The Street Food Institute – Welcoming a New Group of Entrepreneurs
By Tina Garcia-Shams, Executive Director, Street Food Institute | July 5, 2018
The restaurant industry in New Mexico has over $3.5 million in annual sales and employs over 90,000 people, about 12 percent of employment in the state. In terms of Albuquerque’s economic health, the food industry is a key area where we have opportunities for job growth with accessible entry points. This article by Tina Garcia-Shams, executive director of the Street Food Institute, covers how SFI helps food entrepreneurs realize their dreams of owning and operating successful foodservice businesses.
The beginning of each semester is a really exciting time for the Street Food Institute. We are getting ready to welcome the next group of local food entrepreneurs in our Entrepreneurial Food Management class. In our four and a half years operating the program, we have served approximately 180 food entrepreneurs, and seen 17 successful food service businesses start.
It’s always amazing to see the unique and creative ideas our students have: maybe they want to start a food truck, maybe they are interested in opening their own café or maybe they make the best pies in town. Whatever path they choose, the Street Food Institute is ready and able to support them on their journey.
Our students spend 12 weeks learning the ins and outs of starting a business – from permitting and licensing, to marketing and financing. They also have the opportunity to participate in a Street Food Institute internship, which allows them to get hands-on experience in three different contexts: on our food truck, with our catering operation and at our Street Food Institute Café, located on Central New Mexico Community College main campus.
Street Food Institute is fortunate to have had a long-term partnership with CNM and we love being able to work with their culinary students and staff to offer a unique opportunity to not only gain experience in the culinary field, but to test and market their concepts. There is nothing better than getting direct feedback from customers about how to be even better! We also offer our student entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their business at the Albuquerque Rail Yard Market every Sunday during the market season at the “Street Food Institute Presents” vendor booth. Street Food Institute staff and instructors provide consultation and support so that our students can have the best experience possible while also learning what it takes to operate a small food business.
Street Food Institute’s most recent endeavor was to re-open the food service/cafeteria on CNM’s main campus. We wanted to create a place that offered homemade healthy food options but also served as a business incubator. We currently have three student businesses selling their products in the Café and it has been a huge success – not just for the businesses themselves, but as a model for what’s possible. This model allows multiple entrepreneurs to explore and grow their businesses in a shared environment.
As a social enterprise and food entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand how difficult and overwhelming it can be to get started. Whether entrepreneurs are trying to navigate the permitting process, design a food truck, find an affordable commissary kitchen or cost out a menu, we do everything we can to ensure success for our students. We do this not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because at the end of the day it’s great for New Mexico’s economy.