Love Food? Author Rachel Hofstetter of ‘Cooking Up a Business’ Thinks You Can Become an Entrepreneur, Too

If you’ve ever daydreamed about turning that secret spaghetti sauce recipe into more than a family crowd pleaser, here’s your playbook: Author Rachel Hofstetter interviewed dozens of successful food entrepreneurs–mostly women–for her new book, Cooking Up a Business and gives you tips for getting started.

Her biggest takeaway? Moms make the best food entrepreneurs. Here’s how they turned their passion into a career—and how you can, too. Rachel knows what she’s talking about. She’s the former food editor at O, The Oprah Magazine. She’s also an entrepreneur herself with her company guesterly that creates custom magazines. (So super cool–check it out.)

KK: What are some examples of good food businesses that other moms have cooked up?
Rachel Hofstetter
Moms make great food entrepreneurs because kids provide great inspiration—and they are excellent taste testers! If your picky eater likes what you’re cooking up or if you, as a mom, care about the issue your product is solving, chances are other kids and moms will agree.

For example, when Shannan Swanson (at left) and Liane Weintraub were dismayed at the baby food they found at their local supermarkets, they began to make their own, dreaming up and pureeing combinations of fruits and vegetables that they deemed worthy of their little ones’ developing taste buds. And they began to talk, simply hypothetically, about selling this healthier baby food. That inspiration eventually led to Tasty Brand.

I also love Kara Goldin’s story of how she stumbled upon the idea of Hint Water. Kara’s family was drinking tons of sugary drinks—and she herself was drinking way too much Diet Coke! So she cleaned out the kitchen and put everyone on good old tap water—a moratorium that lasted all of two weeks. But instead of drinking water, they ended up drinking…nothing at all.  Kara knew she had to change something or she’d have a home full of dangerously dehydrated kids. Her eyes drifted around the kitchen, looking for an idea, and landed on the big bowl of fruit on her counter, part of her new attempt to stock the house with real, wholesome foods. Kara chopped up a handful, tossed it in a pitcher, added water, and put it in the fridge to chill. A few hours later, she poured a glass to try. It was interesting. It had taste. It was . . . delicious. She poured another glass, and then some for her kids. Everyone approved! And after accolades started pouring in from other parents, Kara decided to turn her fruit-flavored waters into a business; today her waters are sold at over half the grocery stores in the U.S.

KK: How do you gauge whether your idea for a business is a good one?
Have your friends and family taste test your product: Do they rave about it? Do they ask you to bring it to every event? Ask them: “If this was in a store, would you be willing to pay for it? How much?” It’s okay to change your product as you respond to feedback! Liane and Shannan at Tasty Brand started by making organic baby food—and now they only make snacks. Food businesses are great because you don’t need a lot of special equipment to test your idea: just a kitchen and the ability to make a recipe. So you can jump in, try it out, and gauge if your idea works as you go along.

KK: What are your top three tips on starting up your own shop–doing something you really, really love?
1. Pick a product that makes your life easy once it’s out of your kitchen. For example, in Cooking Up a Business I share the story of Love Grown Foods. They originally thought they’d sell founder Maddy D’Amato’s famous pesto. But they found that while it’s easy to make pesto for your dinner party of ten, it’s exponentially more difficult to make and store 50 batches for your local farmers market. Instead, make a product that’s easy to cook in large batches and is shelf stable (non-perishable).

2. Create a name for your product and tell a story. Why is this special? What’s memorable about it?

3. The best way to get people excited about your product (and to get them to buy it!) is to let them taste. Give away as many tastes or free samples as you can at farmer’s market, grocery store demos, local festival and fairs, mom’s events and more.

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