Lesson 6: Choosing the Right Location

What You’ll Learn: In the old days, a new business meant a storefront. But now storefronts can be virtual, new business enterprises can be run out of a spare bedroom, or they can move into a makerspace or co-working space to build partnerships and synergies with other startups and small businesses. We’ll examine the many options and walk you through the good, the bad and the ugly of each.

Choosing the Right Location (continued)

Maker Spaces

Maker spaces take many forms, from ones found in schools and libraries to full-scale maker spaces that offer members the latest and greatest in technologies and tools, such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

With the onset of the pandemic, maker space models are changing. Some are still doing well with the traditional model, but others are modifying their business model to include space for startups as well as classes and workshops to make the math work out.

One of the advantages of these spaces is that other entrepreneurs and startups share the space with more traditional craftspeople and artisans, creating a unique environment that spurs additional innovation and ideation.

Maker spaces often have specialties. For instance, some are focused entirely on tech or electronics, while others specialize in advanced manufacturing or traditional craftsmanship. Still others are focused on the arts, giving artists and sculptors the space they need to explore the business potential of their respective craft.

Commerce has an online map of coworking/maker, incubator and accelerators to help you find one near you.

Commissary Kitchens

If you are in the food business, you have other options. Whether you’re thinking about buying a food truck or want to sell the best cheesecake on the planet to local restaurants, a commissary kitchen may be the answer. These commercial-grade kitchens allow you to prepare food items in volume while adhering to all the preparation and health regulations related to the preparation, storage and sale of food products.

Before we go further, we should remind you that Washington also has a Cottage Foods program that allows you to produce some products at home. Cakes, loaf breads, rolls, pastries, cookies, cereals, trail mixes, candies, snack mixes, jams and jellies, small-batch roasted coffee and other items can be prepared in your own kitchen. Sales cannot be more than $25,000 annually and products must be sold directly to the consumer, not in retail outlets or to wholesalers. Local city and county laws and regulations related to operating a business out of your home may apply.

Commissary kitchens are usually priced by the hour, though you may find a better value in a month-to-month arrangement or membership, depending on the kitchen. A lot of equipment comes with the rental, saving you time and money, especially if you are just starting out and are thinking of leasing a brick and mortar space instead. In addition to the equipment – much of it specialized or built for volume work – these kitchens have refrigeration and freezer space as well as storage, so you don’t have to cart your own ingredients and utensils back and forth each day.

These co-cooking spaces also let you interact with other entrepreneurs and foodies. Seasoned food business professionals and chefs can help you navigate the industry and regulations, along with providing helpful tips. You can also combine ingredient orders with other food businesses to secure bulk pricing. On the downside, you may find space limited to spread out in a busy kitchen, and if you’re developing the next big thing in food, privacy is a concern. You are also stuck with the equipment they already have on hand, and renting additional space as you grow can get expensive. This can strain the budget as you try to keep up with growth while moving to a food truck or retail space.