We are so excited to welcome Marizel Yuen, our new Incubator Operations Manager!
Marizel will be helping us manage the day-to-day operations in our Food Incubator Program and helping our chefs navigate the food business system. We interviewed Marizel about her background and goals for this position.
Tell us about yourself.
My love for food is deeply rooted in my family's history, tracing back to generations of passionate cooks and farmers in the Philippines. This culinary heritage was a significant part of my childhood, and when my family relocated to Seattle when I was just 10 years old, I found myself yearning for the traditional Filipino dishes that had been a staple in our home.
In our new city, Filipino eateries were few and far between, and this scarcity sparked an idea in my young mind - what if I could open my own restaurant? This thought planted the seed of a dream that would eventually lead me to enroll at the Seattle Culinary Academy, marking the beginning of my journey in the food industry. To fund my tuition, I worked in various restaurants and catering companies, gaining invaluable experience along the way.
In 2013, I took the leap and founded my first food venture - a mobile food truck and meal prep service that prioritized locally sourced produce and healthy ingredients. This venture was a success, and it wasn't long before I expanded my entrepreneurial efforts by establishing a commercial kitchen and food incubator, designed to support and nurture small food businesses in the area.
How did you learn about FIN?
My path led me to the Food Innovation Network, a project I discovered during a visit to a coffee shop in Renton. They were hosting a food pop-up, and my curiosity was instantly piqued. After introducing myself, I was invited to a meeting where I met potential kiosk business owners. As an immigrant myself, I felt a deep connection with these entrepreneurs. We shared the same dreams of business ownership and faced similar challenges along our journeys.
What are your goals for this position?
This new role presents an exciting opportunity for me to connect with, learn from, and better understand the unique needs of these entrepreneurs. My goal is to provide effective support and collaborate with them to establish systems that will enhance their operations. This includes standardizing recipes and implementing inventory management strategies to promote consistency, efficiency, and productivity in their day-to-day operations. I firmly believe that a well-designed roadmap is crucial to achieving both short-term and long-term goals.
We are excited to welcome Sandra Largaespada as our new FIN Program Director!
A bit about Sandra:
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 2018, I decided to move to Seattle for a change of scenery and to be closer to nature. Growing up in a Hispanic household, I was exposed to Nicaraguan and Guatemalan cuisine, which sparked my curiosity and passion for food. I became fascinated by how food is made and its impact on health, which eventually led me to adopt a vegan lifestyle and pursue a food science and nutrition degree. With my education and experience, I have worked in food product development, taught food education workshops, and managed food programs that support multicultural and underserved communities in Western Washington. My passion for food and commitment to making it accessible to all has been a driving force in my career, and I hope to continue making a positive impact in the food industry.
We interviewed Sandra so you can learn more about her.
What's your favorite food/dishes?
I enjoy trying variations of vegan food in different cuisines. My latest cravings are thai curries and Ethiopian food!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Enjoy weightlifting! Going on outdoor adventures with my dog and being around animals, organizing and decluttering my space, and reading books
Squirrels and elephants
How did you hear about FIN & Global to Local?
The food industry is a small world, and many of my previous colleagues and partnerships knew about FIN. So when cool new food system opportunities open up in the region, the word spreads quickly!
What are your hopes and goals for this position?
- Connect with the Chefs to learn more about their cultures, business goals, and where they are in their entrepreneurial journey so that our program can set them up for success.
- Get to know the community! I am excited to attend our events and see firsthand how the FIN program impacts community members and learn where we focus our capacity-building efforts over the next few years.
- I am excited to work with the FIN team and learn about their interests and unique talents. My favorite part about working with a team is embracing that we all bring diverse skills and expertise. My goal is to work together to develop program goals and build alignment with our work and vision while always supporting them through their professional development.
- Build relationships with new and existing partners! Primarily those who are committed to helping increase access to healthy food in South King County. I believe it's important that we expand our relations with groups whose values truly align with our commitment to developing positive food systems change.
We wish Sandra a great experience as our Program Director, and we hope you will meet her soon during our upcoming events!
Thank you, Kara!
It was truly a bittersweet moment when Kara informed me that she had come to the difficult decision to move on from her role as G2L’s Food Innovation Network (FIN) Program Director. It was bitter because I knew we were going to lose a tremendous leader whose commitment, expertise, and love for the work is unmatched. But, also sweet because it allowed me to reflect on the program’s incredible achievements that Kara helped lead. Over the last nine years, Kara took an idea and vision to expand access and opportunities in the local food economy and turned it into reality. Under Kara’s leadership, our FIN team developed and now manage two critical programs aimed to achieve that vision: Spice Bridge, a Tukwila-based food business incubator supporting aspiring immigrant and refugee-owned food businesses; and the Tukwila Village Farmers Market, a seasonal market featuring fresh, affordable produce grown by immigrant and refugee farmers right here in South King County. There are no words to describe the impact these programs have had for members of the community. We are forever grateful to Kara’s dedication and leadership over the years, and she leaves a lasting legacy of work in the community she loves.
Her transition comes at a pivotal point in our program’s growth. We have been at Spice Bridge now for two years (I know, it’s hard to believe). We opened during the COVID-19 pandemic and endured some very challenging times. That said, we continue to learn and with that comes new and exciting opportunities. We now begin the search for a new program director to lead FIN into its next phase. We have a talented and dedicated team and are looking for a strong leader who shares our commitment to equity and community empowerment. Please distribute the job announcement to your networks. We will be reviewing applicants on a rolling basis to ensure we find the right candidate for our community and for our organization. Please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) directly if you have any questions.
Please join me in wishing Kara the very best on her next adventure and celebrating her many accomplishments during her time at G2L.
Message from Kara...
After working nearly 9 years on this remarkable effort, I have made the difficult decision to step away from my role at Global to Local’s Food Innovation Network (FIN) program. While I still have much love and passion for the community and work, it is time for a personal transition and I know someone will keep the momentum going and bring new energy to the amazing work we are all doing together.
It has been incredible to be part of FIN’s journey — from the early community conversations highlighting the need for food access and entrepreneurship opportunities in South King County to starting a single farm stand that has grown into a bustling farmers market to opening the doors of Spice Bridge. I remember a team meeting in the winter of 2020 when we talked about the “many mothers” of Spice Bridge. Little did we know at the time just how necessary this village of mothers would prove to be — from the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic they have cooked up COVID-19 thousands of meals made with love. It has been an honor to be part of FIN and its work in building an equitable food system with community.
In community, Kara Martin
Join our team! We are looking for someone with restaurant/commercial kitchen management experience to oversee operations at Spice Bridge and provide expert guidance and coaching to the businesses participating in our Incubator Program. Learn more by clicking the link below.
Come buy fresh produce grown by refugees and immigrants in our community every Wednesday, 4-7pm!
Find us at 14350 Tukwila International Blvd, next to the Tukwila Library. We accept SNAP benefits and double them with SNAP Market Match. Starting this year some vendors will accept Senior and WIC vouchers. Customers may also pay with cash, debit, or credit cards.
We follow all public health guidelines to ensure a safe market experience. Please stay home if you’re not feeling well.
New to our market: The farmers market is now a Free Summer Meal site for youth 18 years and under. Meal service time is 4:30-6:30pm. No application or documentation is required. Youth must be present and eat on site. Additional meals will be provided to take home for parents/guardians.
Many know Spice Bridge as home to our Food Business Incubator where people can come and experience food from around the world all while supporting immigrant and refugee chefs in launching their businesses. But did you know about our Community Meals program? Each week, Spice Bridge chefs cook up hundreds of meals that are then delivered to food insecure community members in need. Our Community Meal program is double the impact –culturally-appropriate meals are provided to those in need at no cost and the local food economy is supported by purchasing meals from our start-up BIPOC and immigrant/refugee chefs. Community supporting community.
Thanks to grant funds from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Food Assistance Program and a partnership with Seattle Good Business Network’s Good Food Kitchen Network, Spice Bridge chefs are cooking up to 350 meals each week. Our community partners, such as SHAG and International Rescue Committee (IRC), help ensure meals are delivered directly to the community’s doorstep. SHAG home-delivers the meals to seniors while providing a check-in during a time of isolation. IRC has ensured delivery of halal meals to arriving Afghan refugees in transitional housing—providing the comfort of familiar dishes in a new home.
COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity in our communities. We are committed to improving the emergency food system, empowering the local community, and connecting those in need to multiple resources. Stay tuned for more updates this year as we expand this program, explore more partnerships, and connect with more food insecure individuals in our community.
As challenging as 2021 was, we celebrated many bright spots, such as the one-year anniversary of Spice Bridge, home to our Food Business Incubator program. We marked the occasion by welcoming more than 300 community supporters, partners, and friends to join us in honoring and celebrating the extraordinary program participants. In addition, 2021 also saw our first businesses graduate from the incubator program: Seatango and Naija Buka!
Naija Buka's products can be found online and at PCC Markets, and Seatango has opened a bakery in Lake City.
Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters and sponsors, we were able to close our capital campaign.
Our Tukwila Village Farmers Market also had a fruitful season with increased sales for our growers and improved access for community members. Community members experiencing food insecurity can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market with SNAP/EBT, SNAP Market March, and FIN’s “Heart Bucks.” In 2021, these programs helped community members purchase more than $17,000 of fresh and local produce.
We are determined to continue expanding our programs in 2022, and we are motivated to tackle the issues our communities face with the same grit and perseverance.
Leslee is deeply curious about the ways nature informs, business, leadership, and systems. Having decades of development experience with incubating and scaling businesses, she believes in a post competitive, open-source collaborative future. Leslee is a Mother, artist, and community builder and has held roles of instructor, chef, entrepreneur, and C- level executive. What she loves best, is amplifying the work of small businesses and helping navigate the peaks and valleys of leadership and decision making.
As a PNW food systems expert, she is passionate about economic and social justice, cultivating more circular local economies, rebuilding shared regional inclusive diverse food sheds, and creating accessibility, affordability within human-scaled economies.
"I am so honored to be joining the team at Spice Bridge. I was drawn to this position because it is a confluence of so many things I love. The main reasons being, working in service and support to food businesses and being part of a collective of humans who are committed to food justice.
I believe there has never been a time we have been working to solve so many problems at once, environmentally, economically, and for the health, safety, inclusion and wellness of all our community members. At a time when we feel isolated, the antidote to our fatigue is to find resources in community; the ways to work together, to find those who we can go far with. To collaborate for the highest good. To ask ourselves, what systems can we disrupt? What needs our nurture, and what needs healing? The work requires us to look deeply at ourselves and participate while holding curiosity and willingness to hold change. Food is a great connector, all are deserving of nutrient dense and culturally specific clean foods.
The culture around how we eat and feed our communities, globally and locally is reflective of our social and economic value sets. I have worked in many aspects of food, in potlatch economies, as a farmer, chef, and at home as a single mother feeding 3 kids. I have owned and operated a restaurant, worked as a consultant for startups, incubation spaces, and in micro and large scale distribution. My work and learning has been centered on engaging hard questions around what social and economic diversity and justice looks like locally, especially around re-imagining more equitable and participatory food systems.
As The Market Relations Manager, I look forward to meeting each of you, supporting new opportunities for growth and partnership, emboldening awareness about Spice Bridge, and engaging with the work we will co-create in 2022."Leslee Dixon, FIN Market Relations Manager
After many years of thoughtful planning, working with entrepreneurs and partners, and with a groundswell of support from you, our caring community…We did it! We met our capital campaign goal of $850,000!
Together, we built Spice Bridge, home to our Food Business Incubator program. This community treasure celebrates the rich food traditions of our vibrant, diverse community. Your support will have a lasting impact in helping women of color, immigrant, and refugee chefs access the resources they need to build thriving businesses.
We met our goal because of our community coming together to make this moment happen. Individuals, families, local businesses, community organizations, and foundations came together to build something tremendous together. Gifts of all sizes truly mattered in this campaign, added up they built Spice Bridge where everyone is welcome. Whether you gave $5.00 or $100,000, you helped make this happen, we see how much you care, and we are deeply grateful. Please visit Spice Bridge to see our “Food is Love” appreciation wall!
When we started planning this years ago, we were not in a pandemic. We began working with aspiring entrepreneurs to create a space that was inclusive, provided economic opportunity, and offered community connections. Spice Bridge opened in September 2020 and was ready to meet the changing needs of the food industry to support the Incubator businesses and also address the rising need families and seniors were facing to put culturally relevant meals on the table.
Now, in 2022, we are excited to onboard new businesses into the Food Business Incubator program, support the current cohort as they grow and scale, and expand our community meal program to provide over 250 meals a week along with Tukwila Village Farmers Market. This is ALL possible through Spice Bridge being a reality. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for helping us build our new home! Food is Love!
Kara Martin - Food Innovation Network Program Director
A.J. McClure - Global To Local Executive Director
We are excited to share that we are hiring a Market Relations Manager!
The Market Relations Manager is responsible for cultivating partnerships and development of market and sales channels for businesses in our nonprofit Food Business Incubator. This position manages the development and coordination of off-site sales (outside of Spice Bridge) such as farmers markets, pop-ups, and new satellite vending locations under development and anticipated to open in 2022. We’re looking for someone with food industry and marketing experience to support women of color and immigrant entrepreneurs to start and grow thriving businesses. Please share widely with your networks. Learn more and apply here.