Week 16: Kiss Your Grits

52businesses is excited to work with Leigh Davis-Turner and Margaret Kargbo to start their new food truck, Kiss Ya Grits!  Although the name and menu haven’t been officially decided (these are actually some of our tasks for the week), the vision is to offer healthy, low cost breakfast food that not only satisfies appetites but also gives back to the community.

Nutritionists often list breakfast as the most important meal of the day, but many Americans skip a healthy breakfast due to time or cost constraints.  Leigh and Margaret believe that bringing yummy breakfast to people regardless of socioeconomics and/or location is a benefit to everyone.  Leigh has a background in food and community building and Margaret is focused on solving traditional problems with creative solutions.  The women saw an opportunity to combine their passions by creating the Kiss Ya Grits food truck! 

We started from scratch this week with a brainstorming session and we’re already working on developing a business plan.  We also plan to focus on branding, acquiring customers, and nailing down what exactly the product is.  Stay tuned for updates.

Blog Post: Day One (Margaret)

Full of anticipation and a bit of anxiety, I came into this moment unknowing of what the experience would be but believing in my bottom line goal of impacting community through a creative solution. For me and my partner, this meant creating a good food truck concept and linking its mission to social change for social good. As easy as it sounds, we definitely had our work cut out with the many to-do’s that come along with starting any new business venture and partnership. It only took a few minutes into our early Monday meeting to realize how lucky we are to be onboard with 52businesses as we fulfill our goal of operating a healthy, breakfast food truck in New Orleans.

Today was all about boiling down who we are, what we’re about and how best to achieve our goals of making profit while doing some good in community. First and foremost, we needed a working name for our business. This was no easy task realizing the variety of names and themed breakfast concepts tossed around the night before. Nevertheless, we rested on Kiss Ya Grits: The Community Bowl food truck. We then moved into figuring out business basics: a division of responsibilities, math plus offerings.

What could be served fresh and healthy to consumers? At which price point would we yield the greatest bang for our buck? Who’s responsible for what? What additional opportunities exist for us to expand our reach?

After a quick tossing around of ideas, we jotted down a short list of food items, marketing opportunities and roles for each founder to chew on. We segmented what could be tabled until further research was conducted and began planning a guerilla style sampling event for later in the week. Little did I know we would shortly enter into the “breakaway” zone. It was time for one person to tackle the business plan and the other to participate in a community radio interview hosted by Max of 52 Businesses. Quite naturally I chose radio –it’s been a love of mine for as long as I can remember. However this was not your traditional talk radio show… it was more like a friendly meetup with cool, new friends who happen to be awesome entrepreneurs.

The conversation was delightful, energetic, informative and insightful as I heard from a previous 52 Businesses participant about his experience getting a startup business off the ground. I then introduced Kiss Ya Grits to listeners and joined in a candid discussion about local partnerships, NOLA startup community and the steady but subtle shift among locals (and transplants) to keep NOLA healthy, fit and sustainable for future generations. I left the feeling very empowered, supported and ready for the next steps.

So what’s next on the agenda? Tomorrow awaits a visit to the local Costco (thanks guys for agreeing to be taste testers of the 1st official Kiss Ya Grits bowl), flushing out our business and marketing plan, and getting in the nooks & crannies of our business structure so that everybody invited to the table (investors included) are winning at best!

There are 6 days and counting.  I’m feeling like a winner and striving for a championship ring. This business is truly not for the faint at heart and I ready to meet the challenge. More to come.

Blog Post: Day One (Leigh)

First day of entrepreneur bootcamp!  After a mentally exhausting day, I feel surprisingly relieved.  I feel confident in how 52businesses is structuring the week so that we build the right foundation for Kiss Your Grits.  And the people involved with 52businesses that are lending their time, knowledge and connections are helping us to develop a greater community, not just to start a business.  I’m glad I took the week off from my full time job though, because there is plenty to think about, research, write and execute!

As we develop (and DOCUMENT!) the plan, my excitement for the business grows.  Food as Social Justice.  Enterprise meeting Values.  Kiss Your Grits can connect communities by establishing partnerships with local food networks and civic organizations.  We can serve yummy, healthy food and bridge food inequality by bringing affordable breakfast to the City. So thankful to have a partner like Maggie, a hard worker with a similar background yet a different perspective.  She makes a somewhat daunting process more inspiring.

As I think about the week ahead, I’m getting the most excited about menu planning, getting feedback on the food and conceptualizing the marketing plan! I’m also super thankful for my permit consulting background because navigating the food truck permit labyrinth at the city is going to be crucial to building the phases of business operations. A couple of things are rolling around in my head; getting the grit recipe perfected; determining if we should right marketing copy in a more casual voice to play off the tone of the company name; the logo graphics and font; budget projections (ugh, my brain hurts); sweet toppings for grits (coconut milk & satsuma marmalade?) and the Rebirth Brass Band album launch party!


Blog Post: Day 2 (Leigh)

I don’t think give ever used so much of my brain, creativity and emotions at that same time than I have this week! It is exhilarating, empowering and exhausting! Today was great, jam-packed with brainstorming and sessions with consultants working with 52businesses. It was really great to talk to Dennis Lomonaco (Story Block Media) about branding. With his background in non-profits/foundations, he really helped us to create easy, thoughtful ways to engage with people that eat at the truck.

The name still continues to be a sticking point. And we really can’t get into the marketing without a firm name.

KISS MY GRITS: FB page links to a food truck in Seattle- not trademark but so we want to take the time to fight in court about the name? No.

KISS YOUR GRITS: THE COMMUNITY BOWL: We really like it but are concerned that “The Community Bowl part will get dropped off & the social aspect of the truck will be not be featured as it could.

MAMA GRITS’ COMMUNIITY BOWL: Lengthy, not as memorable. Captures the outreach aspect of the business but could be confusing.

So for now, KISS YOUR GRITS: THE COMMUNITY BOWL is the winner.

The most exciting part of the day was cooking! We have a tasting scheduled for Thursday & wanted to start testing the recipes – so off the Costco we went for supplies. We did lots of price-checking of other ingredients while we were there. Bananas were without a doubt the cheapest fruit there and Feta Cheese was way less expensive than we thought! Score one for flavor.

So after the shopping trip, we had a meeting to review the financials for the business model while we cooked. Chopping calms me and figuring those formulas freaks me out so it was a good balance. Adam, Katrina, Colin and Max served as the taste testers. The bananas foster grits, which Max dubbed The Chiquita, was a surprise hit even among those that don’t eat sweet grits. The financial outlook was actually firm as long as the grits actually sold and we could sell enough in a day. So tomorrow will be an important barometer for moving forward.

MORE: Blog post about how Kiss Your Grits should deal with good and bad online reviews.

Kiss Your Grits and Bob