Business

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Yard, a hub for food and culture

By Nancy Dahlberg

Della Heiman is pictured with her food truck and cafe in the The Wynwood Yard, a vibrant outdoor space that showcases food entrepreneurs that she founded last year.
Della Heiman is pictured with her food truck and cafe in the The Wynwood Yard, a vibrant outdoor space that showcases food entrepreneurs that she founded last year. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

COMPANY NAME: The Wynwood Yard

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Yard is a vibrant first-of-its-kind outdoor space in Miami (56 NW 29th St.), showcasing food entrepreneurs and hosting a smorgasbord of food, fitness and cultural events.

Story: The Wynwood Yard grew out of the founder’s foray into food entrepreneurship.

Della Heiman traveled around the world as a student and young adult and for the first time was exposed to people extremely passionate about plant-based foods. “Through hours spent in kitchens and markets, upscale neighborhoods and shantytowns, schools, buses and fields, I learned how people from all walks of life grew, purchased and prepared food for their families,” she said. “These new friends taught me about the importance of understanding where our food comes from, and gifted me their time-tested recipes. At the same time, I also learned of the dark side of global food economics.”

While at Harvard Business School, her classmates encouraged her to pursue her own food business, which would later become della test kitchen. “I would throw large dinner parties, and they kept encouraging me to turn my recipes into a business. They helped me focus my passions for making healthy food more accessible to all and preventing chronic illness into this concept of delicious, plant-based bowls.”

After spending more than year conceptualizing and testing her restaurant idea, she moved to Miami in late 2014 to find a brick-and-mortar location for the della test kitchen concept, but then reality set in. The real estate barriers to entry for retail concepts in Miami are quite high, and she began studying less expensive and more iterative approaches to launching her business. The vision for The Wynwood Yard was inspired by food trucks, culinary incubators, food halls and pop-up concepts around the world.

I wanted to create an ecosystem that would help support new food businesses in Miami since I knew the obstacles they faced. The goal is to give promising local entrepreneurs a support system and launch pad for innovative concepts.

Della Heiman, The Wynwood Yard

“I wanted to create an ecosystem that would help support new food businesses in Miami since I knew the obstacles they faced,” said Heiman. “The goal is to give promising local entrepreneurs a support system and launch pad for innovative concepts.”

The Wynwood Yard, where people can come morning, afternoon or evening to dine, socialize, catch an event, sneak in some laptop time, work out or just relax, is a now a hub of food and culture in Miami. Hand-picked culinary concepts, along with a pop-up bar and a garden by Little River Cooperative, are anchored within an outdoor setting. The first round of food concepts has included della test kitchen, offering plant-based “healthy bowls of happy”; the omakase sushi food truck Myumi; Middle Eastern concept The Arabian Knife; Dim Ssam a Go Go, serving twists on Asian cuisine; and Vibe 305, a food truck and cafe with a social mission to help train inner-city youth.

Launched: Leased site in August 2015; The Wynwood Yard opened in November 2015.

Management team: Della Heiman, founder and CEO of The Wynwood Yard and della test kitchen; Ken Lyon, founder of Thyme Bar; Jesse and Sefra Levin, “Senior Cultural Chameleons.”

No. of employees: 60 people employed at The Wynwood Yard, spread out among the culinary and beverage tenants and The Wynwood Yard management team.

Website: thewynwoodyard.com

Financing: Bootstrapped

Recent milestones: Worked with The Prism Music Group to launch a series of events spotlighting talented local musicians and highlighting innovative food specials. Olé! A Night of Flamenco with The Arsht Center was among the most successful, and attracted an audience of more than 1,000. Orchestrated sophisticated, multicourse dinner experiences curated by top local culinary talent, including “The Saffron Supper Club,” “Nutritious Nights — an evening of Jazz, Hand-Crafted Cuisine and Specialty Intoxicants” and “Shabbat at the Yard.” Launched several educational series, including garden tasting tours with local farmers and chefs, adult and children’s cooking classes, free craft workshops with top local artists, and innovative yoga events with live music. Launched delivery and catering programs for della test kitchen. Named to the Miami Herald’s 2016 South Florida Food 50.

Biggest startup challenge: Dealing with unpredictable and unseasonably rainy weather. That stalled Wynwood Yard’s opening and created serious operational issues for weeks. “In many ways, the stormy skies ultimately ended up being a blessing in disguise,” said Heiman. “Excessive amounts of water exposed infrastructural weaknesses and gave us more time to improve operational kinks.”

Next steps: A big round of new initiatives and improvements is cooking at The Wynwood Yard, including a new bar and coffee program, aesthetic improvements to the property, new culinary vendors, creative workshops, a speaker series, pop-up dinners, and delivery/catering initiatives.

Heiman’s mentors have no doubt she has the big vision and the ability to execute. The Wynwood Yard has already been attracting crazy crowds, said Beth Kaplan, managing member of Axcel Partners and formerly president of Rent the Runway who has mentored Heiman in everything from business planning and branding to introductions and fund-raising. “She has an instinct for customers and sees ‘white space’ in the market where she can create something very special,” said Kaplan. “Della has the capability and the inner strength to figure out the next steps for her business. She is the real deal.”

Shawn Amuial, an attorney and co-founder of LegalTech Labs, has been helping Heiman strategize about various business models, arrangements with vendors and tenants and the Yard’s future direction. “Enthusiasm, passion and competence — those three qualities exude from Della and are key qualities of any successful entrepreneur,” said Amuial. “Her biggest challenge is time. Della has fascinating ideas for Miami and the food industry and she has the perseverance to execute, but there is not enough time in the day for her to achieve it all by herself, so she needs to find the right people to team up with to make it all happen.”

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