Drew Barrett founded Brooklyn Food Works, a small business incubator that provides unprecedented access to the formidable Brooklyn food industry, and many resident fledgling companies are female- and minority-owned.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
Brooklyn FoodWorks was the result of a unique public-private partnership which pulled together support from private organizations, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President. We identified a critical shortage of affordable, accessible infrastructure to support the burgeoning community of food entrepreneurs coming out of the borough, and then designed and built a solution to tackle that need. For me, the opportunity to lead the project was a perfect fit to leverage my previous entrepreneurial and culinary experiences to put together a resource that would be available to impact hundreds of future entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliff’s Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
As President of the Brooklyn FoodWorks, I oversee the strategy and direction of the organization as we look to grow and support the food maker community in Brooklyn and the other boroughs. I’m fortunate to work alongside a great team, and every day we go into the kitchen space and provide our businesses with services that make their lives easier – managed, turn-key commercial kitchen space, value-added services for their production teams, educational workshops on how to tackle early-stage food business challenges, mentorship, coaching, and creating access to retail touch points.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Without a doubt, my greatest source of pride with Brooklyn FoodWorks is watching the growth of our small food makers as they hustle and fight to turn their passions into sustainable business enterprises. As we continue to expand our member base to over 100 businesses, we’re able to really see the impact these organizations can have as they take on new employees, grow into their own spaces, and look to tackle new markets.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
In our business, our greatest achievements come from seeing the successes of our member companies. A really special moment for us was during the 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show, where a few of our members were featured as best-in-class for new food trends and food innovation amongst thousands of other products on display during the show. Our greatest challenge (and opportunity) right now comes from trying to create new solutions that can further benefit our members. A good example of this is the distribution program we’re beginning to pilot that will feature products made within Brooklyn FoodWorks and other great NYC-made products, all created with a cost structure that’s more accessible for the small maker community than traditional distribution.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
We’ve seen some amazing transformation in recent years as consumers have grown to appreciate and support local, craft food products in big ways while the barriers to getting into the space have become more manageable from the maker side. I hope that we see those trends both continue and accelerate further in the future so that cities use local food as a catalyst to drive deeper connection and engagement within the community.
Who would you nominate for this list?
One of our advisors, Derek Denckla, has been behind the scenes shaping and supporting Brooklyn entrepreneurial efforts for a number of years, especially in the food and beverage world. Many of the great success stories of the borough have his fingerprints on it, and he’s been instrumental in pushing forward community-aligned investment strategies that focus on long-term impacts as opposed to short-term gains.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.