06/17/2016

Cooking Up Success, One Entrepreneur at a Time: PREP Atlanta

By Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development

Small Business Spotlight | Atlanta, DeKalb County | Region 3

PREP kitchenI am constantly in awe at the number of amazing and unique food products that we produce here in Georgia. And I always wonder, “How does this food get developed?”

PREP Cook | Create | Connect is a fully licensed unique shared kitchen concept and was established to help build and support small food businesses in Metro Atlanta.

The facility works to empower the creative entrepreneur and help them reach their food businesses goals in Georgia.

PREP was formed in November 2012 and officially opened its doors in May 2014. Together, the owners of PREP recognized the need for a state-of-the-art shared kitchen facility that could accommodate various food entrepreneurs, including specialty food producers, bakers, caterers and mobile food service operators.

This idea came about due to changes in health code requirements, as well as the need for a shared production space for companies in Atlanta.

PREP envisioned that these potential clients would need a base-of-operations for Mobile Food Service Operators (Food Trucks) to allow them to operate off of their own permits. And the shared kitchen concept helps small food businesses scale their business effectively and efficiently, all while limiting their capital investment.

PREP’s members enjoy a multitude of services, especially in the procurement area. As many small food companies are starting up, they usually do not use a large quantity of ingredients and do not receive bulk pricing. This results in the increased cost of their finished goods, pricing many would-be customers out of the market.

PREP1These entrepreneurs also spend a significant amount of time buying their raw ingredients, which can keep them from ever graduating to a full-fledged business.

PREP’s revolutionary plan helps by providing access to vendors. As PREP clients place and receive orders, PREP’s staff stocks the materials in the client’s kitchen, locker or food truck/cart space.

Entrepreneurship is certainly part of PREP’s secret recipe. Two of PREP’s founding partners have been entrepreneurs for some time, and the facility was established out of their passion for locally produced food and a desire to share their business expertise with a creative class of entrepreneurs.

PREP currently has 8 full-time employees, but the number of jobs associated with the business through its membership base is well over 300.

PREP Members distribute their products to numerous retail and wholesale channels including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Earth Fare, Publix, Kroger, Atlanta Restaurants, online and in local Farmers Markets.

As with any production facility, regulatory barriers, the complexity of internal systems and integrations of technology have all been hurdles that PREP has had to overcome. There are no off-the-shelf technology products or systems for what they do, so PREP has had to develop their own software and systems.

But the rewards are great.

“Watching PREP members grow, accelerate their business, and begin operating their own businesses full-time are all rewarding parts of the job,” -Michele Jaffa, Director of Possibilities, PREP

“Seeing folks graduate from PREP into their own retail location or production facility is huge,” she says.

PREP3“If you don’t have basic business skills, hire someone that does – you need them to be an effective entrepreneur,” she explains. “Do your research, take your time and don’t undercapitalize.”

PREP is a member of Georgia Grown and works closely with ACE – SBA Women’s Business Association, the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, the Food Well Alliance and Sweet Olive Farms.

PREP’s success has been phenomenal in the Metro area. To continue their growth, PREP is currently looking at additional expansion in Metro-Atlanta and other cities across the U.S.

Georgia is a great location for PREP because of the people who live here.  They have embraced small food entrepreneurs, and as a result, have brought a proliferation of locally grown and produced foods available throughout Georgia.

Want to learn more? Call PREP at (404) 920-4150
 and check them out online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Waldrep, RyanGot a Small Business question? Start the conversation! Contact Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development, at (229) 868-3428 or rwaldrep@georgia.org.

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For more information on Georgia’s public-private business partnerships, contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development at 404.962.4000.

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