Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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A Change in Direction for Little City Kitchen: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

As many of you know, this has been a tumultuous few months for me and for Little City Kitchen Co.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the struggle to make this a profitable venture, and after several months of weighing my options, I’ve finally come to a decision: it’s time to stop baby food production.

There will be additional details with logistics coming out for customers (some are at the bottom of this post), but in the spirit in which I started this blog, I wanted to share why I’ve come to this decision, and my process to get here.

Although I have been hesitant to share my doubts publicly, I’ve grappled for several months with where to take Little City Kitchen Co.  I’ve learned through this process that commercial-scale cooking isn’t for me.  Give me the microphone for a 200-person cooking demo any day, but keep me out of the kitchen!  Not only was the cooking physically (and mentally) draining, but to my detriment, it took me out of my entrepreneurial frame of mind.

Let me be clear, I do still believe that this type of baby food business can be profitable, and given the proper amount of motivation and support (both financially and with collaborative partners), this could still be a hugely successful venture.

It boiled down into two simple options for me: grow, or die.  And I decided that I didn’t have the infrastructure or the motivation in place at this time to grow.  There is certainly the possibility that I will re-launch the baby food at a later date, but not in the short-term.

A Little Heartbreak

The part that breaks my heart (just a little) is that I’m still convinced that 1) I’ve created a great product, both in look and in flavor, and 2) there is a dire need for this type of baby food on the market today, and 3) it’s not a product you can just put on the shelf and expect to sell; there is a large amount of education that needs to take place first.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my ego has taken a big hit.  I’ve always prided myself on being the one that can make anything work, so it’s hard to make such a dramatic change without some crap bubbling to the surface.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion that maintaining the “status quo” by continuing on this path is actually the weaker move.  The stronger move is to admit this isn’t working and to make a change.  So that’s what I’m doing.

My New Outlook

Somewhat surprisingly, I feel really good.  I still feel like I’m in the right place, surrounded by the right people, and have no regrets about any choice I’ve made to get me here.  My hope is that by not putting my energy towards that part of the business, I’ve made more space in my life to attract other, even better, opportunities.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself…over and over and over.

So, what’s next?  Don’t worry, I’m not out of the baby food business entirely!  I’m going to keep on writing and teaching, two parts of the business I’ve always loved.  Stay tuned for a four-part baby food cooking series in the next couple of months with more hands-on instruction.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of writing a book, baby food or otherwise.  I wonder if the title ‘Confessions of a Failed Food Entrepreneur’ is available??   In the meantime, there will be blog posts dedicated to lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully it will help both inspire and provide a realistic picture for other food entrepreneurs out there.

Read more about Little City’s direction…

Baby Food Orders for Customers

The next baby food pickup/delivery date will be Saturday, March 10 as you know.  The order form will be coming out in the next few days.  I don’t want to leave all my best customers high-and-dry, so there will be opportunities to continue ordering in April and May, but they will be limited to existing customers only.  So those of you who have just started ordering through Little City Kitchen Co., you should have plenty of opportunity to stock up on food if needed.

So there you have it.  Big news.  I don’t want to get too mushy here, but I do want to take a moment to thanks all my friends, family & customers for their amazing support over the last two years.  I’ve received so many incredible calls, texts, emails, etc… with kind words throughout this process.  It really has meant so much – thank you thank you!!

Wait, this is starting to sound like a goodbye.  I assure you, it’s not.  You don’t think you can get rid of me that easily, do you?

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

Optimism is Only A Comment Away: Bouncing Back after a Tough Week


I’m happy to report that this week has been considerably better…  Still an uphill battle, but I’m back on track and my sense of optimism is slowly returning.

Sometimes it just takes one comment to turn things around.  This past Sunday at the Burlingame farmers market, one of my regular customers said that comes to the market specifically to see me, and that she felt I was like her own personal baby food chef.  Big shout out to you Jill…your comment really made my day!

I also really enjoy the conversations and the relationships I’m building with my best customers.  It’s so much fun interacting with everyone on our Facebook page and seeing the same faces week after week at the markets.  That’s one of the fun parts of the job…

On Camera with Little City Kitchen Co., Take 1

In case you missed it last week, Little City Kitchen Co. was featured on PenTV’s “Talk of the Town”.  You can view the interview here (hint: I’m at 1:30 and 4:25 if you want to cheat and skip ahead to my part…I won’t tell). I hope this is the first of many TV appearances, leading up to a future spot on my fav TV cooking show, Foodcrafters, which I wrote about in my past blog, Dream a Little Dream.

Back at the Birth & Baby Fair

I’m excited also to be attending the San Francisco Birth & Baby Fair again this year on Saturday, June 25.  I’ll be leading another cooking demo on making your own organic baby food.  I can tell you that it will NOT be hands-on like last year…you’ll understand why if you re-read my blog post from the last show.

I can take a max of 50 people for the cooking demo.  Half of those spots are already filled, so don’t delay in pre-registering if you want to attend!  Excited also that Dr. Julia Getzelman of GetzWell Pediatrics will be doing a quick introduction to the group this year.

In general, the cooking demonstrations have been a ton of fun for me.  I love watching parents get inspired to make their own food, and knowing that their kiddos get to eat the healthiest of food make me feel great.  Stay tuned for more nutrition & cooking workshops in partnership with GetzWell Pediatrics, Kaiser hospitals, Monkey Bars, and a few other places in the upcoming months.

There are a few other big things in the works…one in particular that will get me one step closer to seeing Little City Kitchen Co. baby food in retails stores around the Bay Area.  No details now, but it feels good to have some forward progress!

So…that’s it for now.  As I said, I feel like I’m getting a little bit of my mojo back, and things are looking up.  Thanks to everyone for the nice emails and comments after such a difficult week.

The Scoop on Starting Solids: Win Free Baby Food from Little City Kitchen Co.

Winning a pack of handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food from Little City Kitchen Co. has never been easier!

We have just launched the new “Scoop on Starting Solids” blog series, a place where readers can ask any baby food-related question to be answered by experts in the field. A broad range of topics will be discussed…anything from infant nutrition to introducing solids and allergy concerns.

How do you win?  We’re looking for your questions…

Submit a question in the comments section below, and if we feature it in the blog series, you win a free pack of baby food.  It’s that easy.

Choose from flavors like:

  • Cuban black beans with roasted plantain, mango & coconut
  • Jewish potato latkes with caramelized onions, apples & parsley
  • Chard & kale with onions, apple & and white sweet potato
    …or any baby food flavor made my Little City Kitchen Co.

Good luck and submit your questions below!

For selling locations and information about organic baby food from Little City Kitchen Co., visit our website or Facebook page.

A Change is Coming: Introducing the Little City Kitchen Co. Blog Series

The Little City Kitchen Co. blog is changing!  In the beginning, I focused my blog posts on the process of starting this company.  The good, the bad, and the ugly…you guys read it all.  The first 150 readers were, as usual, a combination of family & close friends interested in keeping up with my progress.

Now that Little City Kitchen Co. baby food is for sale (and my readership is at 500 and growing – yay!), I’m receiving requests to blog about topics a little more relevant to baby food. I’ve always wanted the blog to be interesting, informative, and fun to read, so I’ve decided to break down the blog into more topic-specific “series”.

More details coming in the next week, but here’s an example of some of the series I’ve created:

The Scoop on Starting Solids: Readers will be able to submit common questions that will be answered by me or by a guest blogger.  I’ve done a lot (let me repeat: a lot) of learning about which foods babies should be eating.  At the farmers market, I find myself answering questions about nutrition, when to introduce certain foods, concerns about allergies, etc… so I’ll be sharing this information with other interested parents.

Tips on Making Your Own Baby Food: Hints on from the Little City kitchen about how any home cook can make their own organic baby food.  The aim of this series will be to demystify the cooking process and provide tips for busy parents who want to feed their kiddos the healthiest food around.

Tales of a Food Entrepreneur: My crazy stories about starting and running this company…mostly the format of the blog up until this point.  You guys know, I’m a first-time food entrepreneur and am learning so much along the way.  This is my way of documenting the building of the business, one success and mistake at a time.

You’ll be able to subscribe to each series individually, or all of them, depending on what content you find most relevant.  This way you get to read the information that you really want, and not necessarily every topic I write about.

Baby Food Giveaway

What would a new blog format be without a new contest?  I’m currently seeking your questions to kick off the “Scoop on Starting Solids” series…and I have no problem resorting to bribery.  Send me a baby food-related question on your mind, and if it’s picked to be featured in the blog, you will win a free pack of Little City Kitchen Co. organic baby food.  It’s that easy.

To enter: simply type your question in the comment section below, email it to me directly, or post it on our Facebook page.  If I select your question for the blog, then you’re a winner!

That’s it for me this week.  Had two great cooking demos this week, one at GetzWell Pediatrics and one at Monkey Bars.  Another great day at the Burlingame market and things are starting to click in Alameda as well.  Hope everyone has a great week!


The Rule of Three: Realistic Expectations from a Food Entrepreneur

As many of my long-time readers know, the process of starting Little City Kitchen Co. (and I imagine any new business) has been the roller coaster ride of my life.  One week I’m on the top of the world filled with boundless excitement and momentum…and then there’s the inevitable valley where I take what feels like a zillion steps backwards.

Two things have helped me somewhat adjust to this pattern, the first being repetition.  The up-and-down game has occurred 50+ times so far, so it’s a little less shocking to the system now.

The second is a perspective I’ve come to refer to as the “Rule of Three”.

Everything will take me three times as long (and cost three times as much) as I originally expect.

For example: I thought it would take three months to get baby food to market; it took me nine.  Six weeks for a small business loan; yeah, try four months and counting.  Product liability insurance premiums, okay, let’s not even go there…

The good news is that I now have a more realistic estimate of time and expense, not to mention that I start projects much earlier now!  This way there are fewer surprises along the way, and even the occasional “Yippee!” when things take less time to accomplish than I expect.

Kickoff Day in Alameda

I promised to be honest with you guys, so while I wish I could report that Little City Kitchen Co’s first day at the Alameda farmers market was excellent, that was not entirely the case.  I’m not sure whether my expectations weren’t realistic (because of how well the Burlingame market has been going), or if it’s not the right place for me…it’s a little too soon to tell.

Even though the sales were weak, the interest was definitely there, so hopefully I can gain some momentum over the coming weeks.  Figure I’ll give it a good 6-8 weeks and see what’s what after that.  I’m still really enthusiastic about the market and the charming Alameda area.  The peeps were fantastic, I just wish there were a few more of them!

The Scoop on Starting Solids

Excited about two baby food demo events I have this week: one on Saturday morning at Monkey Bars in Alameda, and one on Tuesday night in partnership with GetzWell Pediatrics.  It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, so come out to the Spring Festival in Alameda and join me!

Cooking up the Goodies

This has been a fun week in the kitchen.  As most of my farmers market customers know, the flavors rotate every week depending on what’s in season (and what I feel like cooking).  This week I’m working on an Ethiopian spiced red lentil dish called W’at, and my baby version of Broccoli “Au Gratin” with some roasted cauliflower and a hint of parmesan and cheddar cheese.

Hope to see you at one of the farmers markets or at the baby food demo events!


Alameda Farmers Market adds Baby Food from Little City Kitchen Co.

The Little City kitchen has been abuzz.  Hot off the press…our organic baby food will now be available at the Alameda farmers market starting Tuesday, May 3.

Most of my readers know that getting into farmers markets has been harder than I anticipated.  Many of the good ones are full, and I wasn’t too excited about starting at a smaller market.  So you can imagine my disappointment when I received a letter saying I’d been waitlisted for the charming Alameda market.

I’ve said it a few times; you can’t take “no” so easily as an entrepreneur. Instead of just accepting this fact, I marched off the following Tuesday and spoke directly with the market manager.  It turns out this was an oversight (whew!), which was quickly followed with the question “when can you start?”

So you can now find LCKC baby food on Sunday mornings at the Burlingame Farmers Market, and Tuesday mornings at the Alameda Farmers Market.  Still working on securing a monthly spot at the Noe Valley farmers market on Saturdays so I can have some presence in the city.  (Note to new readers – if you would buy baby food at the Noe Valley farmers market, sign this petition to help get us in!).

There will also be a few more pickup and delivery options coming soon, so stay tuned if Burlingame and/or Alameda aren’t convenient for you.

Cooking Demonstrations

Many of you know that I love to teach, so it comes as no surprise that leading off-site cooking demos has been a blast for me (and okay, I always love an audience).  I have two events coming up.  Both are discussion on baby’s first foods & child nutrition followed by a baby food cooking demo led by yours truly.

Saturday, May 7th at Monkey Bars in Alameda:
Click here for event details or to RSVP

Part of the Pediatric Series, led by Tracy Zollinger, Acupuncturist and Herbalist.
**It’s also the Alameda Spring Festival, so Park St. will be lined with arts & crafts and food vendors.  Giveaways and samples all day at Monkey Bars, so it’s fun day for the whole family!

Tuesday, May 10th at GetzWell Pediatrics:
Click here for event details or to RSVP

Emily Novak Waight of GetzWell Pediatrics will dispel myths surrounding first foods (and talk about why meat may be a better first food instead of rice cereal).  Dr. Julia Getzelman has been a guest blogger of Little City Kitchen Co., so I’m excited to partner with such a great team once again!

Working on a workshop with Kaiser in August and another baby food cooking demo at the Birth & Baby Fair in June.  More to come on both of those…

All in all, it’s been a busy week for me.  Looking forward to another great Sunday in Burlingame, and fingers crossed that the first Tuesday in Alameda will be met with the same enthusiasm.  Now it’s back to the kitchen for me…


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!

Keeping Kids Healthy in a Toxic World – Tips from Dr. Julia Getzelman

For the last several months, I have been looking to partner with a pediatrician that shares my (somewhat untraditional) philosophies around baby food, infant nutrition, and introducing solids.  As soon as I read about GetzWell Pediatrics, I knew that Dr. Julia Getzelman was the one for me!  She’s the only board certified, primary care, integrative pediatrician based in San Francisco, and she’s agreed to be an occasional guest blogger to share some great tips with all of us.

For more information on GetzWell Pediatrics, check out their website here.  And stay tuned for a workshop on infant nutrition and making your own baby food hosted by GetzWell and Little City Kitchen Co. in early April.

Feel free to ask questions or post comments below, and Dr. Getzelman will be happy to respond.

Keeping Kids Healthy in a Toxic World
By: Dr. Julia Getzelman, MD

Jill Epner, founder of Little City Kitchen Co., and I met last November at the San Francisco Birth and Baby Fair.  I became enamored with Jill’s baby food not only when I understood that it was an organic, locally produced alternative for busy mothers who want to feed their babies healthy, tasty, whole foods but also as soon as I tasted her delicious creations (though I don’t routinely eat baby food)!

I believe and teach my families that baby food should taste good and feeding your baby (once she is ready to eat) can be a fun experience.  I feel really good about Jill’s food in terms of its nutritional content and yummy flavors and also its contribution to lowering “toxic load,” the amount of unnatural (and often poisonous) substances we are exposed to in today’s world.

As an integrative pediatrician with hundreds of babies and young children as my patients, I’m concerned about the increasingly toxic world in which we live.  In particular, young children are at the greatest risk due to exposure to toxins because their brains and other organs are rapidly developing.  Pound for pound young kids eat more food, breathe more air, drink more fluids and spend more time on the floor/ground (where there is an accumulation of dust, chemicals, metals and other environmental toxins) compared to older children and adults.

There are many things as individuals we cannot control about our environment, but we can and must take important actions to significantly reduce unhealthy and toxic exposures.  Here are a few ways to make a big difference for you and your family:


Personal Care Products

Household Cleaners

Use green cleaning solutions: investigate less toxic alternatives like using vinegar in place of bleach, baking soda to scrub your tiles and hydrogen peroxide to remove stains


  • Eliminate Teflon pans
  • Don’t microwave in plastic and store foods/left-overs in glass (e.g., Pyrex) whenever possible
  • Use wax paper instead of plastic wrap whenever possible

Special thanks to Dr. Getzelman for sharing her tips on reducing toxins.  Stay tuned next week for an update on what I’m coming to call my “Great California Farmers Market Tour”…  Happy week everyone!

Throw out the Rule Book

This may be the first blog topic that has come to me more out of frustration than inspiration.  You guys know by now that aside from the occasional “I’ve had a crappy week” posting, typically I write about all the wonderful experiences and the progress I’ve made.  This week I’m going to share with you one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my short time as an entrepreneur:

Throw out the rule book.

A classic “rookie” mistake

My awareness of this concept began seven years ago when worked for Hilton Hotels and managed a team that sold for seven of their hotels in Boston.  I was on the phone with a member of the management staff of one of my hotels…and truth be told, we were driving each other crazy arguing about how to handle something.  I made a somewhat rookie mistake and said “but this is how all the other hotels are doing it”.

You can imagine what happened next… My colleague went through the roof.

And rightfully so.  I unknowingly fell into a common trap in today’s world; assuming that the way that it’s been done in the past is the best way to do things in the future.  I realized immediately that she was correct and (after a heartfelt apology) forever changed my approach problem solving.

This happened again when I was on the phone with a vendor from the Fancy Food Show yesterday.  I was explaining my idea for packaging, or trying to anyways, and he kept steering me back to a traditional solution.  Blah blah boring!  After several minutes of listening to his very predictable suggestions, I finally snapped and said “yes, I know it’s never been done before…that’s the whole point!”

My way or the highway

There is no rule book or roadmap when you’re starting any new business.  I guess that’s part of the challenge…umm…I mean appeal.  People can tell you what may have worked (or not worked) for them, but at the end of the day, nobody knows Little City Kitchen Co. like I do, and it’s empowering to be able to make what I think are the best business decisions.

With that being said, I use every available resource!  So many elements of this business are brand new to me, so  I reach out to the industry experts, my business coach, other food entrepreneurs, etc…  But I always consider their advice and ask myself “how can I make this work for me?”  Sometimes I can’t, but almost always there is some nugget that is helpful to me.

So along those lines, I’ve decided to throw the ole rule book out the window and just keep doing my thing.  And you know what…it feels pretty kick ass!

Upcoming events

For those interested in a baby food cooking demonstration, join me on Sunday, March 6 from 1pm – 2pm at Tot Tank in Alameda, and I’ll show you how easy it is to make organic baby food in any home kitchen.  Cost is only $20.00 and all participants get to take home the food we prepare during the demo.  Click here for more information and to register.

The Spring cooking class schedule will be released next week, so stay tuned.  Have fun until then!

From the Floor of the Fancy Food Show

The Winter Fancy Food Show descended upon San Francisco this week, so I channeled my inner-foodie, warmed up my tastebuds, and joined the over 18,000 attendees in search of new and innovative foods.  After seven hours of talking & tasting, even I was wiped!

I had two goals for the show: 1) search for new and innovative packaging for my baby food, and 2) check out all the hot new food products for some future recipe inspiration.

From the Tradeshow Floor

First impressions…holy food batman!  Albeit not in the food industry, I’ve been to tradeshows for 10 years and thought I knew what to expect.  I was not prepared however for the endless rows of cheese samples and mass chaos as the exhibit floor opened at 10am.

The first hour was a blur. The product I sampled with the biggest “cool factor” was a finger lime (think about something that looks like caviar but tastes like lemon/lime).  I tasted bacon jam, raw coconut energy bars, chocolate flavored tea, goats milk caramels, seaweed snacks, tea-seed oil, lentil chips, among other cool products…

In general, there seemed to be a lot of mid-sized food companies and distributors that sell hundreds of products.  Surprisingly, very few “small” producers has presence there…which is what I looked forward to the most.  After speaking with several of the vendors about this, they said that it’s extremely expensive to exhibit which can be pretty cost-prohibitive for small start-up companies.  Hmmm…  Noted.

Convergence of Foodcrafter peeps

Couple of really cool things happened though…  First, many of you remember reading my Dream a Little Dream blog where I went on record that Little City Kitchen Co. would be featured on the TV show Foodcrafters within two years.  Since I made that statement, I seem to be attracting other small businesses that have been featured on the show!

My new friend Donna @ Love & Hummus was just on in January, and at the Fancy Food Show I met with Josh Henderson from Skillet Bacon Jam and Justin Gold from Justin’s nut butters, both of whom are official Foodcrafters alumni.  Hoping some of their good ju-ju rubs off on me!!

The quest for the perfect package

Which brings me to packaging.  I’m going to have a unique design element that will really differentiate my baby food from other frozen baby food products, so I was on the hunt for an uber-cool way to show it off.  Had some great discussions with different packagers at the show…hopefully they’ll be able to take my vision and come up with a sample that will work.

The original plan was to start selling at the Farmers Markets in January, but it looks like it will more likely be February or early March before it happens.  Truth be told I’m a little annoyed (because those who know me know that when I make a plan I like to stick to it!!), but I’m trying to relax and go with the flow a little more.  Lots of steps involved, and it’s a slow (but steady) uphill climb!!

That’s it for this week!  I expect to release the next cooking class schedule in the next week or so, so stay tuned for farmers market selling locations as well as the Spring cooking class schedule coming soon.

Make Way for the Potato Masher…

I switched gears this week and looked at making baby food in a whole new, and much simpler, light…  My food processor got a rest as I went back to basics with the goal of developing easy, healthy, and inexpensive baby foods with minimal equipment.

Why this new quest?  A new friend of mine, who is a parenting coach and teaches parenting classes at Crossroads High School in Concord, invited me to speak to her classroom.  On Thursday, I led a baby food cooking demonstration for a group of 15 awesome high-school women who have kids between 4 and 12 months old.

The Core Requirements

As I was designing the class outline, I decided on a few core requirements…

  1. My definition of “minimal equipment” is a microwave & a potato masher, so I threw out any baby food recipe idea that needed more than those two items.
  2. Most babies don’t get enough vegetables these days (and you all know that I’m a die-hard veggie-aholic anyway), so the recipes were primarily focused on fresh vegetables.
  3. I wanted to keep the prep time to a minimal, under an hour a week, so I stuck to single items that could be prepared quickly.

After a brief discussion about introducing solids and common food allergies, we got to cooking.  There were several class volunteers that mashed their way to becoming really good baby food makers!

Our recipes included:

Steamed sweet potato puree
Butternut squash puree with coconut milk
Baby hummus (chickpeas with olive oil and water)
Zucchini steamed with butter
Avocado and banana mash with coconut milk

And the best part: The total cost for all those recipes was only $12.75.

I had a lot of helpers in the classroom, so a special shout out to the girls at Crossroads High School…and their adorable little ones.  Thanks to everyone for your participation during the class, and good luck making some of your own baby food!  Click here to see the pictures from the day.

Larissa & Cecelia, 1 yr
Griselda & Francisco, 4 mo.
Jazmin & Adrian, 4 mo.
Lauren & Dominic, 5 mo.
Jessica & Mireya, 5 mo.
Sara & Amy, 1 yr.
Veronica & Kyle, 6 mo.
Lucero & Israel, 11 mo.
Teresita & Lillie, 6 mo.
Crystal & Adianna, 5 mo.
Jasmine & Giovanni, 7 mo.
Felisa & Desire, 8 months

*Special thanks to Torie Henderson, life & parenting coach, who lent me her class for the hour!

Bring on the Samples…

Next week is going to be a little crazy.  The Winter Fancy Food Show is in town, so I plan to spend Sunday – Tuesday wandering the tradeshow floor in search of packaging, ingredient, and marketing ideas.  Heck, it’s a three-day show featuring some of the best specialty foods from around the world…do you think I would miss that???

I’ll be updating my Little City Kitchen Co. Facebook page throughout the Fancy Food Show, so make sure you click “Like” on my page for the most recent news.  I’m on a plane next Thursday for a family event, so the next blog will probably be coming out Friday, January 28.  Hope everyone has a great week until then!

A Fresh Start to the New Year…

As you could probably tell, it’s been pretty quiet at Little City Kitchen Co. as I took a break for most of December to enjoy the holidays with friends and family. My travels took me from sailing in the Virgin Islands (yup, that’s me on the left), to shoveling two feet of snow in Lake Tahoe. It was a good month, and I tried to enjoy every minute of it.

And yet, I was really eager to get back to work.

I think back to what I’ve accomplished with Little City Kitchen Co. in six short months: Decided on making baby food, rented a commercial kitchen, launched the cooking classes, created my recipes, organized the Baby Tasters, sampled and demoed my way through the Birth & Baby Fair, launched a new website, and the list goes on.

And yet, there is still SO much to do! In fact, I’m finding out that when you start a company, the to-do list is positively endless. It’s like being in perpetual “catch-up” mode. With that being said, I got back to my desk Monday morning with a renewed motivation and was excited to get moving…

And get moving I did…this has been a busy week so far.

New & Exciting

If you haven’t done so already, check out the new Little City Kitchen Co. website that launched in late November. I probably should have promoted this a bit more (oops!), but better late than never. It still has a few tweaks, but overall it’s a great start and I’m thrilled with the result.

I’ve (finally) made some progress on permits to sell at the Farmers Markets. One final kitchen inspection and a few more checks to Alameda Co. and I should be good to go. I had hoped to be selling at the Farmers Markets by January, but because of some other projects, selling will more than likely start in early February instead.

Why the delay? I’ve decided to apply for a small business loan! Had a great meeting yesterday morning with a lender to discuss what is needed to secure some extra funding. So for the next week or two, I’m putting the finishing touches on my business plan and financial statements so I can begin the application process. Decided that I’m going to hire some part-time help with the cooking so that I can stay focused on the sales & marketing part of the business.

In store for this year?

As you know, I’m still getting clear on my vision for this company…the path changes frequently as new opportunities surface.  On the list for now is: start selling at Farmers Markets, hire part-time help, better marketing the cooking classes, launch online sales & shipping, and (potentially) look at selling in retail stores like Whole Foods. Just to name a few.

It’s a busy and exciting time for me, and I’m so glad that you get to be part of the journey. A big thanks to everyone for their tremendous support in the past year! Looking forward to what this year brings…

Tales from the Birth & Baby Fair – Part 2

Welcome back for the second installment of the Birth & Baby Fair highlights.  Last week, I told you all about setup and how much everyone loved the baby food we sampled.  We pick up where we left off with last week’s blog, about the one part of the show that didn’t go according to plan…at all.

As most of you knew, I volunteered to lead a cooking workshop at the show and was SO excited about it.  Doing an off-site cooking demo was something that I hadn’t done before, so I planned it all out several days before the event (those who know me aren’t shocked by this fact…I’m a bit of a planner).

I had lists for the equipment I’d need to bring with me, the food I’d have to prepare ahead of time, recipe cards to print, etc…  I got my “Martha Stewart” on and came up with these cute recipe booklets that I was going to hand out at the close of the workshop.  You get the idea…I spent some time, maybe even too much time, planning the details.

I’m sorry, how many people did you say?

What you probably don’t know is that the organizer and I agreed on having a maximum of 12 people; three demo-stations with four participants at each…a totally manageable size.  You can imagine my surprise when I was told at 1:30pm, 90 minutes before my workshop, that 26 people were pre-registered!  Crap!!

I am a pretty cool customer in stressful situations, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty freaked out.  I mean really guys, THIS was my big debut!!  I needed to regroup…

If I had the foresight to bring alcohol, I probably would have stolen a big gulp at that point.  But instead, I left the show, sat in my car for 5 minutes, and proceeded to re-write my entire presentation.

The workshop started at 3pm and from what I could tell, was a big success.  Minus a few electrical issues with my induction burners, the group was filled with rockstars that asked a lot of questions and actively participated in the demo.  And after the hour, everyone agreed they had so much more confidence around make their own baby food…mission accomplished.

I’ve posted some photos of the cooking demo on our Facebook page, so check them out here.

A Special Thanks…

So a special shout out and thanks to all the workshop participants (especially Rick A. who came to my rescue during my power issues!).  You guys were awesome!  I hope you found the workshop to be helpful and inspiring.   Send me some pictures and/or recipes of the baby food you make at home.  I’d love for you to share any of your comments or feedback from the workshop below too.

So aside from a few surprises, the Birth & Baby Fair was an overwhelming success.  Stay tuned for more information on where you can purchase Little City Kitchen Co. baby food in January.

First Taste Face

The results are in for our First Taste Face” contest. We had eight adorable finalists that competed, and what an exciting race it was!   I felt like it was the Kentucky Derby…Jade had a strong start in the beginning, and then out of nowhere comes Samantha Love.  In the end, the votes were so close (both had nearly 60 votes), I decided to make them co-winners!  So congratulations Jade Koch and Samantha Love Abellana.  Check out these cuties!

Jade, 8.5 months

Samantha Love, 8 mos.

First Taste Face Finalists at the Birth & Baby Fair: Vote here!

Congratulations to the eight finalist of the First Taste Face contest held by Little City Kitchen Co. at the Birth & Baby Fair.  We captured the best faces as these little ones tasted our baby food for the first time….what a bunch of cuties!!

Here’s how it works:

To vote for your favorite face, either leave a comment below, or visit our Facebook page and leave a comment there.  Friends & family are also eligible to vote, so feel free to forward to them.

The winner receives their choice of:
Complimentary cooking class of their choice
A two-week supply of frozen baby food

The winning face will be announced this Friday, December 10th, so don’t wait to vote!

Vote now…winner will be announced this Friday!

And our finalists are…

(Click on each picture for a larger image!)

Star, 7 months

Kai, 8.5 months

Nicholas, 8.5 mos.

Jade, 8.5 months

Samantha Love, 8 mos.

Delilah, 9 mos.

Sean, 7 months

Devon, 9 months

Tales from the Birth & Baby Fair – Part 1

The Birth & Baby Fair has come and gone.  It was a whirlwind of a show, exciting from beginning to end.  There’s so much to say about the event, so much in fact, that I’ve decided to break it down into two separate posts.

First, a big shout out to all my new friends from the fair.  There were over 100 people that signed up to stay in touch with Little City Kitchen Co (and with no raffle prize to bribe them either!).  I enjoyed meeting all you guys at the booth and/or during the cooking demonstration.

Behind the scenes

For those of you that are new to the LCKC blog, welcome and let me tell you a little about it.  The blog started as my way of sharing the ups and downs of starting this company.  It’s brutally honest – if I have a bad week, I write about it.  If I have an exhilarating week, I write about it too, usually at 2:30 in the morning when I can’t sleep.  I always welcome your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment on any of the blog posts.

Okay, back to the show…

Where do I even begin??  Car was loaded (sans the food) the night before…with not an inch to spare by the way.  Alarm went off Sunday morning at 6am and I got up without even hitting snooze once!  Totally excited.  Booth setup went smoothly.  I had a huge surge in pride as I unrolled the Little City Kitchen Co. tablecloth for the first time…  That’s it on the right – doesn’t it look great?

As you read in my last blog, the Big Debut, I had some questions about how much food to bring for samples…among many other concerns!  Turned out I made plenty of food <insert sigh of relief here>.  We started with the three most popular dishes: Cuban black beans, coconut brown rice and sweet potatoes, and Jewish potato latkes.  They looked every bit as beautiful as I had hoped!  Little baby hors d’oeuvres on a platter.

Doors opened at 10:00, and within 15 minutes we were nearly 3 deep at the booth.  There was huge excitement over the samples, especially the International flavors.  Throughout the show, the parent fav was the coconut brown rice, but the kiddos loved the Cuban black beans the best.  It took a little coaxing for some parents to try (gasp) baby food, but once they did, their eyes lit up, and they were sold.

Click here to view out all the pictures from the show, and hey while you’re there, you can select “Like” on our Facebook page to stay in touch too.

We had some great entries for the First Taste Face contest.  What a bunch of cuties.  Putting a few finishing touches on the pictures and will be publishing those soon.  Winner gets their choice of a complimentary cooking class or a two-week supply of baby food, so get your voting fingers ready!

The only unexpected twist at the show came around 1:30pm and had to do with my workshop scheduled for 3pm…  But you have to wait until Part 2 next week to read about that!

A special shout out to my two dear friends that helped me at the show: Lenard Dobrowolski and Kirsten Zazo.  There’s no way I could have done it without you both – I love ya!

Stay tuned next week for Part 2.

The Big Debut…

It’s here folks…Little City Kitchen Co’s big debut at the Birth & Baby Fair this Sunday.  This week has been filled with the last minute cooking and tons of prep-work leading up to the show.  Ever since Little City Kitchen Co. was born, I’ve been sharing my ups and downs with you guys each week.  Told you all this was going to be the most honest blog you’ve read, and this week is certainly no different.

The return of the “what if”…

Most of you know how excited I’ve been about exhibiting at this show.  I’ve been up late brainstorming ideas, designing recipe cards, making holiday gift baskets, among other things.  I had a very interesting (and somewhat unexpected thing) happen to me this week: all my fears about starting this company came rushing back at once, and I had a moment of sheer panic!

This happened after I started researching other baby food vendors exhibiting at this show.  These guys are well-established, global, successful brands…  And here I am, feeling like a rookie just getting started.  What if my workshop is a flop?  What if nobody buys a single gift certificate?  What if, what if, etc…

But then I realized something; my baby food is completely different then theirs!  I like the fact that I’m starting small.  I like the fact that my food has an International spin.  And I think most parents will love the fact that my baby food was made only a few days ago…exactly like they’d make it if they had the time.  So once I realized that I’m supposed to be different, the confidence started to come back.

I try to lead a pretty positive life, but so often those pesky “what if” voices in our heads tend to be negative (I’m sure you guys can relate).  I have a particularly inspiring friend, so instead I chose to hear her voice in my head saying; “But Jill, what if you’re a raving success?” That thought feels SO much better!

Samples, samples, samples…

After I got over myself, I turned my focus back to planning for the show.  Even though I’m not selling baby food on Sunday, I’m still handing out samples to generate some excitement leading up to my launch at farmers markets.

In classic “Jill-fashion”, I tried to figure out how many total samples I wanted, and then break it down by how many of each flavor so I knew how much of each recipe to make…and about 30 minutes later I was pulling my hair out!  In this situation, my sister Wendy would look at me and say “take a chill pill.”  So I did.  I decided to cook as much as possible, bring what I have, and hand food out until I run out.

First Taste Face

I’ve decided to do a contest during the show…calling it the “First Taste Face.” We’ll snap a picture of the little ones trying the baby food for the first time and capture their initial reaction.  I’ll be posting pictures of the finalists on the blog so stay tuned for those..

I’m taking some time off for Thanksgiving, so no blog next week.  A wrap up of the Birth & Baby Fair will be coming out Friday, December 3, so happy Thanksgiving until then!!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…

I’m starting to see a pattern emerge…  My weeks can be broken down into one of two categories: 1) two steps forward, one step back, or 2) one step forward, two steps back. As you can imagine, it’s a little hard to make significant progress if you combine the two!  Luckily I seem to have more of the former weeks than the latter.

This week was filled with somewhat un-fun details like more research on permits, entity forming, and writing a whole lota checks.  That being said…I’m feeling like I got a lot accomplished which keeps me motivated.

Permit me…to Vent

Ok folks, let’s talk about this permit thing…  When I first started Little City Kitchen Co., my plan was to do some small event catering and personal cheffing.  As most of you know, that changed pretty quickly when I realized I didn’t really love either of those things (and the whole reason I left the corporate world was to pursue something I love).  Had I stuck with either of those, getting my business permits would have been a fairly easy process because I’d be providing a “service”.  You pay a couple of fees, and bam you’re in business.

Everything changed the moment I decided to make baby food.  Of course, I didn’t know this at the time, which is probably not a bad thing because it would have been even more daunting.  Once you decide to “manufacture a product” it’s a whole new ballgame.  I’ve spent the last several months speaking with the state health inspectors, the county health department, and everyone in between trying to navigate the permit process so that I may sell at farmers markets…and let me tell you folks, it aint easy.

I wish I could say that I finally had answers, but alas I still do not.  My target launch date at farmers markets was January 2011.  I’m still hoping to make that happen, but it largely depends on how a few things fall into place.   It’s in my nature to follow the rules anyway…and since there’s a heightened sensitivity around anything “baby”, I’m being extra-careful to do things the right way.  Which means the farmers market waits.  Which kinda sucks.

Baby Taster Corner

Ask and you shall receive!  Many of you have been asking for some pictures of the baby tasters enjoying the Little City Kitchen Co. baby food.  Here you go!

Here’s a gorgeous picture of Eve with her baby blue eyes.  Mom, Chandra Alexandre, fed her the sweet potatoes and roasted parsnips which she was really digging.

Meet Rex, who as you can tell loves his pickles.  When he’s not chomping those, mom, Jody Kohner, feeds him the Thai curry root vegetables with millet.  Looks like I need to create a recipe around pickles.  Any ideas Rex?

These pics were so cute that I had to include a “before” and “after”.  In the first shot, Parker is eagerly opening up for his favorite dish, the Cuban black beans with plantains, mango & coconut.  Mom, Connelly Murphy, is going to have her hands full with clean up!

The Birth & Baby Fair is only 1 week away, so next week’s blog will have all the final details.  Happy Friday Everyone!

Pounding the Pavement…

There’s a phrase in the sales & marketing world that I heard and used repeatedly in my past professional life: “pounding the pavement.” You can do all the research and planning in the world, but often you need to get out from behind the desk and just start talking to people.  In the hotel world, we call this a “blitz”.  I decided to take my own advice and hit the streets to talk about Little City Kitchen Co. this week.

Step 1: Strategize and Prepare.  I decided that I was going to focus on promoting the upcoming baby food cooking classes, so I designed flyers and postcards that were easy to leave in stores.  Got my crafty on.  I put together a little “blitz” bag with pushpins for corkboards, tape, business cards, etc…  Proper materials – check.

Step 2:  Legwork.  Instead of just showing up at stores unannounced, I’ve always found it more effective to call in advance and at least get the name of who you should see.  So I did my Google searches of baby stores in 2 different towns, got 6-8 store names and started calling.

It surprised me that I was a tad bit nervous for the first phone call.  Ironic since I used to train sales managers on doing exactly that!  But, I scripted out my 10 second schpiel and gave myself pep talk that included the words “get over it, Jill”.   Mission accomplished, and contact information received.

Step 3: Start Pounding. The first few stores were a little rocky.  One (who shall remain nameless) wouldn’t even stop what she was doing to acknowledge my existence.  But, I kept going and the visits got immediately better.  One store in particular, Monkey Bars in Alameda, was adorable and carried some of the coolest, eco-friendly kids items I’ve seen.  The shop owner & I brainstormed some really fun and creative opportunities that I hope to be able to share with you soon.

Step 4: Follow Up.  Emails, thank you cards, ongoing dialogue…this is probably the most important step and the one most commonly overlooked.  So that’s what I’m doing now.

Why Baby Food?

Let me tell you, I do get some funny looks when people realize that I’m not a mommie.  They ask me why I’ve chosen to launch a baby food company when I don’t have kids of my own yet.  The best answer I’ve come up with is that I love food, I love kids, and I love the idea of growing healthy eaters. It’s kinda that simple for me.

Tis the Season…Really?

Everyone’s looking for the great holiday gift ideas (let’s face it, the dudes always need a little help in this department), so I thought I’d make it a little easier this year.  If you’re interested taking any of our cooking classes, sign THEM up to receive an email from me about gift certificates and packages offered at Little City Kitchen Co.  Just click here to fill in their email address, and they’ll get an email from me in early December with the details.

Easy Holiday Appetizers

I’ve decided to add one final “adult” cooking class of the year at a special price of $55.  Join me on Sunday, November 14th at 3:30pm for a cooking class on making Easy Holiday Appetizers.  Email me if you are interested in attending.

That’s it for this week.  Happy Cooking until next week!

Sleep is Overrated…Right?

Sleep is overrated.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself after another few 2:30am nights.  Another roller coaster of a week filled with creative energy and more midnight brainstorming.

As you read about last week, I’m thrilled to have been selected to host a hands-on cooking class at the Birth & Baby Fair at Fort Mason on November 21st.  Instead of the two workshops I agreed to hold originally, I’ve decided to only do one.    With 1500-2000 attendees expected, I want to make sure I have ample time to interact (read: impress) all the people who come by the booth.

Which got me thinking…  What’s the best way to showcase my baby food at this venue?  The wheels in my head started turning that night and didn’t stop well until after 2:30am.

Came up with some really cool ideas (hint: think baby hors d’oeuvres on a platter, complete with a little spoon and a garnish).  Add to the mix a great brainstorming session with a friend – thanks Alex! – where I decided to create a Baby Food of the Month Club” among other things to sell at the show .  Black tradeshow tablecloth with my logo is on its way, my embroidered aprons arrived, things are moving right along…

Coming soon to a market near you

When can we buy the baby food?  That’s a common question for me these days.  I’ve decided to launch two baby food lines (one seasonal and one International) at farmers markets in January 2011.   Originally I was going to start off at the local Emeryville farmers market located ½ mile from my kitchen.  You know…start small, work out all the kinks, move up to a larger market after that…those who know me know that’s kinda my M.O.

And then I realized – that’s stupid!!  If someone asked me for advice in this situation, I’d tell them to find the best damn farmers market they could get into and just learn fast.  So that’s what I’ve decided to do.  I’m not really a “throw caution to the wind” sorta gal, but I think in this case I’d be foolish not to aim as high as I can.

So I’m “shopping” for the best farmers markets now…and if you’re in the Bay area, I’m open to your ideas.  Which farmers market do you think is the best one for me??

The Baby Taster Corner

I cannot believe that this is my fourth and final week of the Baby Taster meetings!  The Jewish-inspired potato latkes and the Cuban black beans with plantains were winners last week.  Score!  (I must confess, the black bean dish with some sour cream and lime in a tortilla was my dinner for two nights in a row).

These guys were such troopers…they took an hour every week to meet as a group and to discuss everything from my recipes, consistency, packaging, pricing, you name it.  I will forever be grateful for the time and support they have given me.   Thanks guys!

Next week: health permits and lots of marketing.  And definitely some sleep.