Executive Director

Executive Director

La Cocina

San Francisco, CA   |   August 10, 2021

About La Cocina

Founded in 2005 in San Francisco, La Cocina is an award-winning non-profit incubator with the mission of cultivating talented low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their food businesses. The organization focuses primarily on supporting women from communities of color and immigrant communities and provides affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance, and access to capital and market opportunities.

Over 16 years, La Cocina (pronounced la co-see-nah, meaning “The Kitchen” in Spanish) has proven its success in launching revenue-generating micro-food businesses in the Bay Area with little to no start-up capital. The incubator is a best-in-class economic development program, inspiring national replication and creating real and lasting economic opportunities for low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs.

La Cocina outperforms any Bay Area restaurant group in concepts launched and sustained with 130+ businesses incubated, nearly 60 entrepreneurs graduated, and 33 brick-and-mortar locations launched — from cafes and restaurants to catering companies. Pre-COVID, La Cocina-born brick-and-mortars created 250+ jobs and generated $16MM in annual revenue. These entrepreneurs have received industry awards and media accolades from James Beard, Rising Star Chefs, Food & Wine, Eater, and San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants.

This past April, La Cocina made history with the opening of its Municipal Marketplace, the first women-led food hall in America.

La Cocina’s work is rooted in challenging and fighting oppression born from long-standing inequities across gender, race and class in the food industry with the vision to offer equitable opportunity for living-wage work and asset generation, creating women leaders.

Working-class women of color and immigrant women, many of whom are skilled cooks, have traditionally experienced a comparative lack of opportunities in the formal job market. Being excluded from the mainstream job market and the formal food industry has prompted many low-income women to start their own informal food enterprises. However, as low-income entrepreneurs they face large risks and significant barriers to entry into the formal food industry due to insufficient financial and social capital.

The pandemic has caused women-and-BIPOC-owned small businesses to close at alarming rates. Yet La Cocina has not only kept its entire community of 74 businesses alive, but enabled some entrepreneurs to generate more sales than pre-COVID. Through a combination of rent abatement, relief funds, support with grants and loans, entrepreneur-led training, and new revenue streams, La Cocina-born businesses have recovered from a universal 70-100% loss of sales. La Cocina’s incubator model, community, and COVID response has allowed its businesses to survive and innovate at a critical time.

La Cocina’s talented and dedicated staff has over 100 collective years of food industry experience, and the organization is the best-known incubator kitchen in the world, consulting and inspiring organizations from Stockton to New York City and Peru to London to adopt its proven model.

For more information, please visit La Cocina’s website or Flipboard.

“La Cocina represents nothing less than the United States at its finest: Intersectional. Female-driven. Multicultural. Entrepreneurial. Multiplatform. Centered around food, resistance, stories, and education. If more people across the country replicated this model, there’d be no need for a revolution because we’d be living in it!”  — Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times

The Opportunity

La Cocina seeks an experienced Executive Director to lead the organization into a successful next chapter following an impressive track record of facilitating over 150 entrepreneurs’ success, building a beautiful, impactful new Municipal Marketplace in food-obsessed San Francisco, and delivering on program and revenue goals consistently on an annual basis. La Cocina has navigated the pandemic and established adaptive leadership to meet the needs of clients, including opening their Municipal Marketplace to support the seven entrepreneurs selling there, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will represent La Cocina within its community of entrepreneurs, within San Francisco’s social and economic justice networks, and more broadly at a national level in conversations about racial equity in business ownership. They will have responsibility for delivering on key performance indicators designed for La Cocina’s programs, fundraising needs, events, advocacy efforts, and staff. The next Executive Director will partner with various entities – both private and public – to promote collaboration between the La Cocina community and other leaders in the food industry.

The Executive Director will be a charismatic leader who will represent our entrepreneurs as leaders and innovators in the food space.

The Executive Director will possess strong management and leadership skills supporting the La Cocina community, including staff and entrepreneurs. They will be a trusting and approachable leader, who will build, maintain and promote supportive and hospitable culture, based on welcoming and inclusive practices.

The Executive Director will be a fierce advocate for La Cocina to continue its important work in offering equitable opportunities in wealth generation and business ownership. The Executive Director will show flexibility to advance the mission while meeting community member needs in a quickly changing industry and creating an environment conducive to collaboration. The Executive Director will partner with the Board, staff, and La Cocina entrepreneurs to cement La Cocina’s role as a model for a more equitable food industry and build a plan to achieve increased impact and action.

Key metrics for success in this role includes:

  • Collaborating with the Board members to ensure organizational impact and success;
  • Leading and empowering the staff by promoting a collaborative and values driven culture;
  • Driving forward La Cocina’s fundraising efforts, meeting annual revenue goals, and establishing sustainable funding models;
  • Overseeing La Cocina’s finances and operations;
  • Developing and maintaining strong relationships with La Cocina’s community of entrepreneurs;
  • Leading an effective organization with values and practices of equity, justice and inclusion at its core – with a preponderance of women of color staff and clients;
  • Effectively partnering and supporting La Cocina’s senior leaders on the implementation of key program areas;
  • Communicating effectively and consistently with the Board and other constituents, utilizing their partnership;
  • Providing adaptive leadership, in the face of a shifting environment, including facility in nonprofit and earned income operations; and
  • Developing and deepening relationships with current and future funders and representing La Cocina in the broader nonprofit and economic policy arenas.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics.

A Passion for the Mission

The Executive Director will be a champion of, and personally invested in, strengthening social justice, racial equity, representation and supporting pathways to economic freedom through business ownership. They will exhibit a deep commitment to La Cocina’s community of entrepreneurs, centering their experiences, stories, and interests in their work. The Executive Director will have the skill and enthusiasm to develop new and unique opportunities to serve the mission. Although direct experience in the food industry is not required, the Executive Director will have a true appreciation of the intersection of social justice, racial equity and economic advancement, along with a nuanced understanding of the experiences of communities of color within the food industry. The Executive Director will have a track record of advancing equity and a commitment to the core values embedded within La Cocina’s internal organization, its programs, and in its work with the broader community: hospitality, community, opportunity, and inclusivity.

A Relationship Builder & Thought Leader

The Executive Director will be skilled at building effective relationships across a range of stakeholders. With a high level of emotional intelligence, they will be able to build trust to develop productive and fulfilling relationships with the Board, staff, entrepreneurs, and other partners ranging from corporate donors, food industry leaders, philanthropic partners and city government. With excellent written and oral communication skills, the Executive Director will be a strong facilitator, communicator, and collaborator who is skilled at listening to, and learning from the La Cocina community. The Executive Director will be a skilled thought leader and network holder, accountable to various constituencies. They will bring experience building bridges, pathways and connections to other sectors or adjacent networks to provide opportunities for La Cocina entrepreneurs. Through those connections, they will develop a powerful sense of shared purpose in others. The Executive Director will possess a strong sense of confidence and will have a consultative approach to listening to and investing in people from diverse backgrounds.

An Ambassador and Fundraiser for La Cocina

Seen as a thought leader, the Executive Director will be a strong partner to La Cocina’s entrepreneurs, partners, and other collaborators. They will develop and implement a shared vision with diverse communities and will be comfortable representing the organization publicly. They will understand and utilize the power of storytelling as a mechanism for building coalition and community. The Executive Director will be responsible for leading La Cocina’s fundraising efforts, leveraging networks to secure funding and developing a clear development strategy. They will be a leader of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

A Strong Organizational Leader

The Executive Director will have a track record of success in organizational management. The Executive Director will bring humility to this role, engaging in La Cocina’s culture of shared leadership and ‘all hands on deck’ attitude. In a given day, this leader may go from working in the office to helping welcome people at the front door of the Marketplace. They will have strong program experience to continually innovate, improve, and increase the impact of La Cocina’s offerings and outcomes. The Executive Director will have significant experience in organizational operations, finance, board governance, and people management. They will be an experienced manager who engenders trust in the staff through a collaborative management style, helps them achieve their potential, and holds them accountable. They will bring experience in building robust career and professional development pathways, along with a comfort and fluency in talking about power distribution and relationships at an organization staffed by a majority of women of color. The Executive Director will help to strike the balance of building organizational structure while maintain the nimbleness and agility that makes La Cocina thrive as a community-based organization. The Executive Director will maintain a level of appropriate transparency and consult the staff as partners, leveraging cross-departmental strengths across the organization.

Preferred Experience

La Cocina is a multilingual, multicultural, multiracial organization. The next Executive Director will need to bring an ease in communicating with people from all backgrounds where English may be a second (or third or fourth) language. Proficiency in Spanish in particular is highly preferred but not required.

Compensation, Benefits & Employee Support

The salary range for this role will start at $150k and is commensurate with experience.

La Cocina believes great benefits make great work possible. Benefits include medical, dental and vision insurance without employee contributions and with low copays. La Cocina invests $2000/employee/year in professional development and personal growth. We offer other wonderful benefits like unlimited paid time off, annual retreats, schedule flexibility, and plenty of delicious meals.

La Cocina understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color, immigrants, parents, caregivers, and essential workers (among others). While this is a full-time position, La Cocina has worked with all staff and will work with final candidates to develop a schedule that is manageable for them and their family during the pandemic, including flexible hours, paid leave, and remote work until conditions improve. La Cocina recognizes these are unprecedented times and wants to remove any barriers that would prevent anyone disproportionately affected by the pandemic from applying.

Representation at La Cocina

Active businesses and graduates: Women (90%), Immigrants (70%), Parents (65%), LGBTQ (5%), Latinx (42%), AAPI (30%), Black (15%), Arab/Middle Eastern (7%), White (6%)

La Cocina FT Staff: Women (80%), BIPOC (70%) with two LGBTQ employees and five members over age 50. Our staff includes one graduate of our incubator program.

Our Board of Directors: Women (90%), BIPOC (55%) with two LGBTQ members and three immigrants. The Board also includes two graduates of our incubator program.


Ally Johnson & Alex Corvin of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email Ally Johnson directly at [email protected] or submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.


La Cocina is an Equal Opportunity Employer: We encourage applications from candidates that contribute to the diversity of our staff across a range of dimensions.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.