by Sarad Davenport | Photos by Kori Price
In the heart of Charlottesville a entrepreneurial and culinary revolution is brewing, not just to satisfy taste buds and palettes of visitors and Charlottesvilians, but it is also for nourishing the dreams of aspiring Black entrepreneurs. BEACON (Black Entrepreneurial Advancement & Community Opportunity Network) Kitchen, a brainchild of the visionary New Hill Development Corporation, is more than just a place to whip ‘put your foot in that’ dishes; it’s a catalyst for empowerment, community uplift, and a beacon of hope illuminating a brighter future people who are often left on the margins in Charlottesville.
Imagine a shared kitchen space where culinary enthusiasts, passionate bakers, and aspiring chefs can hone their skills, test out their treasured recipes, and connect with potential customers. That’s the essence of BEACON Kitchen, a haven for Black food entrepreneurs to transform their culinary passions into thriving businesses.
Born from the vision of New Hill Development Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a more equitable and inclusive community, BEACON Kitchen stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and unwavering support. By providing affordable access to a fully equipped kitchen, mentorships from industry experts, and comprehensive business development training, BEACON Kitchen is meticulously nurturing the next generation of culinary stars.
“BEACON Kitchen is not just about cooking,” says Yolunda Harrell, CEO and Founder of New Hill Development Corporation. “It’s about providing opportunities, mentorship, and a supportive community for Black food entrepreneurs to thrive.”
A Culinary Haven for Black Food Entrepreneurs
BEACON Kitchen is a dream come true for many aspiring Black chefs, bakers, and caterers who have long harbored culinary dreams but lacked the resources or opportunities to pursue them. This shared kitchen space provides them with a professional environment where they can hone their skills, experiment with new recipes, and gain valuable experience in the dynamic food industry.
“BEACON Kitchen has given me the space and support to turn my dreams into reality,” shared Troy Robinson. “I’m learning from experienced mentors, gaining valuable business skills, and connecting with potential customers. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
The kitchen’s commercial-grade equipment empowers entrepreneurs to prepare their dishes to the highest standards, ensuring that their culinary creations are ready to be presented to potential customers with confidence and flair. Whether it’s a vibrant catering menu or a line of delectable baked goods, BEACON Kitchen empowers entrepreneurs to turn their culinary visions into reality, transforming their dreams into tangible culinary masterpieces.
Mentorship and Business Development: Guiding Aspirations
BEACON Kitchen’s support extends far beyond providing physical space and top-notch equipment. The kitchen’s team of experienced mentors and business development experts offers invaluable guidance and support to aspiring food entrepreneurs, nurturing their culinary talents and business acumen.
“Our mentors are passionate about helping aspiring food entrepreneurs succeed,” explains David Givens, Director of BEACON Kitchens. “They provide hands-on training, share their industry knowledge, and help entrepreneurs develop business plans and marketing strategies.”
David Givens is a passionate mixologist, wine connoisseur, and chef with over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry. He has worked his way up from washing dishes to becoming Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage for both Hilton and Marriott. Givens is currently the Director of BEACON Kitchens, where he is helping Black entrepreneurs turn their culinary dreams into reality. He is a mentor to aspiring chefs and provides them with hands-on training in culinary techniques, recipe development, and food safety. Givens is also an expert in business development and helps entrepreneurs create and execute strategic plans for their businesses. He is a passionate advocate for the food industry and believes that it has the power to create jobs, revitalize communities, and bring people together.
This comprehensive support system is crucial for helping entrepreneurs navigate the often-daunting world of starting and running a food business. It empowers them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to overcome challenges, make informed decisions, and increase their chances of success, propelling their culinary dreams to new heights.
Partnering to Nourish the Community: A Beacon of Hope
BEACON Kitchen’s impact extends beyond its walls, reaching into the wider Charlottesville community. A recent partnership with MACAA, Barrett Early Learning Center, Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville/Albemarle, and the Boys & Girls Club exemplifies the kitchen’s commitment to serving those in need while simultaneously providing valuable opportunities for its aspiring chefs.
Under this partnership, BEACON Kitchen has begun preparing meals daily for MACAA and Barrett Early Learning Center, Meals on Wheels once per month and Boys & Girls Clubs during the summer months. This initiative not only addresses food insecurity in the community but also creates valuable job opportunities for aspiring chefs, allowing them to gain professional experience and contribute to a worthy cause, making a positive impact on the lives of others.
“We’re proud to partner with these organizations,” says Yolunda Harrell. “It’s a testament to BEACON Kitchen’s commitment to making a positive impact both within the community and for our entrepreneurs.”
Yolunda Harrell is a seasoned business leader with over 24 years of experience in profit management, staff development, customer experience, community engagement, and self-development. She is the CEO and Founder of New Hill Development Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and inclusive community.
Harrell has a proven track record of success in developing and executing strategic revenue, marketing, and business strategies. She has overseen renovations and redevelopment projects ranging from $1 million to $10 million.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Harrell is also a committed community leader. She has volunteered as a GED tutor, facilitated dialogues on race, organized community events, and helped to create a social networking organization for African Americans in Charlottesville.
Harrell is a passionate advocate for entrepreneurship and believes that food has the power to transform lives. She is the driving force behind BEACON Kitchen, a shared kitchen space that provides aspiring Black chefs, bakers, and caterers with the resources and support they need to succeed.
A Community Hub for Culinary Camaraderie
BEACON Kitchen is more than just a kitchen; it’s a vibrant community hub where Black food entrepreneurs can connect, share ideas, celebrate each other’s successes, and draw inspiration from one another’s culinary talents.
“BEACON Kitchen has become my second home,” shared Troy Robinson, an entrepreneur at BEACON Kitchen. “I’ve met so many amazing people, learned from their experiences, and formed lasting friendships. It’s truly a supportive and inspiring environment.”
New Hill just finished the demolition on a new facility off of Carlton Avenue which will house the BEACON program. This facility once served as the warehouse and facility for Kathy’s Produce.
This sense of community is essential for fostering a spirit of resilience and perseverance among aspiring food entrepreneurs. It reminds them that they are not alone in their journey, and that there is a network of support and encouragement ready to help them overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.
Find out more about New Hill and BEACON here: https://www.newhilldev.org/intro-new-hill