NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Earlier this year we introduced you to the incubator program at MESA in southern Indiana. Known for hosting chef demonstrations, the kitchen started helping entrepreneurs make it to the next level. Now they've launched two businesses, that are up and running in the area.
In the heart of downtown New Albany, Jenny Watson is open for business, just in time for cold and flu season.
"So elderberry syrup is just a natural and effective way to boost your immune system and and fight colds, flu and allergies," said Watson, owner of The Elderberry Co. At one point, she was operating out of her home kitchen, so opening her own storefront seemed like an impossible dream.
"And I wouldn't, one, have had enough money to do that. I think it was a good stair step to test my concept in a rented kitchen, and that's what MESA's incubator program was all about," she said.
We first met Watson back in January, when she was cooking up her syrup in a rented kitchen, part of the incubator program at MESA: A Collaborative Kitchen. The downtown New Albany space is known for hosting area chefs, offering cooking classes and demonstrations mostly at night, which meant it sat empty during the day.
"It was an idea that we had. We didn't have a lot going on at lunch time at MESA. And we wanted to do something unique, but didn't want to carry a lunch," said Bobby Bass, who started an incubator program for aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs.
Now nine months later, Watson's graduated from the program to opening her own storefront.
"So not only did I get to test my concept, but it gave me the confidence and the know-how of how a business works to say yes, this next step is my own kitchen," Watson said.
While it's bittersweet to see her go, Bass says he's happy for her success.
"If they're still with us for a couple years that tells me they're not growing, which means the incubator isn't working," Bass said.
Watson's not the only one branching out. Another chef who often performed at MESA just opened his own restaurant in downtown Corydon, 1816 Modern Kitchen and Drinks, with a little help from Bass.
"So here we are. We're in week two of 1816 and we're working on another one with another chef that's come from MESA," Bass said.
That leaves Bass looking for his next tenant, ready to expand their business with a little help from MESA.
"We take it case by case. 'Hey, what's your business look like?' We're not going to hit you with a large rent. That doesn't help you, that doesn't help me if you only stay for a few weeks," he said.
Back at the Elderberry Co., Watson is ready to keep growing, now on her own, thanks to a small dose of collaboration.
The Elderberry Co., located at 302 Pearl St. in downtown New Albany, is celebrating its grand opening Sept. 21.
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