The first Meal in a Jar was made in Irene’s home kitchen in January 2013 to solve the “on-the-go” lunch issue for her daughter. After posting a picture of her creation to Facebook, friends and family started requesting Irene’s jars for their weekly lunches. It didn’t take long for Irene to reach 100 meals per week and realize she needed to find a commercial kitchen and put together a business plan.
Carson, a graduating student from Wilfrid Laurier University’s LaunchPad program saw one of Irene’s Meal in a Jar while getting a haircut and brainstorming food business ideas. He contacted Irene and asked if he could join the team.
In March 2013, the pair incorporated and took their business from home kitchen into a commercial catering facility, growing production to 500 jars per week and distribution to local retailers across the Waterloo Region. With distribution in The Athletic Club, Vincenzo’s, Healthy Foods and More, Fiddlehead’s Health and Nutrition, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters and The City of Waterloo Recreation Facilities, they have now begun expansion into Guelph, Stratford and Mississauga.
Their easy, tasty and incredibly good looking meals offer a healthy, balanced option for the on-the-go lifestyle.
What would a $15 000 kick-start and professional services win mean for your business? How would you use these funds?
$15 000 and access to professional services would be rocket fuel for our take off. In our first year, we launched across 10 local retailers in the Waterloo region. This funding would allow us to strengthen our local presence while pursing a provincial expansion in our second year. Over the course of the campaign, we developed our implementation plan for the funding.
How did you hear about the Kick-StartKW contest?
We were in the Communitech Hub in November when we first heard about the contest. The Laurier LaunchPad program coordinator told us that an exciting opportunity was being presented by QuickBooks with free tacos. Our attention was immediately captured.
Tell us a little about your experiences over the duration of the contest. For example, if you attended any of our events we’d love to hear about the experience you had at them.
I still remember the launch event. We were told we could film a quick pitch video. Nervous and excited, we filmed an Oscar worthy performance!
And were immediately hooked in. We were asked to submit an application outlining our plan for $15k. This was the first time we were asked to submit a detailed “imagine if… plan”. It’s been a blast to unfold it over the past few months.
The second event we attended was the pitch competition. We had spent the whole day filming a two minute pitch for Wilfrid Laurier University’s BU121 (first year business) class. and were completely zoned out. We were second on stage at the KickStart pitch. Honestly, capturing the company in 60 seconds is a brutal challenge. The crowd was full of pitching companies, anxious for their turn; our first joke on stage bombed, crickets. No worries though, this was a great experience to get out there and be vulnerable with the business. The point of the pitch was to share that we have an easy, tasty and incredible good-looking product poised for growth.
Since entering Kick-StartKW did you have the opportunity to meet other small business / start-up owners in the region? If so, how did you make these new connections and do you intend on keeping in touch and building additional new relationships with others?
We have the privilege of working in a start-up incubator at the Communitech Hub, which is great, but at the same time surrounds us with digital start-ups. Within the Kick-Start campaign, we’ve connected with small businesses outside of tech world. I was super impressed with Ambrosia Pastry and Too Nice to Slice, both growing niche food businesses in the region. We had an opportunity to cater for Hackademy and support them in their Saturday tech literacy classes. Stare-City Guide and PrintChomp have also connected with us through Twitter, and we have begun working with PrintChomp for our packaging and labels. This campaign has allowed us to double our connections on Twitter and get in touch with the #smallbiz scene across the Region. We strive to support our local community wherever possible, including partnerships with the KW Skating Club, Nutrition for Learning, Centre in the Square and a the City of Waterloo.
What single piece of advice would you give to others in your situation as they move forward building their business?
You can do anything, not everything; focus and grow!