The Rapidian

Local food entrepreneurs now eligible for free legal assistance

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Food entrepreneurs using the Downtown Market's Incubator Kitchen are eligible to receive free legal assistance as part of Varnum's MiSpringboard program. Varnum recently pledged an additional $1 million to the innovative entrepreneurs creating a vibrant startup community in Michigan.
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/Photo credit: Michael Malek

Beginning this week, the Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is the newest referral organization for Varnum Law’s MiSpringboard program. Food entrepreneurs working out of the commercial kitchen space will now be eligible to receive free legal assistance from Varnum as part of the program started in 2011. Varnum recently pledged an additional $1 million to the innovative entrepreneurs creating a vibrant startup community in Michigan.

MiSpringboard is Varnum’s statewide initiative designed to remove some of the barriers associated with starting a business, by providing free legal services to Michigan startups. The program will assist growing businesses incubated by the Downtown Market with free legal consultation and services. 

“The Incubator Kitchen has become the starting point for dozens of new food entrepreneurs and startup businesses in West Michigan,” said Varnum attorney Jake Droppers, who co-chairs the firm's Food Law Group. “In partnership with the Downtown Market, we want to help those entrepreneurs remove barriers for growth and become thriving businesses and employers in our community.”

Although services are tailored to fit individual client needs, typical legal services for MiSpringboard clients include company formation and operating agreements, employment agreements, vendor contracts, trademark work and licensing agreements. Clients referred by Downtown Market may also receive specialized services such as assistance with FDA labeling requirements. Ideal candidates for MiSpringboard are companies with a viable business plan, the potential to be engines of job growth in Michigan and a need for legal services.

Part of the Downtown Market’s Education Foundation, the Incubator Kitchen is not only a licensed commercial kitchen, but also an inclusive space for food startups and entrepreneurs seeking resources, support, and technical assistance. There are more than 20 small food and beverage startups currently using the space, as well as students from Kent Intermediate School District’s culinary program. 

“Most startups have a great idea or talent, but may need some outside assistance to lay the groundwork for a successful business,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “Varnum’s strong legal resources are a perfect addition to the support we offer startups. They will be invaluable partners to the small businesses we’re incubating here at the Market.”

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