The Rapidian Home

Uptown Kitchen: Cooking up a small business

A 23 year old college graduate takes a school assignment and turns it into a new local business set to open mid-December.
Underwriting support from:

Contacting Uptown Kitchen


1514 Wealthy St. SE Suite 423N

Grand Rapids, MI 49506





Uptown Kitchen is set to open mid-December, and still currently in the construction phase.

Uptown Kitchen is set to open mid-December, and still currently in the construction phase. /Courtesy of Kelly LeCoy

Kelly LeCoy recently graduated from Calvin College with a business and marketing degree. For her final thesis project before graduating last May, LeCoy drafted a business plan for a community commercial kitchen space to help local businesses grow and develop. Her college project soon grew into a reality and Uptown Kitchen is the result.

Set to open in mid-December, Uptown Kitchen will be a commercial space for local small businesses in the food industry when they cannot afford their own space or are still developing into sustainable businesses. The space will include commercial cooking appliances that are not readily available to some businesses when they are just starting out.

“My core target audience is existing or new small food businesses, from cupcakes and cakes to organic snacks to catering to a chef who is considering opening a restaurant. There is no limit to what that is. The idea is for it to be an incubator,” said LeCoy.

The transition from a college business plan to a reality started when LeCoy won the 5x5 competition, winning a $5,000 grant to take her project to the next level. “[Five by five] kick-started the entire process from project to reality. It became something I was very passionate about. I spent a lot of time developing the business plan. All of the sudden it was reality.”

LeCoy says the 5x5 competition was a “fun experience to get up in front of a crowd of strangers and share my ideas and passions. It was a great PR tool and gave me a lot of credibility as an entrepreneur and gave me a lot of new connections. It opened up a new world of networking." 

Uptown Kitchen, a small business that is just getting started, hopes to pay it forward to others in the area. "There are some people in Grand Rapids who have some amazing talent. And they just need an avenue to be able to bring them to the market. I think Grand Rapids is right on the cusp of breaking out into this whole new food movement," LeCoy stated. In addition to kitchen space to work in, an event space will allow the community to interact with the local businesses.

LeCoy has hopes of "becoming a staple in the community so when people think food and small business, they’ll think Uptown Kitchen. Not only in Eastown, but in Grand Rapids as a whole.”

“Two big things that I’ve learned: one, do not be afraid to ask questions. I don’t know everything; I’m not ever going to know everything. There’s always someone who is an expert at something you don’t know. The second thing is knowing where your strengths lie and then letting other people fill in in an area where it might be a weakness of yours.”

LeCoy believes she took a lot from her time at Calvin College. While she realizes that the real word of business is more in depth, she is taking it all in stride. “You learn a lot in school and my professors did a great job preparing me for this. There are still those little things that you don’t have to include in a school business plan that you come across like city permits, dealing with the department of agriculture [and] applying for a federal identification number. All of those little things come up and they’re all little hurdles but it’s been a really good learning process."

One of those hurdles is the city permit , which LeCoy hopes to obtain this week. "It was really just a timing issue. We missed the last deadline to apply, so our opening got pushed back. Things are always going to come up."

LeCoy did an extensive amount of research to discover the best way to approach opening a small business. She interviewed a lot of local business owners, realizing quickly the gap between the Cottage Food Law and the jump it takes to sell in a store setting. “There’s a middle man there somewhere, and why can’t I rent kitchen space. These were all over the country, just not in Grand Rapids. I did a lot of research. Visited a few different commercial kitchen spaces and called for interviews at others.”

“I’ve worked hard enough and done enough research that I’m confident enough in the direction I’m going that I think other people should be as well.”

LeCoy appears to have almost no fears. “I think there are some that are underlying but I would rather be optimistic and I think that’s better for the growth of the business. As long as I’m always looking forward and finding new ways for it to grow and ways to talk about it and making sure I’m being smart about the business," said LeCoy. She is hopeful that the interest in her business plan will mean more support in the future. "[I'm] trusting that with the reception I’ve had with the idea that there is going to be follow through.”

“I don’t think I’m necessarily worried about the economy at the moment.”

This lack of worry isn't due to a lack of understanding, however. She found that while spending in general has decreased, spending on local and specialty foods has increased. Not only that, but in her eyes, Grand Rapids is a solid foundation for small business development. "In the Grand Rapids area you see a lot of restaurants and small business popping up and I think that the culture here fosters the growth of that.”

LeCoy is not afraid of the economy or her age. She says there is nothing negative about following through with goals at a young age. Instead, she finds it exciting to be doing something that she's passionate about and and seeing how it affects the community. She's looking forward to proving and the potential that it has, regardless of her age.

“I think it’s important to have a culture of younger people who are encouraged to be entrepreneurs and the community has to support it. The support I’ve seen has been incredible for the fact that I am young and doing what I’m doing.”

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.