Food entrepreneurs in Philadelphia can now access a new web portal designed to assist community and student businesses in navigating how to plan, launch and grow successful small food enterprises. Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health ProfessionsCharles D. Close School of EntrepreneurshipDrexel Food Lab, and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute together released Open Access Philadelphia to better support local small food businesses.

Open Access Philadelphia is a free one-stop-shop online portal for student and community food entrepreneurs to find and utilize local resources for capital, permitting and licensing, and training for planning, launching, and growing their businesses. Open Access DC was released in November 2022 in collaboration with Howard University, making Philadelphia the second city in the United States to offer an Open Access online portal.

“The Drexel Food Lab and our certificate programs support student and community food entrepreneurs through product development and technical assistance,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, Food Lab program director and professor in College of Nursing and Health Professions. “Small food entrepreneurs have for decades faced challenges to operating successful businesses, made only harder over the past few years because of the pandemic.”

The Drexel Food Lab is a food product design and culinary innovation lab that applies culinary arts and science to improve the health of people, the planet, and economies. The Food Lab and Drexel’s Food Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs played a critical role in customizing the portal for Philly’s food entrepreneurs and students. The portal helps those who previously had to visit multiple sites and agencies to get help or answers related to certifications, permitting, financial management, and other areas of business administration.

“Open Access Philadelphia will streamline how entrepreneurs navigate necessary steps to creating or growing a sustainable, thriving food business, helping them connect to the right partners in the food entrepreneurship ecosystem in Philadelphia, from funders, to business coaches, to copackers,” said Deutsch.

Open Access Philadelphia builds on the work of other cities to develop similar portals, like Washington DC’s Open Access, which is unique in meeting the specific needs of food entrepreneurs and providing city-specific content for a wide range of food businesses and types.

“This is an important new tool for food businesses and can greatly reduce the burden on individuals figuring out where to go and what they need to either open or remain open, said Glenn Williams, PhD, assistant dean of Health Sciences and associate professor in the College Nursing and Health Professions. “I’m excited that Drexel was able to play a central role in offering this as a new tool for city food businesses.”

The Drexel Food Lab and Food & Society will continue to seek funding to translate the portal into multiple languages and host future in-person events. Anyone can view Open Access Philadelphia on all digital devices at

Open Access Philadelphia is part of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute’s Open Access initiative, which shows food entrepreneurs how to navigate through and over the many challenges to financing and business ownership. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and after an 18-month interview and scoping process, Food & Society created the open-source web code available at no-cost to cities and other organizations to launch portals to help food entrepreneurs in their communities.

Food & Society at the Aspen Institute brings together leaders and decision-makers in the food and beverage industry and the public health community—scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food makers of all kinds—to find solutions to production, health, and communications challenges in the food system.

“Philadelphia has been one of our principal targets from the first moment we came up with a simpler way to help food entrepreneurs navigate the resources available where they live,” says Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society. “Few cities have been as active as Philadelphia in trying to help entrepreneurs of all kinds, and its mixture of strongly engaged city agencies, academic departments and other sectors makes it a perfect city for Open Access. We’re really excited to have the Drexel Food Lab as our launch partner in Philadelphia and can’t wait to see everything the community offers in one, easy-to-access place.”

Interested cities and organizations can view the Open Access initiative page for a Get Started Guide.