Bella Karakis, CEO and co-founder of e.terra Kitchen in Harlem, opened her doors in April 2021. In just over a year, the commercial kitchen hosts more than 40 small businesses, and has become a hub for educational, social and community events. It’s also expanded into the La Marqueta kitchen space nearby. Karakis’s lifetime of striving, adapting, failing, and redirecting is its driving force.
With 5500 square feet, e.terra is billed simply as “a flexible commercial kitchen space … for food and beverage startups.” Located on two floors, it offers gleaming equipment, work, and storage space prized by users who are mainly restaurant and catering chefs, bakers, and makers of packaged foods. Beyond these physical resources, Karakis commits to delivering what she calls “the service support model: making connections and finding opportunities yielded by 24/7 networking.” She explains her inspiration: “I understand what it is like to be in their shoes and what it is like to fail.”
In 2007, Karakis lived in Stamford, CT, juggling her career as an intellectual property attorney and raising three children. She was stretched and stressed. “I was burnt out on law. I was dealing with a lot of unhappy people and didn’t feel like what I did really mattered.” Biscotti became her escape plan. “I developed a number of recipes based on my grandmother’s biscotti and worked with a consultant to help me with the marketing.” Karakis and her kids worked together in the kitchen and hung promotional signs for the holidays. “We sold out! Everybody loved them,” she says.
As demand grew, Karakis realized that she needed more space, but the nearest commercial kitchens were in Queens or Rhode Island. The extra distance and expenses would crush her business model. Shutting down was deeply disappointing, but Karakis is no stranger to adversity.