Poppy Pies was launched in January. Owner Gray Welch has three portable ovens that he sets up at markets, festivals and private events to make classic Neapolitan-style pizzas.
His business is always on the move, but he needed a place to store his dough.
Welch was able to launch his business quickly by using the communal kitchen at Ecoshed, a coworking space that opened last year in an industrial park in Jackson.
“You need freezer space, you need refrigeration, you need a place to put 10, 50-pound bags of flour,” Welch said. “Ecoshed is invaluable. As far as I know, there is no other infrastructure where people can pay as they go.
Ecoshed offers a coworking space, where people pay for a workplace or even rent a full office. The airy space in a former pipe distribution facility has contemporary decor, with perks like an espresso machine. The full commercial kitchen, however, is an unusual feature for a coworking space and allows food entrepreneurs like Welch to launch a business with less upfront investment.
Welch said he spent about $6,000 to launch Poppy Pies, which includes the cost of portable ovens that can reach 1,000 degrees. By using the Ecoshed commercial kitchen, he saved the start-up costs and time it would take to build his own facility.
Ecoshed commercial kitchen rental rates range from $500 to $2,500 per month, depending on the business’s use of the space.
Tiffany Jackson launched Ms. T’s Sweets and Treats nearly a decade ago. She makes jams, jellies, pickles, cookies and pies.
“We’re doing everything our current generations have lost with the advent of refrigeration and preservatives,” Jackson said. “I learned to make these products from my grandmothers.”
Jackson, under Mississippi’s cottage food law, could use her home kitchen, but she had to sell her produce directly to customers at places like farmers’ markets.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jackson lost other sources of income and decided to make Mrs. T, her side business, her primary focus.
By using Ecoshed’s licensed commercial kitchen, Jackson can go beyond the cottage law restriction and wholesale its products to stores. Currently, her preserves are available at the Mississippi Museum of Art’s gift shop, where large jars of pickled items she made have been incorporated into a piece in the new exhibit “Movement in All Directions: The Legacies of the great migration”.
Currently, four food businesses use Ecoshed’s commercial kitchen. The kitchen could accommodate up to four additional users, said Ecoshed general manager Barrett Higginbotham.
“Some of our members have a lot of experience. Some have very little and just a dream,” Higginbotham said.
Fertile Ground Farms, a chemical-free, quarter-acre urban farm, is also located on the Ecoshed property. Some of Ecoshed’s food entrepreneurs use products from Fertile Grounds.
Ecoshed opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after vaccines became available. Many early adopters were eager to get out of their home office. Others, including Welch, decided to start new businesses after their lives were turned upside down by pandemic shutdowns.
The approximately 60 members who use the Ecoshed’s office space include lawyers, DJs, graphic designers, marketers, a yoga instructor and the founder of Jackson Flea, a monthly flea market held in the courtyard of the Ecoshed.
“There’s an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration and sharing of ideas when you’re in close proximity to each other,” Higginbotham said. “It’s very difficult to get things done when you’re in silos.”