Dream HUB strives to incubate not just new businesses, but also underserved communities

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Location is key to any business’ success, but for food and beverage startups the best place to set up shop may not be the hottest spot in town – rather it could be one surrounded by underserved populations where the community and company can help each other grow, according to the co-founder of the incubator Dream HUB.

Kevin Echevarria, who also is the CEO of Dream HUB, explained at the Good Food Festival in Chicago last month that by building Dream HUB’s shared kitchen in the central warehouse district and a new food hall in an underserved neighborhood the incubator is able to get a better price per square foot and offer a lower rate program to people coming in, while also helping to boost the surrounding area’s economy.

“When you talk about regentrification, it is usually in a negative note where people are like, ‘Well, you are raising rents and you are driving the people who are here out.’ But what we found is that those people are the ones driving the growth now,”​ Echevarria said.

He explained that the entrepreneurs who come to Dream HUB typically live nearby and are typically the ones who are “left out”​ of traditional gentrification. But in this case, he said, they are driving the narrative by creating businesses in the community that also employ people from the community.

One way that Dream HUB is facilitating this duel growth is by recently opening a food hall that will allow its members to experience brick and mortar retail at a reduced rate and with support from the incubator’s other services. In addition, by building the food hall in an area with currently limited store fronts and businesses, Dream HUB is attracting the attention of real estate developers and other companies that want to build more commercial space, which in turn attracts more consumers to the area.

Incubators & accelerators should team with municipality services

In a traditional regentrification model, this is where things can get sticky, Echevarria acknowledged. But, he said, incubators and accelerators interested in helping not just entrepreneurs, but also the communities where their clients live and work can do so by teaming with area schools and municipalities.

“The hard part of business is that a lot of decisions are really driven by simply numbers. You have a demand for a product or you have a demand for more space and the numbers start to rise above that. So, if we start to get to the point where we are displacing people who are not entrepreneurs,”​ then it becomes part of the companies’ responsibility to empower those people and create more jobs, he said.

In this situation, he noted, one of the big questions is what is the job training that is being offered at a local level.

“Incubators are incubating business, but incubators can also start to implement programs or work with community colleges or work with municipalities for job training. One of the single largest issues that our members have is sometimes finding the right people. And so, if we are driving that gentrification, but we are also providing that work skills program, we have the ability to bring it full circle not just for entrepreneurs, but the very people who live in those communities,”​ he said.

A unique hub and spoke model gives Dream HUB flexibility

But this is only one way that Dream HUB is balancing the needs of entrepreneurs and the existing community. Through its unique hub and spoke model it is helping to meet the needs of both groups through a variety of means.

“We are a hub and spoke business model, where the hub manages and oversees all of the spokes and then each spoke does a very specific component,”​ Eschevarria explained.

For example, Dream Kitchen is the company’s shared kitchen space, Dream Kitchen EDU is the educational arm which helps companies develop business plans and accelerate their company, Dream Brand focuses on brand development, Dream Solutions concentrates on connecting entrepreneurs with financial resources, and Dream Foods and Dream Distributors helps get products and services to consumers.

The structure allows Dream HUB to better serve a variety of people who have different needs and challenges, Eschevarria said. “They are all highly specialized with very specific teams in order to meet the unique challenges that each of them are going to face. So it is not a cookie cutter approach like most incubators have. We really take this eco system approach … within the hub and then we plug them in.”


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