The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate
low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their food businesses.
Our vision is that entrepreneurs gain financial security by doing what they love to do, creating an innovative, vibrant and inclusive economic landscape. We focus primarily on providing resources to women from communities of color and immigrant communities.
At La Cocina, everything we do is done with hospitality, for our community, and in the spirit of opportunity and inclusivity.
Before the pandemic, we asked ourselves: How can La Cocina continue to support the talented entrepreneurs that we know gain opportunity? How can we continue to stake a claim that our communities, our cities, our country are better when we all have more equitable pathways to opportunity?
We asked former and current board and staff members, La Cocina entrepreneurs, journalists, community members, and staff from partner nonprofits to reflect on La Cocina’s impact and also to dream big about where La Cocina could head in the future. Those responses focused our ideas and led to three strategic pathways. Although we pivoted during the pandemic to address our community’s most urgent needs, these pathways will still continue to guide us as we look toward recovery and beyond.
Continue to deliver best-in-class and innovative food business incubation services for talented low-income entrepreneurs.
Evaluate and implement extending business services with an eye towards earned income and better business outcomes for participants and graduates.
Fortify and strengthen internal systems and sustainability of the organization.
Jennifer Huang grew up in South Sumatra, Indonesia, and began baking as a young girl. When her family immigrated to the Bay Area, Jennifer realized her homeland had little-to-no culinary presence in Northern California — even though Indonesia is one of the largest countries in the world. She especially craved the delicious desserts from her homeland, and this craving would launch a career.
A humble intention to make her favorite childhood food and desserts for her family grew to taking hospitality classes and professional baking classes, and working in corporate catering — all the while making and sharing Indonesian desserts with family and friends.
Years later, Jennifer discovered La Cocina and joined the program in January 2020 to grow her dessert business, 1000 Layer Bakery, out of our kitchen.
But once COVID hit, corporate catering – Jennifer’s only source of revenue – dried up. She attended La Cocina town halls and workshops, learning how to pivot her business and survive the pandemic. She focused on reaching customers online through social media, and orders poured in.
Jennifer added a limited savory menu and changed her business name to Nusa (“island” in Bahasa Indonesia) and launched at Noe Valley Farmers Market, where she sells every Saturday. She's also now at CUESA's Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market each Saturday selling sweets and snacks. Jennifer’s next goal is to scale production that will allow her to serve customers all across the Bay, and ultimately open her own café as part of her long-term vision to broaden the appeal of Indonesian food to the Bay Area. We can’t wait to be her first customers.
“My business before La Cocina was like a child — it wanted to grow, but it wasn’t sure where to go, and stumbled and fell down, and didn’t have the self-confidence to move forward. Having La Cocina was like having a mother — someone to hold your hand and guide you.”