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

November 18, 2016

Mentors, industry experts work with food entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities in inaugural six-week program

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/community/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

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

 
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November 18, 2016

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Arizona State University has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation for graduate employability, according to a new survey of employers.

The Global University Employability Survey 2016 ranked ASU ninth in the country for preparing graduates for jobs, ahead of MIT, Columbia and UCLA.

Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost, credited ASU’s wide variety of real-world experiences.

"ASU’s academic rigor and distinctive programs prepare our graduates to excel at jobs across a wide range of disciplines,” Searle said.

"This ranking provides wonderful confirmation that our dedicated faculty are successfully educating students with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve in the workplace."

Of the top 20 universities on the list, seven are public. ASU is the second-highest-ranked public university, behind No. 8 University of Florida. The complete list of the top 20 in the United States are: New York University, Harvard University, Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Boston University, Yale University, University of Florida, Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California Los Angeles, Duke University, Penn State University, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, University of Notre Dame, Boston College and the University of Virginia.

The universities were ranked by recruiters and managing directors. The survey was published by Times Higher Education.

Among ASU’s unique and innovative professional-pathway programs are the iTeachAZ residency, which places students in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in local schools for a year, and the aviation programs at the Polytechnic campus that provide a seamless transition to jobs with top carriers.

Another program is the Startup Center in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, which offers classes, workshops, mentoring, investment and extracurricular activities that expose students to the concepts of entrepreneurship and technology innovation. Earlier this year, the Ford Motor Co. named ASU as one of its top schools for recruiting and hiring, tapping into the career centers of the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Analise Ortiz went to work for TV station KGBT, the CBS affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, right after graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2014. She said that working in the school’s Cronkite News weekday broadcast show, which airs on Arizona PBS, was great preparation because of the design of the "teaching hospital" model of newsroom journalism the Cronkite School employes.

“Right out of college I started as a morning reporter, and after two months, I was promoted to night reporter covering the fifth-largest metro area in Texas,” she said.

“I pitch ideas, set up the interviews and then shoot all of my own video, write the story, edit the video and go live on air to present it,” said Ortiz, whose title is multimedia reporter.

Going from the student-run Cronkite News show to a network affiliate broadcast wasn't difficult for her.

“I already had that experience of shooting my story in a day and editing under pressure and then presenting it live on the air,” she said.

After two years, Ortiz maintains a close relationship with her ASU professors.

“They continue to give me guidance and mentorship, and they have a genuine interest in my success,” she said. “They take time to give me feedback and help me in meeting people in the industry who might one day be a potential employer.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503