William Burgess always wanted to start a community business in Baltimore to give back to his mother’s hometown, but it wasn’t until the Long Island native visited Fells Point two years ago that he settled on the waterfront neighborhood for his bucket-list venture.
Burgess, who has a background in IT and patent development, wanted to help budding entrepreneurs but realized that most startup companies lack the resources to grow their business. So he decided to build a mixed-use space to support them. “In order to fix communities, you have to encourage people to be producers,” says Burgess.
As a 30-year vegan, Burgess wanted to focus on assisting businesses whose products promote a healthy and organic lifestyle. In November 2017, he launched the Fells Point Culinary Incubator, a Fleet Street facility that provides retail space for startups to display and demonstrate their products to customers.
For $15 per hour for a minimum of three hours, up-and-coming companies can use the incubator’s storefront to test out their business model on a small, temporary scale. With a kitchen, food preparation equipment, and refrigeration units, the incubator specializes in supporting culinary-based clients, but it also houses cosmetic, wellness, and jewelry brands.
Burgess’ first client, Juan Nance, a former Baltimore City schoolteacher and owner of the social enterprise Healthy People Juice, credits the incubator for upscaling his juice recipes and providing access to distribution networks. “Working with Mr. Burgess and the culinary incubator has allowed me to grow my brand awareness and get my product retail-shelf ready,” says Nance.
Burgess views his project as a model for “specialized incubator spaces” that will help entrepreneurs transform their startups into self-sustaining businesses and, hopefully, connect with local investors to further benefit the community. “When you’re empowering and helping other people do good in the world, you never lose,” says Burgess.