Specialty Food Magazine

Winter 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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N atalie Shmulik, 33, knew she wanted a career in the food industry but decided to not listen to a mentor who advised her to get an MBA. She chose a less conventional path. Shmulik, a Canadian, studied English and theatre as an undergraduate at Toronto's York University and followed up with a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Gastronomy, a program co-founded at Boston University by Jacques P├ępin and Julia Child. Learning about food's huge impact on history, religion, society, and individuals fascinated her. It has also proved pivotal in her job as CEO of The Hatchery, a nonprofit food and beverage incubator headquartered in a poor neighborhood on the west side of Chicago where there is limited access to nutritious food. "You know the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none?'" she asks. "I think that's incorrect. You actually have to be a jack of all trades to master one. All of my experience in the food industry, in retailing, marketing, designing, writing, and consumer packaged goods, led me to this incubation job. I never would have been able to provide advice otherwise." Post-college, Shmulik owned and ran a breakfast and lunch franchise in Toronto called Sunset Grill. "It gave me an appreciation for being an entrepreneur, the immense sacrifices and rewards, the impact on the people who work for you, feeding and connecting with customers, exploring how tastes and dietary preferences were changing," she says. At a supermarket chain called Longo's she worked on their demo program and culinary school, introducing new products to shoppers and learning how they navigated the aisles. She also worked as a consultant on cold-brewed EvyTea, which helped her combine her writing skills with retailing. "I realized something big was coming down the pipeline and really connected to the opportunity to do more," she says. That's when she went back to school to take a deeper dive into the study of gastronomy and how cultures formed around food sources. And that's the idea behind The Hatchery, supporting local entrepreneurs without start-up funds or professional resources to build and grow businesses and cultivate jobs. The joint venture is between two Chicago nonprofits, Accion and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago. Shmulik was first hired as a consultant. In 2015, she helped spearhead a virtual launch of the startup to test the market. "First and foremost, I wanted to create a feeling of safety for the entrepreneurs," she says. "It's an uphill battle trying to figure it all out on your own, the margins, dealing with perishable products. We wanted to give them what they needed to be as successful as possible, a way to share strategies and knowledge and be with like-minded individuals. It can be so isolating and mentally draining and exhausting, and you question if you have the strength to continue." At the incubator's new $34 million, 67,000-square-foot facility, Shmulik teaches low- priced classes on how to start a food business. They've had 30 to 50 people signing up every month who are eager to network, learn about trademarks and trade secrets, raising capital, branding, and getting legal advice. Corporate sponsorship has been instrumental and the city of Chicago an enthusiastic advocate, she says. So far, 150 local jobs have been created. "I think I got the best MBA I ever could by running this company," Shmulik says, "and I'm so happy I went in that direction." NATALIE SHMULIK, The Hatchery Chicago SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM vision 2008 Shmulik buys and manages a franchise of Sunset Grill, learning every aspect of the restaurant business 2010 Works for a Canadian grocer, Longo's, marketing events and brands, doing in-store demos, hiring and training chefs for cooking classes, coordinating seminars, and writing food news for its in-house publication 2013 Earns a Master's degree in gastronomy from Boston University; works as a consultant for EvyTea in the Boston area 2014 Moves to Chicago to work for a food business incubator 2015 Becomes a consultant for a joint venture between Accion and Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago to find a way to invest in underprivileged food and beverage entrepreneurs in Chicago neighborhoods with high unemployment; the company launches as a virtual incubator 2017 The Hatchery is incorporated on the west side of Chicago 2018 Shmulik is named CEO of The Hatchery 2019 A $34 million, 67,000-square- foot facility opens featuring dozens of state-of-the- art kitchens, business planning services, event spaces, and classrooms Julie Besonen writes for The New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com PHOTO THE HATCHERY CHICAGO

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