A local mom has been proclaimed the winner of the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.
Bree Schumacher of Dousman is a self-proclaimed foodie who leveraged the growing interest in healthful eating to come up with an Italian dinner starter product that provides busy moms with an option for fast, healthy meals that appeal to adults and children alike.
"There are tons of low-fat skinny recipes out there, lots of healthy ones and ones geared towards families, but I didn't really see many that married those three concepts together," Schumacher says.
"So, I started skinnymommy.com as a way to track the recipes I was making for my own family and share them with other busy moms who had the same goal of serving fast, skinny and family-friendly recipes at home. "
The Skinny Mommy "Superfood Italian" dinner starter is a play on pesto, using kale as its main ingredient. Each jar of the starter provides the base for two dinners that will each feed a family of four. Best of all, each jar of the starter contains four cups of kale, a superfood that contains significant amounts of calcium, iron and Vitamins A and C.
Schumacher is committed to the idea of creating a product that is all natural and free of preservatives and genetically modified ingredients. But, she also wanted something that tasted great.
"The recipe is something that my four-year-old begs for – seriously!" Schumacher reports, indicating that her son calls it "special green pasta." "I absolutely love that the recipe is so good that it has a child begging for kale. The flavor is nutty and citrus-y, and so it is great for people who want to eat healthier, but who may typically be turned off by 'healthy foods' – like kids and picky eaters."
The Challenge, which was sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services, aimed to kick-start the efforts of one local entrepreneur and provide the necessary support to ensure that they could take their concept to the next level.
"We received so many really creative food business entries that it was challenging to pick only three finalists," said contest judge Lynn Sbonik, owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café in Milwaukee. "Our finalists' concepts stood out as having that something extra in terms of marketability and they just happened to be healthy options, as well."
The three finalists included Bree's Skinny Mommy Dinner starter, along with two other submissions from area entrepreneurs. Joanne and Maanaan Sabir of Milwaukee presented their concept for The Juice Kitchen, a vegan raw juice and vegetarian food bar with the goal of providing healthy, tasty and affordable food for Milwaukee central-city residents. Ann Allen of Oshkosh also submitted her concept for Spirit of Spelt, a line of traditional cookies made with spelt, an alternative grain appropriate for individuals who are marginally sensitive to traditional wheat products.
As the grand prize winner, Schumacher received $2,500 in seed money, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC, over $500 worth of professional cookware and knives from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Milwaukee's Advisory Council.
Schumacher plans to use the seed money for necessities like liability insurance and equipment, but she's most looking forward to taking advantage of the free consulting services.
"I feel slightly overwhelmed with all the red tape that goes into starting a food business in Wisconsin," she explains. "There are a lot of steps and as someone new to the food world I have a learning curve. I can do it though, probably just not at the lightning speed I want to."
Ultimately Schumacher would like to look for a producer and a distributor.
"I want to see this on every refrigerator shelf in grocery stores and Targets in America," she says. "Right now, I am working on getting nutritional labels, licenses and those necessary things. I am also taking a class on how to get a food business started in Wisconsin. All of it is so fun, so I am looking forward to the journey!"
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.