Artisan Exchange

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Frank Badassarre, the founder of Artisan Exchange, had worked for over thirty years in the financial services industry. Many of those years include executive level experience. Frank possesses extensive managerial, lending, accounting and regulatory knowledge that has been instrumental in the success of the project. He continues to manage the day-to-day operations at Artisan Exchange. The facility is located in West Chester and has been operational since 2012.

Artisan Exchange is a small business incubator with a focus on the specialty food sector and a mission to “provide an affordable environment that supports entrepreneurs committed to producing hand-crafted, sustainable foods while sharing sound business practices that have a positive social impact.” Food entrepreneurs have access to a fully-equipped 27,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution center, and sanitized work and clean-up areas that meet both USDA and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture criteria for food manufacturing. Clients are allowed to sell at a year-round weekly retail market held on site to local and loyal customers. There is a collaborative feel to the environment that lets the individual businesses get to know one another and swap ideas and tips.

What started out as assisting with start-up issues has grown to a full partnership with between Artisan Exchange and the Widener University Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Through the relationship, the SBDC has helped them discover ways to aid in their order entry and invoice processes that had become a setback for them. They found ways to be more efficient and accurate in these situations. With the SBDC's help, Artisan Exchange was able to refinance a loan in order to move forward with the construction of their commercial kitchen. The Widener SBDC offers on-site business consulting, mentoring and networking facilitated by an accomplished staff and the unique partnership that was formed. The SBDC also offers one-on-one consulting to members of the Artisan Exchange and an on-going series of seminars and special topics for members.

Businesses in the exchange currently employ over a hundred people and supply over twenty local specialty food retailers with one-of-a-kind products that boost the local economy. They have grown continuously, almost reaching capacity at forty-two members, as well as having six “graduates” (who left the Exchange for larger autonomous facilities) and no failures or shutdowns. Revenues for Artisan Exchange have doubled from 2013 to 2014, along with businesses in the exchange tripling their revenues in that time period. They have been able to increase their staff to five full time and four part employees. Local entrepreneurs who are currently members say they couldn't have done it without Artisan Exchange. Families who have always talked about going into business with heirloom recipes are finally giving it a shot.