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Detroit, MI

Godwin Ihentuge

So much about pop-up eateries screams convenience. There is no longterm lease to worry about. There is a lot of opportunity to play with the menu. The temporariness of it means the chef can experiment with decor and a number of other things.

That's what Godwin I. Ihentuge thought, too, until he launched his own pop-up eatery in downtown Detroit. He learned there was a lot more to it pretty quickly.

"We found there were a lot of things we had to take care of," Ihentuge says. "You need to be a economic development guy, a marketing guy, and a business guy before you even serve your first plate of food."

Ihentuge's pop-up, Phenomenon, specialized in vegan and gluten-free dishes. Coming up with those recipes and cooking them was the easy part. He and his partner showcased Phenomenon at last year’s Dally in the Alley, which sparked another business idea.

"It was one of those reflective moments when we realized we spent 70 percent of our time working on things outside of the kitchen," Ihentuge says. "There has to be a way so we could spend more time on food, preferably on our recipes."

YumVillage aims to answer that conundrum. The fledgling company, launched last October out of Bamboo Detroit, works to smooth the way for pop-up restauranteurs. It finds an open location, helps with marketing, and tackles the normal bureaucracy that too often drives chefs to pulling out their hair.

One of the biggest problems YumVillage solves is finding easy-to-use spaces for pop-ups. In one case it's holding a monthly pop-up engagement at Junction440, TechTown's co-working space in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. The idea is a new pop-up will get a chance to serve it food at the space, and workers at the startup accelerator will have an opportunity to try out something new and fresh on a consistent basis.

"People said there was just no good place for pop-ups," saysIhentuge, who also recently graduated from D:hive's BUILD program. He adds his company is working to create more locations like that were chefs can take advantage of commercial kitchens and existing clusters of people to try out new and innovative food concepts.

He adds that creating a viable space for pop-ups to live and thrive in today means it will be easier to launch the next hot restaurant in Detroit. Pop-ups are popular with entrepreneurs because they are cheaper to launch and there are no long-term things holding them down. So they don’t have to worry about spending tens of thousands of dollars on the decor of a restaurant or worrying about filling a space consistently to meet the terms of a 10-year lease.

"When you start off a business the main thing you need is money," Ihentuge says. "No one is going to give you that capital."

He adds, "as a pop-up, you're more flexible. You're really lean. You can change your restaurant on the fly."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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