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ASU's Prepped helps food startups cook up a business plan

February 20, 2017

When Kim Goode throws a party, she likes to walk around the house and watch people eat.

“It’s nice to see people enjoying what you make,” Goode (pictured above) said. “Food makes people happy, and if it’s good food, mmmmm. ... Our culture is based around food. If there’s a get-together, there’s going to be food there.”

Goode works part-time cooking for non-profits; she also attends school and takes care of her kids. She has had the dream of baking for a living since high school but never had the money or time to take her enterprise to the next level.

“Now I’m in a better place to take the time to invest in myself,” she said.

She wants to own a catering company — Goode Eats and Sweets. Soul food and retro desserts, like banana pudding, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.

“I do a lot of things,” she said. “I put my twist on it — a little soul food, a little Southern. I like it all, so I try to make it all. ... My family is from Mississippi, so you’ve got to know how to cook something.”

She can make it all. The problem is she doesn’t know how to do it all. That’s where Prepped came in.

Prepped is a free six-week program offered by Arizona State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This fall was the inaugural kickoff. Entrepreneurship programs at ASU usually revolve around tech of some sort. The staff decided they wanted to do something different and chose to support food startups.

“Our intention is to support food entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities,” program coordinator Michele Rudy said. “We want to see your business grow.”

Goode was studying sustainable food systems at a community college when her instructor posted a link to the Prepped opportunity.

“There are a lot of programs for entrepreneurs, but none of them are for food,” she said.

Goode started cooking with her mother when she was 6 years old. “She got so good I don’t do it any more,” her mother said.

Until now, Goode’s sounding board has consisted of a cousin who always hangs out in her kitchen. “I just stick stuff in her mouth and she’s like, ‘Uh-huh,’ or ‘You need to do something with that.’ ” Possibly the most flattering compliment came from her grandmother, who asked her for her carrot cake recipe. “It’s just a little bit better than mine,” Goode said her grandmother told her.

“I never heard that from her before,” Goode said.

All of which is nice to hear, but won’t necessarily get a business off the ground. With Prepped, she has learned finance, food handling and basic commercial cooking.

“I didn’t even know you can rent a kitchen,” she said.

Goode’s mentor, Giovanni Pace, executive chef and owner of Scratch Catering in Tempe, has been walking her through getting a license.

“I was ignorant of what was out there,” Goode said. “They’ve kept me from buying things I really don’t need.”

On a Thursday afternoon, she is baking candied walnut tea cakes, an after-school or -church snack.

“It’s not super-sweet, but enough to satisfy that sweet tooth,” she said. (See recipe video at the bottom of this story.)

She kneads dough and nuts. Being a baker is something like being a surgeon; a lot of it is in the feel of the hands. “It’s a snack,” she said. “It’s not going to be super-pretty, but I’m going to pretty them up a bit.”

She rolls the dough flat, then punches out discs with a drinking glass. Fifteen minutes later, she opens the oven door for a peek. “Oh my — these are big like Texas.”

They are eye-closing, mouth-watering, give-me-another-one good. “Mmmm,” raptures a visitor.

Goode throws her head back, smiles, slaps her thigh. “That’s what I like to see!”

Six days later, Goode and her 14 classmates have gathered in the huge commercial kitchen in the Health South building on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Usually the kitchen is used by nutrition students.

Tonight is mentor night, where food experts will critique them and give advice. The entrepreneurs are on edge, and tension is palpable. They’ve brought ceviche, Belgian waffles, and a cake that looks like a jewelry box, among other dishes. Goode brought Peruvian chicken with Peruvian yellow rice.

“I hope it’s hot,” she said.

The mentors present include a marketing expert from Fry’s, restaurant owners, culinary school faculty, and food truck operators.

Michael Mazzocco, owner and president of The Herb Box Catering Company, is involved with the Small Business Leadership Academy in the W. P. Carey School of Business, which is how he heard about Prepped.

“I think it’s a great way to learn about myself and help others,” he said.

His company’s motto is “Passion lives here.”

“You have to be passionate,” he said. “If you’re not passionate, it won’t work.”

Rudy calls the room together and addresses the group. “Advice for the entrepreneurs: Ask lots of questions,” she said. “Advice for the mentors: Keep it real.”

The mentors move out around the room. One asks Goode if she’s on Instagram. (“Yes.”)

Questions fly around the kitchen.

“Who are your suppliers?”

“Do you have business cards?”

“How long do you marinate the shrimp?”

Sasha Reyes, 29, is an in-home personal chef. Many of her clients are professional athletes and people on restricted diets. Most athletes are careful about what they eat. Most, Reyes stressed.

“I’ve seen Crunch Berries in some people’s cupboards, and we get rid of those right away,” she said.

Tonight she’s dishing up two versions of roasted polenta with an eggplant caponata, one vegan, one with grilled chicken.

Reyes started her own company — Body & Soul Food — about a year ago.

“This course has definitely given me the ability to key in on areas where I have some weaknesses,” she said. “I’m going to make some changes in the new year, maybe do some rebranding.”

Lorenzo Santillan has a food truck in the wings. He sees classical Mexican cuisine, like mole and tacos al pastor, on his horizon. He also slaughters pigs for parties.

Brought from Mexico when he was 9 years old, Santillan sees self-employment as job security. No one is going to ask him for his residency papers if he’s the boss. With food, “I’m rewriting the history of my family,” he said. “This course has opened up so many doors and given us so many resources.”

His food truck will be named Ni De Aqui Ni De Alla; “Neither Here Nor There,” he said.

Santillan has earned his food handler’s certificate through the course. “Our mentors are amazing,” he said. “Each one has given us knowledge.”

He found accounting especially valuable. “That was an eye-opener,” he said. “I think by the end of this we’ll all understand where we need to be in the next six months.”

After the Prepped course ends, Goode plans to rent a kitchen space, “then I’m going to get out there and hustle as much as I can.”

This group’s final meeting will be the week of Thanksgiving. Applications for the next cohort will be accepted in the spring. For more information, visit: https://entrepreneurship.asu.edu/prepped

 

 

How to make Kim Goode's Candied Walnut Tea Cakes. Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

 

Top photo: Prepped entrepreneur Kim Goode poses for a portrait at her family home in Phoenix on Nov. 10. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

ASU Now
scott.seckel@asu.edu