Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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Introducing Baby Food: The Countdown to the Burlingame Farmers Market

So it’s finally here…  I started Little City Kitchen Co. in June 2010 never fully realizing that it would take me nine more months to sell a single item.  And here we are, two tiny little days before my big debut at the Burlingame Farmers Market, and I can barely contain myself.

My dear friend Dennis from Coco Delice asked me yesterday if I was nervous.  Without thinking, I answered with a resounding “No”.  Totally true, I’m not nervous…however, doing something the first time isn’t my favorite thing.  I confess the only thing that’s really been on my mind is how much of an idiot I’m going to look like putting my tent up the first time (subsequently I’ll be practicing that this weekend in my driveway).

Cooking Demo and Discussion

Let’s start first with a special shout out to my new friends at the Mt. Diablo Mothers Group.  I led a baby food discussion and cooking demo on Monday and man-oh-man, we had some fun in the kitchen.  I had planned on a one-hour demo, but these gals were full of great questions.  I consider myself passionate about food, kids, and teaching…so when I can combine all three, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I had a ton of fun ladies, so thanks for your participation and great energy!

Permit me…to now sell in San Mateo Co.

As my long-term readers know, the whole permit process has been a constant uphill battle.  You have to figure out which agency to call, then who to talk to, then what questions to ask (because heaven forbid the health departments volunteer information), and then if you’re lucky, you can meet the requirements needed to get your permit to sell.  Not easy!

But I finally seem to be getting the hang of it.  I walked into the San Mateo health department with all the necessary information…and guess what…I walked out with a permit to sell in the county – score!  It’s such a relief to know what is expected, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m not such a rookie.

Back in the Kitchen

Aside from a few private orders or creating new recipes, I really haven’t been in the kitchen regularly since the Baby Tasters in October.  I joked with my landlord that I’m like the best roommate ever because I’m never there!

This week I got back in the kitchen and whipped up all the goodies to sell on Sunday: Golden beets with dill, sweet potato & coconut brown rice, and Cuban black beans with plantains, mango & coconut. Made an effort to keep it simple this week and went with my easy-to-make, proven recipes.  Mmmmm…

People have asked me how much I plan to bring to the first market…  I’m only going to have about 30-35 packs of food to start and see how it goes.  I have no idea what to expect!  In my perfect ideal world, the Burlingame peeps will be super-excited about the food and I sell out quickly… Fingers crossed.

And here we go…wish me luck!  Full report on how it goes next week.

My Struggle to Find Balance: What Keeps a Food Entrepreneur up at Night

If asked, I would say that I’m a proponent of work/life balance.  In my old corporate life, I was relatively successful in achieving this balance; I worked hard during the day, and aside from the occasional project, was able to “turn it off” once I got home at night.

Yeah, this is not the case now.

I think it’s pretty common for small business owners to comingle their work and personal life. Today I’m riddled with a constant stream of work related issues and decisions that seem to be overtaking my life! It’s sad to say, but it’s not uncommon for me to be banging away at this very blog at 11pm on Thursday on my couch.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized things were so out-of-whack.  I was hanging out with some old work colleagues, having a drink, catching up, etc…  One of them asked me what’s going on outside of work?  And for the first time in a long while, I caught myself without an answer.

Hmmmm.  Red flag.

And the clock strikes midnight

Which brings us back around to “what keeps Jill up at night”.  Here a peek into what runs through my slightly-warped brain as I drift off to sleep (okay, and as I’m waking up in the morning too).

  • How am I going to be able to cook all this food?
  • What if I run out of money before this thing gets off the ground?
  • Do I have too small of a niche market?
  • What will my first day at the farmers market be like?
  • Why did other baby food companies not survive?
  • How can I get the attention of the press/media – and how nervous will I be once I have it?
  • How the heck do you write a HACCP plan?

Please don’t misunderstand; aside from the ever-present money fears, the rest of these thoughts aren’t negative, it’s just the constant “chatter” that goes on in my head.

I think these questions are common for new business owners. In fact, I’d probably be worried if I didn’t take all of these things into account.  I just object to thinking about them every night…and every morning…and all afternoon.

So I appeal to you…my friends, family, clients & supporters.  I know many of you are professionally successful and maintain a balanced work and family life, so please, share your advice!

What do you do to keep a good work/life balance?

Love to hear your suggestions & tips.  Please comment below if you have some advice to share!

Stay tuned…

I’m on vacation next week, so stay tuned for the next blog on Friday, April 1. I’ll have lots to share about farmers market prep, feedback from specialty store buyers, and my first week back in the kitchen.  Busy time as Little City Kitchen Co. gears up to launch at the Burlingame Farmers Market on Sunday, April 3rd.

Happy weekend everyone!

Burlingame Farmers Market adds baby food from Little City Kitchen Co.

I want to take out a gigantic billboard that says “YES!”  It’s (nearly) official: Little City Kitchen Co. will be joining the vendors at the Burlingame Farmers Market on Sunday mornings beginning April 3, 2011.

Every step of the process has been so much harder (and taken so much longer) than I ever expected.  It’s a little surreal…because getting into this market was so easy that it’s kinda freaking me out!

I called the Burlingame market on Monday, met with them on Wednesday, talked to the San Mateo Health Department on Thursday and – after I write a $450 check – am pretty much good to go.

For those who aren’t familiar with Burlingame, it’s an adorable town near the SFO airport, lots of families and a great community atmosphere. The farmers market is pretty big with 50+ vendors, and it’s located smack-dab in the middle of downtown surrounded by the super-cute (and somewhat high-end) shops.  A great market for me!

What happens next?  Well, all those things I’ve been putting off until I start selling just came crashing down on me!  There’s so much to do now including…

  • Buy farmers market equipment (tables, chair, tent, cooler, etc…),
  • Design and print a baby food banner for the tent
  • Finalize my labels, a constant thorn in my side
  • Start cooking – Yay!
  • Figure out how all this is going to fit into my 4-door Audi

But hey – I’m finally in business and am thrilled.  And really people, it will also be nice to actually be depositing money into my business account instead of always withdrawing it!

Other Selling Locations

I am still trying to get into the Noe Valley market on Saturdays, so if you would consider buying baby food from LCKC at that market (whether you live in Noe Valley or not), then please sign the petition to help get me in there.  I have about 50 signatures, so half way there!  Help a sistah out and spread the word among your friends and colleagues.

As for other farmers markets, I’ve submitted my applications and am waiting to hear back from several of them. Never a dull moment…now my greatest concern is what if the Walnut Creek or San Rafael markets (both on Sundays) are interested?  It’s like not having any clothes that fit after losing weight…it’s a nice problem to have.

That’s been the biggest piece of news so far this week!  So all you mommies and daddies down in Burlingame, get those palates warmed up.  More details sure to come.

Have a great weekend everyone.

15 Markets in 15 Days – My Journey to Find the Perfect Farmers Market

I can say with certainty that I’m now am East Bay farmers market expert.  My pilgrimage started in Alameda on Saturday, February 12 and ended on Sunday, February 27 in Noe Valley.  I browsed and sampled my way through some of the best farmers markets in the area and got a “crash course” on becoming a vendor in the process.

I started in the East Bay with my target markets: Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, Danville, Berkeley, etc…  This is when I learned what most large farmers markets have in common: they’re FULL. Peak growing season is May-Nov, so they can’t take additional vendors now without leaving enough room for their regular vendors to sell starting in May.  Hmmmm…  We’ll come back to that.

But off I went.  The folks who know me well can easily picture this scenario: here’s me, with my little cooler bag filled with samples, a laminated “fact sheet” with contact info and baby food flavors, and a picture collage filled with great pics of me and the food.  I even had fresh baby food and sample cups so that I could offer tastes, although I must admit that didn’t go over too well, so I left that at home after the first weekend.

The reaction: they went crazy once they saw what the cubes look like!  Every market manager said the same thing…”I’ve never seen baby food like that”. Score!!

So which were my favorite markets?  In the East Bay, I fell in love with the Walnut Creek market.  And in the city, it’s Noe Valley all the way for me.  Both markets are medium-sized, but bustling with strollers and families, even in the cool weather.  Not surprisingly, both markets are “full” (I’m calling it the new f-word because I’ve heard it so much).

Where to go from here….well, I’ve never been one to simply take “no” for an answer, so I’m trying to make a case why these markets should consider making an exception in my case.  I have a unique product, which helps my case greatly, but more importantly, I have to show that there is demand for LCKC baby food in their area.

So how can you help?

I’ve started a petition of sorts!

If you would consider buying baby food in the future from Little City Kitchen Co. at the Noe Valley Farmers market (whether you live in Noe Valley OR the surrounding areas), please sign your name to this very brief form.  I have a goal of collecting 100 signatures which will hopefully make a strong case to the Noe Valley board.

Please also forward to your San Francisco friends that may be interested in purchasing baby food in the future.  As of this morning I have almost 40 signatures, so still have a long way to go!

A big shout out to all the peeps that have already signed…  I’m excited to see so many new names and look forward to meeting you guys in person!

Baby Food Cooking Demo – Join me this Sunday

There are still a few spots left for Sunday’s baby food cooking demo at Tot Tank in Alameda. Sunday, March 6, from 1-2pm.  Learn how easy it is to make your own baby food, and take home all the food we make in class.  Click here for more details, and RSVP to me by Friday, March 4.

Next week I hope to have some preliminary conversations with retail stores in the area, so let’s hope their reaction is as positive as the farmers markets once they see the baby food.  Hope everyone has a great Friday and weekend.