Catapult Lakeland

Two kitchen staff are at work in the new Catapult Lakeland workspace.

A brand new kitchen incubator in Lakeland is helping innovative foodies turn their dreams into realities.

Catapult Lakeland is a privately-funded non-profit that aims to support out-of-the-box thinking entrepreneurs of all sorts by giving them connections, resources and a 40,000-square-foot space to work within.

With community at the heart of their mission, possibilities are numerous. This past June, Catapult’s dazzling new kitchen opened its doors, intriguing many in the local culinary industry.

“It includes seven prep stations, a take-out window for pop-ups, a walk-in cooler and freezer, a receiving area and a full cook-line,” said Maggie Leach, the kitchen director.

In their previous space, Catapult staff hosted Born and Bread Bakehouse, a local staple. The viennoiserie and bread bakery has now been in business for five years, has more than 10 employees and continues to draw in loyal customers willing to wait in long lines for their tasty goods.

Another notable success story from the food side of Catapult is CounterCulture.

Three vendors were all working in the old Catapult kitchen to get their ducks in a row. Debra from Baked and Darla of No Guilt Baking Company met up through the co-starters program.

Those two then met up with the team behind The Salty Cow and they decided to open up a retail shop together to sell their gourmet cheese, cheesecakes, dog treats, baked goods and low-carb/gluten-free/sugar-free treats on East Gary Road.

“They really helped all of us hone our message. Besides being very supportive, Maggie is very knowledgeable about permits, getting kitchen manager trainings and all the certifications. It was all really key to getting started,” said No Guilt Baking Company owner and CounterCulture part-owner Darla Markley.

Darla noted that there are a lot of confusing aspects of starting a business that staff at Catapult helped her work through and that, beyond the business-side of things, she still reaps benefits because of her time there.

This even led her and one of her business partners to mentor new foodies that are starting businesses like them.

“When you’re part of Catapult and you graduate from what they have for you at that moment, you’re never out of the loop. It becomes a family,” said Darla.

Food-based businesses that are excited to launch and grow are invited to fill out an application via the Catapult site. Since opening the new kitchen, 10 businesses have been licensed and 10 more are in the process of licensing.