When Florence Freeman moved to Columbus in 1996, she quickly realized there was an absence of ethnic food options in the state’s capital.
“My first thought was, ‘All you guys eat here are hamburgers?’” Freeman says. “Chinese restaurants were the only other ethnic foods here. I was stunned. I saw a huge need for more diverse food options as soon as I arrived here.”
When Freeman was 13, she moved from Sierra Leone, West Africa to New York City. She quickly began to encounter interesting foods she had never seen before. This sparked her passion for cuisine. Once she made her move to Columbus, she wanted to bring her West African culture and blend it with typical American cuisine. However, Freeman ran into some roadblocks along her culinary journey.
“The startup costs – hiring employees, dealing with overhead-related costs – I was not prepared for,” Freeman says. “I set-up two separate brick-and-mortar restaurants but the costs to keep them open grew too high for me to handle.”
Her financial problems, coupled with the wrong demographic locally surrounding her restaurants, made Freeman lose hope. She had spent nearly every dollar she had trying to introduce her culture to the masses through food.
In August of 2013, Freeman was introduced to The Food Fort through a friend. The Food Fort, a cutting edge food-based business incubator that features a fully functional commercial kitchen, breathed new life into Freeman’s catering business.
“I was able to start turning a profit immediately,” Freeman says. “The Food Fort makes it easy. I can come in, do my job, clean up, and leave without having to worry about passing food inspections or paying for food licenses.”
The Food Fort, powered by ECDI, gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their love of food with others, allowing private caterers like Freeman, bakers, and personal chefs, to operate their successful food endeavors at a fraction of the cost. Without The Food Fort, Freeman’s business wouldn’t exist today.
“I was ready to throw in the towel to be honest,” Freeman admits. “Without The Food Fort, I wouldn’t be in business today. My only complaint is that I wish I had known about it sooner!”
Freeman’s catering service, Fig’s Café And Bakery, will be featured at The Food Fort’s Annual Showcase, being held March 13th, at The Food Fort. For catering requests, contact Freeman at (614) 804-9384.
If you or your business are planning an event and looking for unique, local food options, please contact Jen Gable, Food Fort Administrator, at 614-559-0196 for more information.