From Local beginnings to Powerhouse Brands: How Union Kitchen's Ecosystem Propels Food Brands to Lasting Success

Union Kitchen CEO Cullen Gilchrist, Samy Kobrosly, the founder of Snacklins, and Margarita Womack, the founder of Maspanadas, had the pleasure of sharing their insights on Industry Night with Nycci Nellis. During the interview, spoke about the genesis of Union Kitchen. Margarita and Samy K discuss how the ideas for their businesses, Maspanadas and Snacklins, were born and how the Union Kitchen Ecosystem set them up for success including owning their own manufacturing and  focusing on a phased approach to growth allowed them to achieve profitability faster and more consistently. Snacklins and Maspanadas have both successfully scaled to a national level and produce at their own facilities.  

Cullen, founder and CEO of Union Kitchen has spent his entire career in the food industry. He worked his way through restaurants, cafeterias, and bars learning as much as he could. He began his entrepreneurial journey with the Blind Dog Cafe, a pop up cafe in Washington DC. As he navigated the waters of entrepreneurship, he was absorbed into a close knit community of food businesses in the area; a community that would soon become a huge part in the beginnings of the ideas behind Union Kitchen. In searching for a production space to make his sister's cookie recipe for the cafe, he found that the spaces were expensive and the process was difficult to navigate. He knew that he was not the only one that encountered this obstacle and thus the shared kitchen was born.

From this point on Cullen built a company around solving the problems of growing food businesses. He said, “every new company had the same set of problems, so we started solving the problem so that these businesses can be successful". This motivation to problem solve to help build successful businesses would lead Cullen to develop the Accelerator in 2016 and would become the mission of Union Kitchen. 

Margarita and Samy K discuss their entrepreneurial journeys and how building with Union Kitchen led them to success. They both came to Union Kitchen with just an idea. Through their hard work with the Union Kitchen team they developed a mission, strategy, and process. They honed their manufacturing expertise in our shared kitchen and would carry on to open their own facilities. In particular the idea of following a phased approach to growth was a major player in the success of both companies. Talking about Union Kitchen Samy K said, “we saw the importance of the data we could collect from the Union Kitchen stores, we could see that sales data increase, putting us in a position to take those numbers to other retailers to show them why they should carry us". He continued on to say, “Anyone can make something that tastes good, what Union Kitchen taught me is that you need that sales data to ensure you are making something people want.”

Margarita shared that growing locally first is not optional and is an important part of growing sustainably and seeing success down the line. She states, “you grow in small steps, and you learn from every step”. The community in the shared kitchen and Union Kitchen Ecosystem equipped Margarita with the resources to grow a successful food business, she states “in the shared kitchen there is a huge community, all with the same needs, and constantly sharing ideas”. Margarita and Samy K both leveraged the Union Kitchen Ecosystem to launch a market ready product, test product market fit, take a phased approach to growth, own their manufacturing, and then scale nationally. The Union Kitchen gave these entrepreneurs the tools they would need to build to last and become powerhouses in the food scene! 

Listen to the whole podcast here!