As Jews, we have been trained from the beginning of time to help each other, guide each other, and be there for each other. The scope of this “help” has grown a hundred fold over the generations. The Angel Fund, created in the Sephardic community in 2002 as a quasi “hatzolah” for working men and business owners, was visionary in its philosophies. In response to a desperate need for business advisement and guidance, Angel started out consulting companies in crisis, advising start up businesses, providing loans, creating partnerships and supporting people as they navigated career and business options.
Today, Angel still operates as a free service and a not-for-profit organization open to everyone, but since its inception, several new branches have sprouted from this extraordinary tree: SCS, making successful job and career placements daily; Generation Angel, educating and raising the awareness of our young people; The Executive Seminar Series, tapping the resources of business’s best and brightest; The Merchant Banking Group, navigating clients through all stages of business opportunities including purchasing, selling, investing and raising capital; and most recently, The Ladies Angel Network, specifically geared to help women grow their career dreams. Today, The Angel Fund proudly presents its newest venture, “Angel Foods,” an incubator program for culinary entrepreneurs.
Just Like Grandma Used to Make
We all have to eat. Not once, but three times a day. The food industry is booming. Apart from the myriad of restaurants stationed on and around every street corner in Manhattan, there are over 900 food production firms employing over 16,000 people in New York City alone, and another 2,500 New Yorkers who are self employed in the field. Each of those is an entrepreneur waiting for their big break.
In our community, hundreds of men and women are preparing food to sell from home to bring in extra income. The Angel Fund cannot help but recognize this as one of the most prevalent business choices available today. As with every entrepreneur, we want to help bring these enterprises to the next level.
While cooking or baking as a side business works ideally for a stay-at-home mom, the situation is sure to get sticky as her product gains momentum, and …sells! While this is the general idea, lack of oven space, time, organization, insurance, licensing from Department of Agriculture and many other logistical problems leave a girl -or guy-with nowhere to turn. Until now.
Good Enough To Eat
Renting a kitchen is not like renting an office. You can’t just plug in your Mac and get started. Good kitchen equipment is expensive and needs constant maintenance. Workspace must be immaculate and insurance and health regulations must be up to date and strictly adhered to. In our case, an added requirement is the halachic supervision that is required to sell food and baked goods to the stores that bring big business.
If you are looking for all the above, I guess today is your birthday! This past July, The Angel Fund began their kitchen initiative in earnest. Searching for a proper kitchen to fit the bill was not an easy task. While the National Incubation Association includes 21 kitchen programs, only a handful exist in the tri-state area. The executives at Angel originally set out to build their own kitchen, but they decided that a situation in which they were sharing the burden of work and upkeep with other people might benefit everyone involved.
When it came to their attention that Kingsborough College’s Culinary Institute had a kitchen to offer, they knew it would be the perfect fit. Located on Oriental Boulevard in lovely Manhattan Beach, Kingsborough’s Rotunda directly overlooks the water. The setting is ideal, the appliances and ovens are top of the line, and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful.
Fresh From the Oven
Currently there are six to eight different bakers and/or cooks using the kitchen twice a week. For an eight-hour shift, the charge is less than two hundred dollars, which includes a locked storage space to keep utensils and supplies. The Angel Fund provides a cleaning service to help “kosher” the kitchen and to clean up throughout the day, and provides the halachic supervision of the OK at no charge to the chefs.
Rabbi Fogelman explains OK’s passion and involvement in The Angel Fund’s kitchen, “As a Jewish organization, we like to say that we are in the kosher business, not in the business of being kosher. We want to help and encourage every Jew who approaches us in any way we can. You can give a man a fish or you can teach him how to fish. Teaching him is the highest level of the mitzvah. We are here for The Angel Fund and all of their clients. We want to help.”
Businesses Rising With the Dough
Once the cooking and baking are complete, Angel Fund’s job begins. Irwin Dayan, Executive Director of The Angel Fund, explains, “The product itself is only half of it. Once you are up and running we are here to help you with packaging, promoting and marketing. We want you to succeed, and we will be with you every step of the way.” Angel Foods is also proud and excited to take part in Kosherfest on November 12, 2008, a nationwide food trade show open to all kosher food vendors and services.
Response so far has been fantastic. The food industry is a billion dollar business and Angel’s clients are getting a chunk of it. Esther Faham, baker, launched her sticky buns with the help of the Ladies Angel Network last year. In that short time, her business has exploded, “Thank G-d, since I started cooking in the Angel Foods kitchen and got the OK supervision, my business has doubled. My bake time is one-third and the orders have simply snowballed. I love it!”
Claudia Bildirici, of Lottie’s Biscotti, has been selling her cookies for years but is excited to present her cool new packaging simultaneously with the opening of the Angel Foods Kitchen. “The kosher certification is incredible. I was doing great before but now the possibilities are endless. I have already gotten shelf space in Pomegranate, Kosher Corner, Grace’s Marketplace and Fairway. I also sell to two different kosher caterers and many small shops along Kings Highway and Avenue U in Brooklyn. It’s been a whirlwind. In this kitchen I can do in one day what used to take me two, and the people here are incredibly helpful. We are trying new recipes and perfecting the old ones, and still we are having fun.”
Check It Once, Check It Twice
The Angel Fund encourages all culinary entrepreneurs to do their homework. Find out how much your ingredients cost; your assistants, gas, traveling time, pots, pans, and trays… You will also need to factor in the cost of liability insurance. Ask yourself if there is a need or desire for your product. Can you get shelf or freezer space in the stores you are looking to sell to? All these factors must be considered carefully before starting any endeavor. Angel Fund will assist you in figuring out these costs and if the kitchen will be a profitable venture for you, but you’ll need to come organized and prepared.
Culinary trends and market forces have made the kitchen incubator an idea whose time is now. Current sales of specialty foods at retail were $24.7 billion, and jumped 17.9% between 2002 and 2004 versus a 7.7% rise for sales of all food. Over half of all the products sold in specialty food stores are purchased directly from the manufacturer. No matter the economy, people still crave the luxury of home cooked food. If you are good at what you do, there is money to be made in the food industry. The Angel Fund can help you take the first step.
If you are interested in joining our Angel Foods Community Kitchen and would like to set up a consultation to discuss terms and fees please log on to our website www.angelfundnetwork.org and register. In 24 hours you will receive a phone call to set up an individual meeting.