When Evona Niewiadomska left her job at Workbar, a shared co-working space in Boston and Cambridge, she had little idea what was next, but knew she needed a change.
Niewiadomska’s Workbar job “gave me a lot of ammo to be a business owner, not just as a dream.” So she set about creating a new career for herself as an infographic designer, which would allow her to do what she really wanted: travel.
As Niewiadomska hopped from Spain to Poland to Croatia to Italy to Germany to Finland with her boyfriend, she kept up her running hobby, eventually signing up for a marathon. Eating a vegan diet at the time and living in a foreign country, Niewiadomska set out to create the perfect animal-product-free cookie to fuel her training.
“Vegan cookie mix doesn’t exist on the shelves,” Niewiadomska said of struggling to find a suitable product in Europe. She thought she might create one that could be sold in bakeries or even bigger stores like Whole Foods. “Once I have the actual product, where am I going to sell it? The initial cost was going to be huge. I can’t be the only one having this problem.”
After realizing what a struggle distribution is for small food producers, Niewiadomska (pictured above at right) hit on another idea: an Etsy-like website where makers could sell their products to people all over the world. And just like that, Undiscovered Kitchen was born.
After wrapping up her travels, Niewiadomska moved to Somerville to begin working on her idea. Undiscovered Kitchen is still a work in progress, but Niewiadomska hopes to roll out the finished website this spring.
“It’s a multi-vendor or e-commerce site where food vendors can open their store and sell products,” Niewiadomska said. “And it’s a discovery platform for people who really care about their food.”
For consumers, Undiscovered Kitchen will be a place to find unique food products, often those catering to special diets (gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, etc.). And for food makers, “it’s a way to reach new markets, new customers. A way to achieve brand recognition outside of their local market.”
While Undiscovered Kitchen will live largely online, Niewiadomska has been making a lot of in-person connections to get vendors listed on the site. She attended a specialty food show in San Francisco and has meet with food producers working out of Somerville’s Kitchen Inc. and Jamaica Plain’s Crop Circle Kitchen.
“Launching the site is a chance to establish relationships with people,” Niewiadomska said. “The site itself is really perfect for smaller food makers looking to grow. When I talk to people that are in that stage in their business, it’s been awesome.”
Not to say that getting Undiscovered Kitchen off the ground hasn’t been without challenges. Niewiadomska is currently working to solidify how she will monetize the site, finalize shipping details and how to help the vendors spotlight their businesses through blogging and social media.
“Social media is built into the core of the site as a strategy to get food makers visibility. The digital and media marketing side of things is what I’m really excited about. That’s where my creativity can really flourish,” Niewiadomska said. “My ultimate mission and goal is to help small-batch artisan food businesses get discovered.”
Images courtesy of Undiscovered Kitchen.
[Update 6/27/14: Undiscovered Kitchen has officially launched!]