Toronto Underground Market: Food & Beverage Incubator
Last weekend I checked out the Toronto Underground Market’s (TUM) second anniversary party at the Evergreen Brick Works. TUM is essentially like a business incubator, but for food & beverage operators. The organization started out in 2010 and has become a forum for emerging chefs to test out menu ideas and business practices. TUM has helped launched successful permanent restaurants, including Seven Lives, Fidel Castro, Rock Lobster, La Carnita, and Hot Bunzz.
I’m no foodie, but the concept sounded fun so we went to check it out. It was actually pretty interesting to sample all the relatively unpolished food options and see the emerging trends (apparently kimchi is now super popular?). Some operators obviously still need some tweaking to their recipes, while others had great food but hilariously slow production time. A few notable vendors had found a winning combination of price, quality, and efficiency. Not everyone is cut out to join the competitive food & beverage industry, which is what makes TUM so compelling in that it gives entrepreneurs a platform to test out these concepts with a comparatively low investment cost.
According to Toronto Life, the success of TUM is driving the concept towards a more permanent setup.
Founder Hassel Aviles says that Toronto Underground Market events are as popular as ever, drawing 1200–1500 eager supporters each. She also told us that she and business partner Kate Clegg are in the process of developing Sumac, a year-round service that will offer food entrepreneurs a social space to develop and launch new businesses. The pair has already won a spot in the inaugural cohort of MaRS Centre for Impact Investing’s Impact 8 program, which will equip them with effective fundraising skills.
Overall, I’m excited about any idea that lets emerging entrepreneurs get a start. The lower the entry barriers and the more public exposure we can provide, the more dynamic our future cities will be.