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Small business start-ups find success at Wausau business incubator


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- There’s a kitchen in Wausau that gets used by several small businesses. It’s the fully equipped commercial kitchen at the Entrepreneurial & Education Center in Wausau’s west industrial park.

Romey Wagner is the City Council President, but his day job is Facility Manager, for the center. Wagner says they offer start-up businesses several services and facilities, including a state certified kitchen for producing food products that can be sold to the public.

Wagner says people with food product ideas to bring their recipes to market and see if their products can grow, without the huge initial investment in a building or equipment.  “I have a state certified kitchen. We have twelve clients that have a product they want to bake or make, whether it’s a hot sauce, a barbeque sauce, donuts, cookies, soup, sauces. They work whatever hours they need to keep their hobby business going.”  He adds, “We have the huge commercial ovens, the commercial dishwashers, stoves, mixers, fryers. We have a twenty-gallon water jacketed soup kettle so they can make large quantities of their product and simply only pay a small rental fee.”

Wagner says a couple of new clients have begun production in the past couple of months. Some of the businesses have even grown into getting their own locations.  “Businesses that start up come in. We can help them out and allow them to stay for up to five years, and then we don’t kick them out, they graduate. We help them find a location in the area that works out best for them, where their clients can get to them. It’s like graduating your kids from college. We send them off with a smile.”

The Entrepreneurial & Education Center is a new business incubator. Wagner says their shared kitchen is modelled after one in Algoma which has over 70 clients with producers marketing items throughout the Green Bay and upper peninsula areas.  “We thought that that would be something that the area could use, with the people showing up at the farmer’s markets and things (like that) selling their products, this is a way they can inexpensively go into legitimate business and make their products safely, and sell it.”

Wagner says some of the success stories that started at the center include Jean Bean Soup Company, Luchi’s Pasta Sauce, Kim’s BS Sauce, Kaveli, JAR Hot Sauce, and Elan Naturally.

Sweet Lola’s Cupcakery & Bakeshop, and Sugar & Spice Cheesecakes started at the center and have graduated to their own locations.

(Listen to our interview with Romey Wagner on our website, here.)