• Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Fifth Third Foundation announces lead investment in 6888 Kitchen Incubator

Business expected to educate and assist food entrepreneurs, provide fresh food options to Dayton-area residents

By Danielle Jones

Fifth Third Bank

The Fifth Third Foundation announced its lead investment in 6888 (pronounced “six-triple-eight”) Kitchen Incubator, a business hub dedicated to providing resources to entrepreneurs developing food businesses. Fifth Third Foundation’s gift of $1 million to the Incubator will provide necessary dollars to help build its commercial space that will assist and serve the Dayton area.  

“We are proud to support this endeavor as it enhances the Dayton community by providing a much-needed resource that will benefit small business owners and offer healthy food options to the community,” said Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director for the Fifth Third Foundation.  

The 6888 Kitchen Incubator is a two-phase, shared-kitchen concept that will provide training, leadership support and commercial kitchen space. The first phase focuses on business curriculum development; the second focuses on the design, build-out and full operation of a 24-hour commercial kitchen and storage space that will be located at the newly renovated historic Dayton Arcade. 

The first phase will feature the Sharpen the Axe (STA) Program created by Dayton-based OH Taste LLC. The program covers a wide range of topics related to running a successful food business and will offer an accelerator cohort to approximately 50 founders per year focused on business and entrepreneurial development. Fifth Third Foundation’s grant will fund the second phase of the project, which is expected to be complete in the next 12-18 months.

Phase II will offer market-rate rental opportunities in the commercial kitchen and include a retail store where customers will have access to fresh and nutritious food options created by tenants of the Kitchen. It also will include mentoring for the tenants of the kitchen and facilitation of business support – such as sourcing ingredients, marketing and distribution, and access to capital services.

The name 6888 Kitchen was derived from the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only all-Black female women Army Corps unit to serve in Europe during World War II. The unit was credited with organizing and directing the delivery of a large backlog of mail to U.S. servicemen. According to www.womenshistory.org, the unit handled approximately 65,000 pieces of mail per day. The women also were hailed as champions for females in the United States who were serving in the military and who were confronting racism and sexism. The unit was active from 1945 to 1946 and consisted of 855 women under the command of Maj. Charity Adams, a Wilberforce University graduate who lived in Dayton most of her life, and Captains Mary F. Kearney and Bernice G. Henderson. The three African American female business founders who are leading the efforts for 6888 Kitchen derived inspiration from the Central Postal Directory Battalion and decided to honor these women by naming the Dayton-based business after it. 

Charlynda Scales, an Air Force veteran and current Air Force Reservist, will serve as the director of the 6888 Kitchen Incubator project and supervise OH Taste’s STA Program.  She explained that 6888 Kitchen will help create a positive economic impact in the Dayton area. “6888 Kitchen will be a hub that will draw various food entrepreneurs and provide them with vital resources to enhance their businesses, which will ultimately increase their ability to provide the best services to their clients.”

“This will also be a central place where people can purchase healthy food from local farmers,” she said. 

Jamaica White, co-owner of Divine Catering & Events and DCE Management, will oversee day-to-day kitchen management at 6888 Kitchen Incubator. She said the hub will provide an environment where entrepreneurs can test their ideas and products, while also achieving both short-term and long-term goals. “We are providing a launching pad for business owners to acquire the skills they need to be successful while creating an opportunity for them to connect with each other and share best practices. We want this to be a beacon of light for our community,” she said. 

Dabriah Rice, head chef and co-owner of Divine Catering & Events and DCE Management, LLC, said the effort is both a personal and professional endeavor. “I know that being a food entrepreneur can be hard at times. I’m planning to use my 15 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry to mentor the tenants who rent the space and who are seeking advice on how to make their businesses even better.” 

The founders of 6888 Kitchen Incubator are seeking an additional $2.5 million from other sources as they prepare to open the space. Their vision is to scale successful food and beverage companies into new restaurants and consumer goods that will bolster the local economy and attract more people to the city of Dayton.  For more information about 6888 Kitchen Incubator, please visit https://www.ohtaste.org/6888kitchen.