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Mary Cervantes

Mary Cervantes is a columnist for the Napa Valley Register.

Spoon + fork = Spork!

Spork is a new commercial kitchen in Napa, owned and operated by Sandy Sauter and Brad Gates. Spork offers four full workspaces with stainless steel work tables, pan racks with sheet pans, a huge walk-in freezer, lots of storage room and space for product tasting.

Several years ago, Sauter was looking for a commercial kitchen in Napa for her own catering business. She found very few available and those had long waiting lists. Sandy saw a need for a facility in Napa that allows ‘foodpreneurs’ to concentrate on their products and grow their business or product line.

“Our mission is to create a community for up-and-coming caterers and foodpreneurs, and to provide opportunities to share our knowledge with other food start-ups to help them avoid pitfalls in the start-up process,” said Sauter, who also works as executive chef at the Culinary Institute of America.

“Spork provides an opportunity to be around other entrepreneurs with the same end-result and vision to make connections, learn from one another and watch each other grow.”

Once Sauter and Gates made the commitment to turn their idea into a reality, they turned to the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Napa Valley College for help to develop a business plan.

They decided to attend NxLeveL Entrepreneurial training in the spring of 2017. After graduating from NxLeveL, Sandy and Brad used their business plan to secure funding to start their commercial kitchen.

For more information and to check out rates, go to sporkkitchens.com.

“NxLeveL provided the structure and resources we needed for developing our business plan. We had no idea where to start!” said Sauter.

“Our SBDC Food Business Advisor was helpful in providing us perspective and resources of the local food industry.”

NxLeveL is an intensive 11-week small business training program specifically designed for business start-ups and business owners who are positioning their business for expansion.

NxLeveL graduates completing the program have a new business plan, new vision and the resources to expand their businesses.

This spring, NxLeveL Entrepreneurial classes start on Tues., Feb. 19 from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m. at Napa Valley College.

The cost of the program is $375, which includes the cost of the book, materials, instruction and 11 weeks of one-on-one advising with a Certified SBDC Business Advisor. Discounts are available for employers with one to nine employees.

For an overview of NxLeveL, the Napa-Sonoma SBDC has scheduled three free NxLeveL Orientations:

  • Thurs., Jan. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Tues., Feb. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Tues., Feb. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.

To register for any one of the NxLeveL Orientations, go to napasonomasbdc.org/">napasonomasbdc.org or call 707-256-7253.

The Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a nonprofit organization providing expert no-cost advising and low cost workshops in English and Spanish. If you have questions about Napa-Sonoma SBDC services, call 707-256-7250 or go to napasonomasbdc.org.

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Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or mcervantes@napavalley.edu

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