Leav·en | /lev-ən/
1. a substance, typically yeast, that is used in dough to make it rise.
2. a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better.
/Levən/ is a collaborative kitchen that allows for both. We are a Department of Agriculture certified kitchen that is acutely aware of the barriers in place for food businesses, especially when it comes to minority entrepreneurs. Although there are hundreds of businesses looking for a kitchen space, we are committed to serving communities of color, specifically Black and Brown communities, and even more specifically the femmes and LGBTQIA+ in those communities, that have been systematically shut out of opportunities of ownership in Atlanta's thriving food culture.
Our members-first approach brings every facet of running a successful food business within our members' reach. Along with having a commercial kitchen space to create, members will have a place to learn about business planning, financing, smart growth, health and safety, hiring, and even finding and procuring a commercial location if/when they outgrow our space. Our 11,000 sqft facility houses eleven different kitchen stations, communal office space, a classroom/learning kitchen, and ample storage space.
Our goal is to be cost conscious with our plans, assuring our members get the most bang for their buck.
Our a la carte payment model will go against the traditional archetype of steep up front pricing, high and unattainable monthly rental rates, and yearly contracts. This allows members, no matter where they are in their process, access to the infrastructure and education needed to succeed. From those brand new to the world of food, needing access to a professional kitchen to bring their visions to life; to chefs who have honed their craft, but aren't sure what exactly a balance sheet is, we are here to create an environment of transformation and success.
Krystle Rodriguez - Owner/Operator
Community has always been Krystle's passion, and she has used her Sociology degree to understand the importance of connection, community, and cultivating a culture.
She is a founding owner and the current operator of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Atlanta, Ga, opening the business at the age of 27. Today there are two locations with two more slated to open in the next two years.
Over the last ten years Krystle has found her niche while navigating the small business landscape, even being selected and graduating from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program. She takes her experience and invests it into concepts that focus on connecting marginalized groups to resources and to each other.
Fernando Contreras - Director of Operations
As Leaven's Operations Director Fernando does more than just manage the day to day operations of the kitchen. With more than 18 years of sales, customer service, and management experience, he's laser focused on assisting Leaven members successfully grow their business. (He also works as an in-house Certified Servsafe instructor and proctor, kitchen manager, equipment trainer, Mr. Fix-It, and sometimes therapist.) No matter which hat he's wearing, his goal is simple - to empower Atlanta's small food businesses drive measurable results and take their business to the next level.
When he's not at work, you can usually find him tinkering with all things tech, gaming, and hanging out with his wife and three children.
Lauren Carey - Consultant and CEO Of Sorghum & Rye Operations
Lauren managed Peachtree Road Farmers Market from 2009-2017 where helping young food businesses get started was a full-time job. Whether she was dealing with commercial kitchens, licensing and permits, labeling, insurance or good food sourcing, it wasn’t a job but a way of life. With a deep respect for local farmers, she co-founded The Farmer Fund, which supports Georgia’s sustainable farmers after natural disasters. Lauren is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier International, Atlanta chapter, a co-founder of Community Farmers Markets and heads up the Benteen Elementary School Garden Club.
Today a large portion of her time is spent helping to design, equip and develop kitchen spaces for local Atlanta food entrepreneurs.