Business startups credited with lower unemployment locally

Center helps incubate small businesses

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - According to the numbers, unemployment in the Kansas City area is more than a percentage point lower than the national average.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that start up businesses - those two years old or less - are leading the way in post recession hiring.

And there is a place locally that is helping cook up business start ups.

For entrepreneurs Casey Conner and Karina Parreno it is the land of milk and honey, at least as long as they have the space rented.

"We have dry storage, freezer storage refrigerated storage, all the equipment that we need," Parreno, co-owner of Milk & Honey , said.

When they decided to start up their business in June, they came to the Ennovation Center in Independence, knowing they could rent space and equipment instead of taking out huge loans. The center has 30 clients renting spots in the industrial kitchen spaces that used to be part of a hospital.

"But really it's not the sweet spot. What we can provide is a community of ‘food-preneurs' that are helping each other share resources, develop leads, develop distribution strategies," explained Stephanie Zamora, Director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.

"I actually cried the first time we came in here when Stephanie was explaining all of it because it was too good to be true," Conner remembered.

Milk & Honey makes French macaroons. Their gluten free goodies are selling in several locations all across the metro.

"We were just written up in 'Spaces' this month and ‘KC magazine," Parreno said.

And they are doing so well they hired Chris Garrison to help out three months ago.

They all love being here at the center..."but we'd like to segue from here into a storefront with some sort of a food truck or food trailer," Parreno added.

And that's just fine with the Ennovation Center. After two years of operation, they've already had one business "graduate".

"Our goal is to create strong businesses here in our incubator that are able to sustain themselves in the real world," Zamora said.

Aside from the 30 clients in the food production section, Zamora says the Ennovation Center has two business incubator clients and two more in bio-tech.

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