiola’s goal is to strengthen the state’s economy by supporting the local food system. “We are a state that only consumes 1 percent of what we cultivate on our land and catch in our waters.” She thinks we can do better.

Hope & Main’s 30 inaugural members are entrepreneurs growing food and food-related startups: specialty food products, catering companies, food trucks, farmers, chefs, and nutritionists. Headquartered in the newly renovated 1915 Main Street Elementary School in Warren, the facility offers more than 6,000 square feet of kitchen production space, cold and dry storage, a demonstration kitchen, and a community room. By providing affordable workspace, extensive mentoring, and a community of support in an entrepreneurial environment, Hope & Main is giving food startups the chance to grow without the cost of equipping their own commercial facilities.

“It has given these fledgling entrepreneurs the opportunity to think big even as they start small,” says Raiola. By the end of their three-year membership, she expects many members to be well-positioned to transition their businesses to independent locations.

Over a three-year period, Hope & Main is expected to generate 99 direct jobs and 236 indirect jobs. “If a farmer in South County grows tomatoes, and a business at Hope & Main makes pasta sauce, and a grocer in Portsmouth sells the product on her shelves, a dollar just changed hands three times in Rhode Island,” says Raiola. “And that is what economic development is about.”