The culinary arts have been Monica Wachira's passion since she started learning to cook at age 5. She went on to study catering, and has worked in restaurants for more than 10 years. Her love of preparing and sharing healthy food led her to join our Food Business Incubator and launch her own business, Monique’s Hot Kitchen, this spring. Check out Monique’s Hot Kitchen’s catering menu, and find Monica at FIN’s Taste Around the Globe booth at the Federal Way Farmers Market on July 6, and at our new Tukwila Village Farmers Market on July 3. (Stay tuned for more Taste Around the Globe dates.) You can also meet Monica at our Food and Fashion Makers Night fundraising event, where FIN food businesses will offer up samples of their delicious cuisine. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with Monica!
Tell us about your business.Monique’s Hot Kitchen is a catering business making authentic Kenyan food.
What inspired you to start Monique’s Hot Kitchen?Every time people come to my house, I cook for them and serve them as if they’re in a restaurant. They like my hospitality and they are happy about my food. They say, “Wow, I felt like I was in a five-star restaurant! You should open a restaurant!” They see that this is my passion. When you do something you love, it will come out perfect. I make food with love, and I take pride in what I do in the kitchen.
What makes Monique’s Hot Kitchen different from other food businesses?[caption id="attachment_2984" align="alignright" width="300"] Monique's Hot Kitchen's pilau rice, mukimo, and samosas.[/caption]I make food from scratch using natural ingredients, and fresh, high-quality spices. I can taste the difference between natural and unnatural food. [Where I grew up] in Kenya you could grow things in the garden and take them straight to the kitchen -- no GMOs. That’s what I like, and why I use organic food. I want to feed people healthy food. There is so much disease these days caused by unhealthy food.
What do you like most about your work?I love it when I know I’ve done the best job, and my customers are satisfied.
What have been the biggest challenges in launching your business? What resources have helped?The challenges have been figuring out where to start, how to start, choosing my business name, and accessing capital! Connecting with FIN and getting coaching from Kerrie Carbary have been a big help.
What would you say to other aspiring food business owners?Go for what you believe in, don’t give up, and look for resources around you. FIN is a great resource – you can’t go wrong working with them.
Our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses had a delicious debut at Pike Place MarketFront in April, and this month we're excited to get started at two more farmers markets! Here's where you can find our booth in May:Burien Farmers Market 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Thursdays
- May 9: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 16: East and West Catering
- May 23: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 30: Taste of Congo
- May 4: Taste of Congo
- May 11: Monique's Hot Kitchen
- May 18: Taste of Congo
- May 25: Taste of Congo
- May 3: East and West Catering
- May 4: Boujee Food & Things
- May 5: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 10: East and West Catering
- May 11: Boujee Food & Things
- May 12: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 17: East and West Catering
- May 18: East and West Catering
- May 19: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 24: East and West Catering
- May 25: East and West Catering
- May 26: Mamá Tila Catering
- May 31: East and West Catering
Pop-upsIn addition to vending at farmers markets, two FIN food businesses will have pop-up dinners at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent) in May:
- East and West Catering has a dinner-to-go pop-up from 5-10 p.m. on May 1.
- Boujee Food & Things has dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5:30-9 p.m on May 2, 3, and 9. Find them on Uber Eats if you’re looking for delivery.
We’re thrilled to announce that three new food businesses have joined our Incubator:
- Boujee Food & Things serves up comfort food, re-imagined. Check out their catering menu, visit their website, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
- Monique’s Hot Kitchen offers authentic Kenyan cuisine made with natural ingredients. Give their catering menu a look, and follow them on Facebook.
- East and West Catering brings fresh flavors from East and West Africa. Their catering menu is coming soon; in the meantime, visit their website to learn about their offerings.
Tasty events in AprilMeet the owners of the new businesses -- and other talented FIN entrepreneurs – at exciting events coming up this month:
- Wednesday, April 10: East and West Catering will begin holding dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5-10 p.m. at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent). They have more pop-ups scheduled at the same time and location on April 13, 15, 17, 22, 24, and 29. Their April 13 grand opening pop-up will feature complimentary food and in-store dining.
- Friday, April 12: Boujee Food & Things will begin holding dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5:30-9 p.m. at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent). They have more pop-ups scheduled at the same time and location on April 16, 18, 19, 25, 26, and 30. Find them on Uber Eats if you’re looking for delivery!
- Saturday, April 13: FIN's Taste Around the Globe booth will make its debut at Pike Place Market featuring Boujee Food & Things! Come get a delicious lunch or snacks between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Find them in the new MarketFront plaza near indi chocolate and Honest Biscuits. Our booth at Pike Place Market will feature rotating FIN food businesses on April 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28.
- Saturday, April 20: Naija Buka will launch their new Mama’s Stew Sauce and Mama’s Jollof Sauce products from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Cheese and Meat Festival. Learn more and get tickets on the event website.
- Saturday, April 27: Mamá Tila will be featured at Project Feast’s Migrating Meals. Learn more and get tickets on the event page.
Over the last few weeks, we've shared videos profiling each of our Food Business Incubator program participants. It's time for our fifth and final video, which features Mamá Tila Catering:Ofelia named Mamá Tila after her mother, who was known as the best cook in her town. Ofelia takes her time preparing authentic dishes from across Mexico, including many of her mother’s recipes.Check out Mamá Tila’s menu! And if you haven't yet seen all of our business profile videos, catch up now:
It's time for another video in our profile series of FIN food businesses! This week we're featuring Taste of Congo:The only Congolese food business in our region, Taste of Congo offers a one-of-a-kind experience! Founder Caroline encourages you to try her beignets, which can be enjoyed any time of day.Check out Taste of Congo's menu, and stay tuned for more videos in our business profile series.
It's time for the second video in our FIN food business profile series! This week we are featuring Naija Buka:Chef Lilian makes delicious, authentic Nigerian cuisine. Try Naija Buka's popular jollof rice, as well as fried plantains, peppersoup, puff-puffs, and more.Check out their pop-up event at Project Feast's Ubuntu Street Café on March 9! Can't wait that long to get your fix? Visit Naija Buka's new website to see their menu and make your order. Then stay tuned for the next video in our business profile series.
We're excited to share the first of five videos profiling FIN Food Business Incubator participants! This week the spotlight is on Soozveen Mediterranean Catering.Sisters Sheelan and Zozan founded Soozveen because they wanted to share family recipes and stories. Try their dolmas, hummus, falafel, and other dishes made from scratch and flavored with the spices of Northern Iraq. And don't forget dessert -- their baklava and jasmine cookies are out of this world!Check out Soozveen’s menu, learn more about our Food Business Incubator, and stay tuned for videos featuring Sherehe Kenya Kitchen, Naija Buka, Mamá Tila Catering, and Taste of Congo coming out over the next four weeks!
Our Incubator pilot program hit some big milestones in 2018! Participants share how it’s helped them in our new video; here's a breakdown by the numbers:
- five new businesses launched since late 2017
- over 55 catering orders coordinated through FIN
- 21 farmers market days through our Taste Around the Globe booth at the Federal Way and Renton farmers markets
- Make a tax-deductible gift. Your contribution to our Tukwila Village Food Hall capital campaign will help expand the Food Business Incubator and support entrepreneurs’ access to affordable kitchen space.
- Volunteer to help aspiring entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses. Next month, three more food businesses will join our Incubator. We're looking for volunteers with graphic design and marketing skills to help entrepreneurs develop brand assets and establish a presence on online marketing platforms. You can read the volunteer position description here, and please help us spread the word!
- Hire FIN entrepreneurs. Check out their menus and make your catering order now! Then stay tuned to this site, where we'll release a new video profile of each food business over the next five weeks.
Big thanks to our funding partnersWe're grateful to the Port of Seattle, Communities of Opportunity, and Seattle Foundation for their generous support of the Food Business Incubator and Tukwila Village Food Hall.
Use your graphic design or marketing skills to help an emerging entrepreneur launch a new food business! Branding and marketing support is a vital component of FIN’s Food Business Incubator program, which assists entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, and affordable commercial kitchen space. Most program participants are refugees and immigrants with low household incomes.Learn how the Incubator helps participants improve their economic security and build community connections.Responsibilities:
- Meet with an entrepreneur to develop their branding and/or marketing plan.
- Branding volunteer will collaborate with the entrepreneur to design a menu, and potentially a logo and business card.
- Marketing volunteer will establish and develop the business’ presence on web/social platforms. Depending on the marketing plan, this may include Facebook, Instagram, and/or other apps and websites.
- Volunteer will ensure the entrepreneur is able to maintain their web/social presence and update their marketing materials independently.
- Experience in graphic design and/or business marketing is required. Formal training in these skills is preferred.
- Commitment to racial and social justice is required. Experience collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds is preferred.
Incubator program participant Ofelia Anorve brings authentic dishes from across Mexico to the Seattle area. Check out Mamá Tila's catering menu, and read on for our Q & A with Ofelia.Tell us about your business.My business specializes in traditional Mexican food.How did get the idea for your business? A lot of people would tell me that my food was really good, and I should have my own business. Also, there was a lack of traditional Mexican food in the Seattle area.What makes you different from other catering companies?I take my time when I cook my food, and I do it with love.What do you like best about your work?What I think is best about my work is seeing people enjoy my food.What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business?I think people would be surprised to learn that my food is authentic, fresh, delicious and healthy.What’s your business’ biggest challenge?My biggest challenge is that if my business is growing fast, I can be under stress since I am running it alone.What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN?I would say that FIN is really helpful and you learn a lot.Contact Ofelia: (206) 265-9746 or firstname.lastname@example.org