You need to be hungry to want to build a business, to grow,’ says Cynthia Shanmugalingam, founder and chief executive of Kitchenette, London’s first kitchen incubator for food entrepreneurs, based on similar models in the US. Shanmugalingam is one of the last confirmed speakers at WDCD2015. With a background in social entrepreneurship and a passion for food, Shanmugalingam started Kitchenette to enhance the survivability of start-ups in the culinary sector.

Figures show there is a huge demand for Kitchenette’s support: the restaurant business is expanding rapidly, but failure rates are still high. Which is a pity, because successful start-ups add to employment figures. Already 1.5 million people in the UK work in restaurants, cafés and other food service businesses. In 2011 the sector contributed £25bn to the British economy.

Kitchenette helps starting entrepreneurs by discussing the potential pitfalls and mentoring them through them. Some of London’s foremost restaurateurs, including Iqbal Wahhab (Roast, The Cinnamon Club) and Yianni Papoutsis (MEATliquor) act as mentors. But Kitchenette is also building a community for food entrepreneurs to support and learn from one another and exchange information.

Shanmugalingam got her love for food from her family, in particular from her mother, who is, according to her daughter ‘completely food mad’. In previous roles, Shanmugalingam designed and managed the largest education innovation fund in the UK, the £1m Learning Launchpad education fund at the Young Foundation, and was appointed a Fellow for Dasra, a leading incubator in Mumbai, India. She was also the lead author of Growing Social Ventures, a guide to social venture funds and incubators in England. Before that, she worked as a strategy consultant and economist with the HM Treasury’s Fast Stream.

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