WATCH: Chef’s Kitchen Soul Food Restaurant Completes City of Cocoa, weVENTURE Business Program

By  //  July 15, 2022

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Upstart Cocoa promotes the growth of minority and/or women-owned small businesses

Chef’s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in Cocoa, was the first business to successfully complete Cocoa’s new Upstart Cocoa program and get approval from Cocoa City Council for a $7,500 forgivable business loan. The synergy that Michael Blackwell and Lacy Bussey, above center with Cocoa Mayor Mike Blake, have developed at Chef’s Kitchen, located at 1070 Clearlake Road, can be tasted in every dish in the restaurant.

The soul food restaurant successfully completed the weVENTURE business mentorship program and was approved for a $7,500 forgivable loan

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – Chef’s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in Cocoa, was the first business to successfully complete Cocoa’s new Upstart Cocoa program and get approval from Cocoa City Council for a $7,500 forgivable business loan. 

The new program started in 2021 and was designed as a business mentorship grant to entice new or expanding businesses to Cocoa.

Upstart Cocoa is a program designed to promote the growth of minority and/or women-owned small businesses throughout the City of Cocoa.

The total awarded to the selected recipients was $10,000, of which $2,500 was allotted for the business to participate in management and mentorship courses through weVENTURE that explores topics such as business management, finance and budgeting, marketing, product/service development, and human resources.

In addition, weVENTURE Ignite 360 business mentors partner with the Upstart Cocoa recipients to refine a business plan appropriate for a start-up business or expanding business.

Once the business has successfully completed the program, they are able to receive the remaining portion of the forgivable loan.

Other factors considered for approval of the loan include the business’s potential economic and fiscal impact on the community and how that business gives back to the community.

The restaurant, which has been in business for about a year now, has established itself with a 4.6-star review on Google and with the availability of delivery options to the local community.

WATCH: The synergy that Michael Blackwell and Lacy Bussey have developed at Chef’s Kitchen, located at 1070 Clearlake Road, can be tasted in every dish in the restaurant. The business started as an idea inspired by the siblings’ grandmother. Michael and his grandmother regularly prayed over the idea of the restaurant, but unfortunately, she passed away in August of 2021. Her passing served as motivation to keep going and the restaurant opened less than a week later.


The owners of Chef’s Kitchen, Chef Michael Blackwell and his sister Lacy Bussey, plan to give back to the community by working with Cocoa charter school Emma Jewel Charter Academy through their teacher appreciation week and annual Blue and Gold fundraising gala as well as offer free cooking classes to youth in the Cocoa community.

“We knew we needed to do this not only for the funds that we would receive from the program but we needed to do this because neither of us knew anything about starting and running a successful business,” said Bussey as she presented to the Cocoa City Council.

“We would like to thank the City of Cocoa for giving us this opportunity to be a part of this Upstart program and for considering us because there were so many other candidates that you could have chosen, but you gave us a shot.”

The remaining funds of the loan will be used to assist with purchasing additional equipment, enlisting a bookkeeper, rental assistance, and marketing expenses. The City received 56 applications for two available Upstart Cocoa loans and is excited to see this program expand in the future.

“The development of the Upstart Cocoa Program enhances Cocoa’s efforts in being a thriving and competitive economic driver along the Space Coast,” said Cocoa Mayor Mike Blake.

“Cocoa is committed to supporting a diverse array of small businesses and helping them succeed and contribute to an enhanced quality of life for our entire community.”

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