Culinary Kids: Helping Kids Cook with Help from SCORE
Juggling a full-time career as an emergency helicopter pilot and raising 5 boys between the ages of 1 and 8 is a tall order for any family. Add buying and growing a new business venture to the mix and only the strong will survive. Sherri and Larry Hansen have done just that, growing Culinary Kids into a thriving business that truly has a positive impact on its community. From a simple childhood memory of working together in the kitchen alongside her mother and Grandma, Sherri envisioned a place where family and friends could connect over meals—a place where people of all ages and walks of life could participate in the cooking process and experience the traditional values of family and friendships amidst the face pace world we live in.
If anyone knows how to effectively engage and influence children and families, it must be a mother of 5. But, Sherri also brings professional experience as an educator and a former manager of a Boys & Girls Club to the business.
The mission of Culinary Kids is to connect children and families in the community by creating bonding and learning opportunities exploring the art and science of cooking. The programs teach life, social and academic skills while encouraging creative expression and critical thinking. The culinary school has become a local favorite for school trips, and the events it provides for children
Culinary Kids reaches out to and collaborates with many other small businesses in the area, creating partnerships and complementary programs including adult cooking classes with local chefs, fitness programs with gyms and trainers, senior programs with area hospitals and many more joint ventures with businesses that support healthy, positive lifestyles. They also dedicate their time and resources to support local non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, ACCESS, SOAR and UP21 (all dedicated to assorted special needs populations in the community) as well as local schools and many other fundraising events in the area.
Culinary Kids was chosen in December 2012 as the recipient of the Sam’s Club Holiday Cheer small business grant and training. Sherri has been recognized by Sophisticated Woman, a popular magazine in the area, as their Enterprising Woman of the Month for July.
Of mentor Mack Deloney, Sherri says, “Our mentor has taken our passion and anxious energies and given us professional focus, helping us achieve our goals. Our business is fueled by our heart, but our mentor helps us see the clear picture of success based on logical principles that allow us to be financially sustainable, thus allowing our passionate programs to grow with direction and purpose. Neither of us as owners possesses the academic or experiential knowledge needed to run a business, so our mentor has helped define our needs and has provided a wealth of support, and advice. Other specialized mentors have filled in those gaps even further, allowing us to succeed. We have increased our efficiency, defined a more clear business plan, and improved our human resources and hiring strategies. We feel supported, knowing that in those moments of excessive stress, there is someone to call who "gets it" and who will be there to coach us through the rough patches. This business would not exist in its expanding form were it not for our mentor's influence and we can't wait to one day serve others in the same capacity!
As a service-based business, providing customized programs for our community, we needed to learn which of our program ideas would succeed and which would not. Naturally, we believed all of our ideas to be fantastic; however, our mentor helped us streamline those programs by evaluating their feasibility and profitability in a very clear fashion. Doing this allowed us to increase our efficiency, save time in program development and decrease the stress placed on staff in these developmental months. We also experienced human resources and staffing issues as our target employees must meet very specific qualifications. Our mentor suggested a human resources expert (also a SCORE volunteer) to assist us in defining our staffing challenges (retention and payroll predictability) and brainstorm ideas on how to re-structure our program offerings to suit both the community AND the staff we wanted to retain. We changed the offerings, created new job descriptions and the energy of our team shifted immediately and became more stable with a clear direction.”
Of SCORE Sherri says, “We sought SCORE support just as we opened our business, knowing that we needed assistance to make it work, but would not be able to afford a hired coach. SCORE was the answer to our challenges and we truly would not be here without this support. We are dedicated to spreading the word about what SCORE has done for us and we continue to recommend these services to other business owners in our community.”