Getting kids to eat their veggies, making mealtime less stressful – moms have always been problem-solvers. But some turned their problems into opportunities, and I recently chatted with several such mom entrepreneurs about how they did it.
–Eat your veggies
Julie Lincoln's son was a picky eater. He hated all vegetables unless they were doused with salad dressing that often contained additives, preservatives and sugar. Not an ideal situation.
Lincoln, like so many parents, wanted her child to eat healthy – or as healthy as possible. So when she met natural food scientist, Josh Young, changes began.
They teamed up to create Vegy Vida vegyvida.com, an all-natural, GMO-free dressing and dip that enhances the flavor of vegetables without masking them with processed ingredients and sugar.
"Kids have three times more taste buds than adults and can taste things more intensely," says Lincoln. So they easily pick up on their bitter taste, which can be overpowering. "That's why kids are predisposed to sugar added to so many foods to hide the flavor."
Vegy Vida incorporates an ingredient found in cucumber extract that naturally softens the flavor of veggies, rendering them less bitter. "Because Vegy Vida enhances the natural flavor of vegetables, we are able to train our children's palates to enjoy vegetables, rather than seek ways to hide the flavor."
The company is only a few years old, but is growing exponentially. Currently, Vegy Vida is sold in more than 1700 stores (including Walmart) and expected to be in 6000 stores by the end of 2017.
"My best advice to other entrepreneurs is be willing to fail," says Lincoln. "You will encounter failure at every turn, so you need to be able to accept the failure, learn from it and move on. You will have to make tough choices and take risks but in the end, it will make you stronger and better."
–Making dinnertime less stressful
"When my kids were younger, dinnertime was my biggest worry," says Meg Barnhart, co-founder of the Zen of Slow Cooking, thezenofslowcooking.com. "My husband was constantly traveling and my three kids were going in three different directions. Getting a healthy meal on the table was virtually impossible."
When a friend suggested Barnhart purchase a crock-pot, she recalled, "It sounds silly, but using a slow cooker really changed my life. I was able to restore peace and calm in my home by focusing my attention on my kids, while dinner slowly came together."
Barnhart's kitchen epiphany soon led to the creation of her company, which she co-founded with culinary expert Jane McKay. Together they created a line of gourmet-inspired spice blends that allow at-home chefs, even novices, to make delicious, nutritious meals in the slow cooker.
"Our goal is to relieve last minute panic with the knowledge that a meal is quietly bubbling away," says Barnhart.
As the company grew and orders started to roll in, Barnhart and McKay set their sights on phase two of their business plan: making a positive impact on the lives of others, specifically those people with learning challenges. The company partnered with Planet Access Company which provides training and employment for adults with developmental disabilities.
Working with PAC lets Barnhart and McKay focus on growing their business and creating new spice blends and recipes while employees at PAC do the labeling and packaging. The company currently sells their blends in a number of stores including Sunset Foods, select Whole Foods and on Amazon.
They have also partnered with Peapod to create slow cooker meal kits that make cooking dinner even easier.
Barnhart's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is simple and heartfelt: "Develop a list of core values and guiding principles. Find a partner who you love and be prepared for a lot of hard work, seven days a week, and don't be afraid to ask for advice from those who may be a step ahead of you."
–Finding a healthier sports drink
Though a busy attorney and mother of four athletic kids, Sarah Hardgrove-Koleno was confounded. She couldn't find a truly healthy sports drink. "Whenever my kids were playing sports, there was tons of Gatorade on the sidelines and it was a staple for the team snack. I couldn't believe it. That drink is bright blue or green and has tons of sugar and artificial dyes, not exactly what you want to put in your kids' bodies," she said.
Hardgrove-Koleno found no good options. All the healthier drinks tasted terrible. Seeing this void as an opportunity, Hardgrove-Koleno and a former law-school classmate, Dan Trainor, discussed the possibility of creating their own organic sports drink. Along with Annie Hesser, Hardgrove-Koleno's tennis partner at the time, they created KRa, drinkkra.com.
It's an organic sports drink similar to major brands, but with less sugar, fewer calories, and no artificial dyes or chemicals. Less than three years later KRa is quickly becoming a favorite of athletes of all sports, including professionals like Glenn Robinson III, who won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
The company also gives back to the community through their KRa for Play program, providing equipment and support for sports programs in underserved areas. "It's amazing to watch our company grow and to also see the great things we have been able to do for the community," said Hardgrove-Koleno.
Thinking about starting your own business? Hardgrove-Koleno offers this advice: "I'll take a line from the Life is Good brand – 'Do what you like, like what you do.' If you are able to inspire others with the positive energy you have for what you do, you will find great success in life."