Cumberland Culinary Center Helps Small Business Owners Get Cooking

Posted at 6:57 AM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 08:31:48-04

How do you take a recipe and turn it into a thriving business? An industrial kitchen in Lebanon is helping small business owners do just that. 

Sue Sykes wasn't always in the food business, but after years in corporate America she wanted to get cooking.

"We traveled non-stop and it was just time for a change. And so we thought, because I made a really marinating and grilling sauce, let's get into the food business. I have no idea how that happened but it did," she said. 

Now, Sykes is the owner of Tennessee Gourmet and a manager at the Cumberland Culinary Center, helping entrepreneurs and farmers, even local students produce, promote and package their products.

"We have 18 companies here. And some of them have previous food experience, some are absolutely blind on what they are doing," she said. "But when one of them takes off, the next person you're going talk to is Mike Weeks of Southern City Flavors, he just recently got into 85 Publix stores. We couldn't be prouder for him."

Mike Weeks has spent decades in the food business and has about 50 products that he makes and sells.

"[I'm the] chief bottle washer, marketer, I do it all," he said. 

Weeks said cooking at the Culinary Center helps him maintain quality control.

"I know what's in it. I know how it's made. I know it's all natural. It's the way my grandmother made jam," he said.

Now his grandmother's jam is doing well. Weeks is working over-time just to keep up with the orders.

"Really proud that my business is exploding. It's also scaring the heck out of me because now I need several thousand dollars worth of inventory."

The Cumberland Culinary Center is made possible in-part by grants, community support and donations. 

Once companies out-grow the space, they move on and new companies take their place.

"I would encourage them to do it if they have passion," she said.