CINCINNATI — Findlay Kitchen, a nonprofit food business incubator, is helping Black entrepreneurs turn their dreams into realities.
"It feels like home, it felt like a really good match," Miley Pooh Sweets owner Bri'Ana Heard said.
Heard started out as a social worker before transitioning into a stay-at-home mom. She baked as a hobby, making treats for just her family. Then came 2020, when her world fell apart in the middle of a pandemic.
”October of 2020, I lost my brother and because we were so close I needed something to grab onto in my grief journey," Heard said.
So she turned to sugar instead of sadness and decided to sell pound cakes. And the name for her business is a nod to her brother D'Mile. She decided to try her hand at selling baked goods at Findlay Market for the first time in December 2021.
"We sold out and I’m like, 'We may be onto something,'" Heard said.
Heard was later chosen for a cohort at Findlay Kitchen where she learned all about the business side of being an entrepreneur. That's something Ebony Williams knows all too well.
"Findlay Kitchen was the only incubator kitchen I found in the city," Williams said. "Not only did I get a professional kitchen to cooking I got business guidance that was just priceless."
In 2018, Williams worked out of Findlay Kitchen for her catering business, but found it tough to open a brick-and-mortar storefront.
"This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve raised four boys. I saved up all of my cash and I didn’t have enough cash," Williams said.
Williams is not alone. Fundera by Nerdwallet reports 44% of Black business owners use their own cash to start their ventures. Williams said banks denied her for loans to open Flavors of the Isle. The same data set from Fundera shows just 1% of Black business owners obtain business loans in their first year.
"It’s still a challenge to raise funds and raise capital to continue to have the doors open," Williams said.
Out of Findlay Kitchen's members, 80% are BIPOC, women and immigrants. Now, Heard and Williams are being touted as success stories.
”To be able to be a part of an organization that realizes what the gap is and trying to fill it is why Findlay Kitchen sets itself apart," said Heard.