Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Kaleidoscope Kitchen: Teaching, Empowering, and Serving Memphis One Dish at a Time

Photo: Little Bird Innovation

Opened just last year, Kaleidoscope Kitchen is already making waves within the Binghampton community, and the city at large.

We got to sit down with Olivia Haslop, the Kaleidoscope Program Manager, to hear more about who they are and what they’re about. Read on to learn more about this incredible organization!

Choose901: What is Kaleidoscope Kitchen?

Olivia Haslop: A program of the Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC), Kaleidoscope Kitchen is a nonprofit commercial rental kitchen and food business incubator. Kaleidoscope Kitchen’s mission is to prepare minority entrepreneurs to establish successful food businesses. We offer low-cost commercial kitchen rental, food entrepreneur training, food sales opportunities, and small business counseling.

Photo: Olivia Haslop

We launched Kaleidoscope Kitchen in September 2017 – a supportive space for any and all, regardless/in celebration of where you are from, the language you speak, or the worldview you practice.

– Olivia Haslop

C901: What inspired the BDC to create this initiative?

OH: Binghampton is one of Memphis’ most diverse neighborhoods, with a 14% “foreign-born” population of residents representing more than 20 nations. Initially, we heard from our significant refugee and immigrant population that they wanted to use their talents in food to make money while also sharing their cultures. In summer of 2016, we were awarded a planning grant from The Kresge Foundation’s Fresh, Local & Equitable (FreshLo) initiative to strengthen low-income communities through food-oriented development. With this support, we were able to formalize a core group of community members and several key partners (Refugee Empowerment Program, World Relief, Wiseacre, Caritas Village, EPIcenter, to name a few) to further explore the needs of aspiring “food entrepreneurs” in Binghampton. Throughout this process, we also heard from several US-born residents that they, too, were interested in starting food businesses. As a result, we launched Kaleidoscope Kitchen in September 2017 – a supportive space for any and all, regardless/in celebration of where you are from, the language you speak, or the worldview you practice.

Photo: Olivia Haslop

C901: What kinds of services to you offer to the community?

OH: One of our members, Raffe’s Catering, tells us there is an Arabic saying that whenever your business is in food or drink, you’ll never go hungry. It’s humorous saying, but communicates the real message that everybody has to eat. For this reason, we believe food is a platform for economic vitality and cultural cohesion because it’s a universal need and a language that brings us all together. There is real opportunity in Memphis to both profit from expanding food options, especially for international cuisines, and to foster cultural exchange. Working in food can also be a lower-barrier, more inclusive career path in reference to academic prerequisites and English language proficiency.

BUT, here’s the kicker – the food industry can be incredibly difficult to enter and high-risk to succeed. There are several barriers in place, including complex regulations, expensive startup costs, connecting to a network of customers, and balancing food know-how with the know-how to run your own business. Kaleidoscope Kitchen aims to be the bridge between food talent and operating food sales at a professional level in the following ways:

  1. We offer commercial kitchen rental at approximately half the market rate: $12/hr for Binghampton residents and $15/hr for non-residents.
  2. Through our two-part Food Entrepreneur Training, we offer technical and professional education to help those passionate about cooking to refine their craft to a professional level and turn it into a business model.
    1. In tier 1, we go through a custom curriculum that I and Chef Eli Townsend developed in-house, called The Cook’s Book: Culinary Basics for Food Entrepreneurs. We offered this 13-week course for the first time this past January and just completed work to professionally package the curriculum with our friends at Binghampton design firm, Simple Focus. We are really excited to offer this course again this July with these freshly designed, brand new books. Interested applicants should contact me, Olivia Haslop, at olivia@bdcmemphis.org.
    2. In tier 2, we offer the CO.STARTERS 9-week business development program through a partnership with EPIcenter Memphis.

      Photo: Olivia Haslop

  3. We coordinate food sales opportunities, mainly through catering and our annual Kaleidoscope Food Festival. We are beginning to connect opportunities in retail and are excited for our new partnership with the great people at Launch Process, the new coffee shop in Binghampton.
  4. I am also available to our kitchen members for small business counseling appointments, with topics ranging from abiding by health department regulations to developing and pricing a menu to planning for sales opportunities. Members also have access to our 7-member advisory board of food, business, and community experts. For more sophisticated business model feedback and advice, we refer entrepreneurs to EPIcenter Memphis.

…We believe food is a platform for economic vitality and cultural cohesion because it’s a universal need and a language that brings us all together.

– Olivia Haslop

C901: How can people in the wider Memphis community connect with the food prepared through Kaleidoscope?

OH: It is a particularly exciting time at Kaleidoscope Kitchen right now, in that, after several months of incubating with us, three of our members are “graduating” to their own brick and mortar establishments. Inspire Community Café, currently a food truck serving up healthful foods while creating and advocating for living wage jobs, will open a storefront in our Gateway Center development this fall. Ibti’s Soup and Catering and Indra’s Dumplings will be two of three vendors slated to open at Global Café, an international food court featuring authentic world foods, opening at Crosstown Concourse this summer.

Meanwhile, hungry Memphians can still contact Kaleidoscope Kitchen to fulfill their catering needs with the approximately 15 small businesses in our “portfolio.” Consumers should also look for Kaleidoscope Kitchen members’ products at Launch Process. Our kitchen tenant, WildFlour Bake Shop, will be distributing products there as early as today! (Friday, June 22, 2018).

Some other access points:

  • Get baked goods from The Chocolate Drop at Belltower Artisans Coffee Shop
  • Check out the Memphis Farmers Market and visit with Raffe’s Catering and Made From Scratch Cookie Company
  • Pick up Made From Scratch cookies at Miss Cordelia’s, Curb Market, and Captain John’s BBQ in Collierville.
  • Follow The Canning Couple on Facebook for their next market appearance.
  • Catch the next “Munch with Mouthful” popup for a refined, healthful, grab-n-go lunch. Follow Mouthful and Kaleidoscope Kitchen on Facebook for details on the next event.
  • Email Olivia at olivia@bdcmemphis.org to learn more about other great vendors and how to get their products/services like The Hudson Dining Experience, Chef Eli’s Table, and Spicy Z’s Cajun Seasoning.

Photo: Olivia Haslop

C901: What does the future look like for Kaleidoscope Kitchen?

OH: If I could have any one superpower, it would be to speak every language. To help Kaleidoscope Kitchen begin speaking more languages, the Community Foundation recently awarded us a Give 365 grant. With these funds, we’ll be able to start translating The Cook’s Book: Culinary Basics for Food Entrepreneurs for the many talented cooks in Binghampton who need communication in, for example, Spanish, Arabic, Nepalese, and Swahili. We recently partnered with EPIcenter to give their first ever bilingual So You Think You Want To Be An Entrepreneur workshop at the BDC, and the turnout was remarkable. We’re grateful to the Community Foundation that we can now continue and strengthen our efforts to reach English Language Learners in our community.

Also with support from the Community Foundation Give 365 grant, we are currently sourcing equipment to build a mobile-based trailer kitchen. This will allow us to better accommodate requests for outdoor food sales events. It will also serve as an added resource for kitchen members to rent for their independent food sales. We will collaborate with the BDC Construction Job Training program to build the kitchen-on-wheels in-house in late July/early August.

With continued funding from The Kresge Foundation FreshLo initiative and added support from the Give 365 grant, we are also growing the Kaleidoscope Kitchen team. After several months of development, and in the same way we encourage entrepreneurs, we are ready to really refine our craft and elevate it to the best standard possible. As such, we are undergoing the hiring process for an operations role that we are confident will allow us to really press our food-oriented development forward.

With an expanded team, we’ll focus our attention on the longer-term possibilities for Kaleidoscope Kitchen. We hope to continue this work and grow our kitchen community for years to come, and we continue to dream with the community about growing our space.

Connect with Kaleidoscope Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram to stay in the know about upcoming events, and track down their current offerings at markets around the city!