Business Incubation for Food Businesses


La Cocina is an award-winning business incubator located in San Francisco’s Mission district. La Cocina works exclusively with low income entrepreneurs and focuses on women, immigrants and people of color. A number of community-based nonprofits were doing business planning in the community in the late 1990s and they realized the need for affordable commercial kitchen space so that small food businesses could get off the ground. They, along with The Women’s Foundation of California, came together to build a shared-use kitchen and Business Incubator with a focus on providing industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities.

In the past 13 years, the businesses born at La Cocina have opened 28 brick and mortar spaces around the Bay Area, these restaurants, cafes and kiosks have been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit, The San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. They have opened factories, gained regional and even national distribution. There is increasing attention on business incubators and many cities that are interested in the possibility of opening shared use kitchens.

We will discuss the ways they build an equitable economy by shifting the opportunities for ownership to people of color, immigrants and women. In this conversation, you’ll learn about resources that can be deployed in a local economy to support small businesses and the unique opportunities within the food industry to create change.


Leticia Landa, Deputy Director, La Cocina

Leticia learned about La Cocina by reading a newspaper article when she was in college studying Anthropology at Harvard. At a holiday party, she happened to meet Valeria, the then-Executive Director and was soon hired to be the third person on La Cocina's staff. Throughout her career at La Cocina, Leticia has relied on her experience being the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to the US and started a business, to fuel her strong belief that business ownership can be transformative, particularly for women, immigrants and people of color. Now Deputy Director of La Cocina, Leticia has worn almost every hat at the organization over the last decade: writing grants, developing the incubator program, working directly with business owners, managing volunteers, consulting with other incubators, and providing vision and strategy for the organization's tremendous growth which has led to national recognition. She now oversees the Incubator Program, the Retail Program, Development and Communications and Strategic Projects including co-writing The La Cocina Cookbook which will come out in 2019.
Geetika Agrawal, Program Director, Kitchenette

Geetika first started hosting dinner parties when she was four years old. The main ingredient was play dough. As she graduated to using more edible ingredients, Geetika developed a passion for turning creative ideas into great businesses. With a Computer Science degree from Stanford, Geetika started and ran a software incubator at IBM. Launching new products got her hooked on entrepreneurship. At NYU Stern, Geetika focused her MBA on Social Impact & Innovation, while working with investors and entrepreneurs around the globe. At Acumen Fund, she managed the agriculture portfolio, defining investment strategies to help small holding farmers in India. In London, Geetika worked with community development organization Bootstrap to bring in new revenue and expand community impact, including co-launching the New York Times notable Dalston Roof Park. She helped start Kitchenette, a London incubator inspired by La Cocina. As the Program Director Geetika oversees the incubator program working with her team to support entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses and leading growth initiatives for the organization.