People to Watch: Kate Djupe

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the August 7, 2014 edition

You may not know it now, but Kate Djupe’s idea for the forthcoming “maker space for food and drink makers” could affect what you eat in Columbus for years to come.

“There is a lot of risk involved in starting a restaurant or a food truck or a catering company. There’s a really high cost of entry,” Djupe said. “I’m hoping that I can help people find out if it’s what they actually want to do … before they make that leap.”

Djupe worked in the restaurant business locally for several years (including a stint under renowned former Columbus chef Hartmut Handke) after attending Ohio State, but the idea that became The Commissary was born around the time her first son arrived about seven years ago.

“I started making baby food,” Djupe recalls. “People wanted to buy it, but then I learned you had to make it in a commercial kitchen, and it had to be stored in a commercial kitchen.”

She reached out to local restaurants, offering to pay them for use of their kitchens during off hours. When they balked, she realized there was a need.

“Once I got the idea that it could work here in Columbus, I started talking about it, and the more I talked about it, the more people needed it,” Djupe said.

Most of the money for The Commissary had been raised through private investment, but when a brewery that had planned to be a sub-tenant for the space pulled out, there was a gap in the funding. So Djupe turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

“I read everything about what you should and shouldn’t do in Kickstarter, and the first day that we launched, I realized that all of that didn’t apply to us,” Djupe said. “People didn’t want the swag. They wanted to be a part of it. They wanted experiences.”

The Kickstarter eventually raised $47,770. “It was amazing when I stopped recognizing the names [of donors],” Djupe said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve done something.’”

Djupe’s love for the local food scene extends to starting a non-profit organization called The Proof Box, whose mission is “to support food entrepreneurs.”

She also realizes that The Commissary’s primary role will be a supporting one for those great food ideas that will come out of their facility. “I’m only successful if they’re successful.”