KIERSTEN FIRQUAIN - Co-founder of Happy Food Co.
“I’m a chef, but it was actually my business partner’s frustration with meal planning that led to our startup.”
Kiersten Firquain says it all began when her partner, Jeff Glasco, found himself hungry and looking for dinner in a grocery store. The options and possibilities were overwhelming.
“He stood there thinking, ‘There’s got to be an easier way to get a good meal made of fresh ingredients.’”
Jeff’s background is more in the direction of information technology than food, so he tapped Kiersten’s well-known farm-to-table expertise to help explore a solution.
“At first, I laughed. But he was so passionate that I couldn’t resist. We put our heads together and came up with the Happy Food Co. Jeff became our CEO. He likes to say he’s the happy and I’m the food. We’re just great partners.”
The business focuses on taking care of the planning, shopping, measuring and chopping so busy people can pick up kits and easily cook fresh meals with local ingredients at home. Customers immediately identified Happy Food Co. as a great answer to the pressing question, “What’s for dinner?” But even the tastiest business idea still has to navigate the typical heat in the startup kitchen.
“Cash flow, capital and getting the resources we needed. Those were the first hurdles, and it wasn’t easy. We also got off on the wrong foot thinking this was going to be a workplace model. We weren’t getting enough traffic, so we switched to a retail model with an emphasis on grocery stores at first. That was the right way to go. Fortunately, we found it before the wrong way threatened our survival.”
After two years in business, Happy Food Co. is in dozens of retail locations, and expects that number to top 50 by the end of 2017. Rapid growth quickly convinced Kiersten that the business had a future.
“I don’t want to declare us successful yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. We still have many goals to reach in terms of locations and vertical expansion.”
Launching Happy Food Co. has given Kiersten plenty of food for thought about strategic partnerships.
“Partnerships and alliances are critical. You need help, and you have to build a smart team that has your back. Our banking partner is an example. We trust Lead Bank because they work with us and help us any way they can. We switched from a bank we had been with for a very long time because of the personal relationship we developed with Lead Bank. They really care about our success, and they’re devoted to the community they serve.”
Her advice to startup owners eyeing the next level: Don’t let anything stand in the way.
“Never give up on your goals. If you’re not exactly sure how to get there, find an advisor or mentor to show you the path. Your moments of deepest doubt typically come right before your biggest victories.”
It helps to have a supportive community, too. Kiersten says she finds reason to be grateful for doing business in Greater Kansas City every day.
“Kansas City actively supports local businesses – that’s just a fact. Whether it’s a customer’s loyalty or a business program that helps with planning and operations, we just couldn’t ask for a better community. It’s no surprise that startups do well here.”
Your moments of deepest doubt typically come right before your biggest victories.
Kiersten says she loves knowing that Happy Food Co. is making a difference in people’s lives. She feels like her business is a recipe for giving back to the community by enriching lives, saving time and bringing people together over meals.
“A couple once told us that Happy Food Co. saved their marriage because it put an end to their daily squabbles over dinner plans. I guess those squabbles were pretty intense! We were delighted that they were so happy that they contacted us to let us know.”
While Happy Food Co. is feeding customers, it’s also growing home in the grand tradition of small businesses that have helped Greater Kansas City evolve.
“Communities and local businesses share something very important. The people behind them are passionate about building a future. That’s why business owners are naturals at shaping the potential of their hometown. A desire to grow home is just part of who they are.”