Banana Love Muffins

Banana Love JPEG

What We Do:

Banana Love Muffins is changing the world one muffin at a time. Moist, delicious banana muffins are the perfect breakfast or treat. Always dairy-free and egg-free, entirely vegan, with no refined sugar, added fat or cholesterol, and made with 100% whole wheat flour. Our four classic flavors include, original – just banana, chocolate chip, wild blueberry, and walnut, plus we have seasonal favorite flavors throughout the year.

At Banana Love Muffins we believe you get what you give. Every time someone buys Banana Love Muffins we will make a donation to help at-risk kids get fresh fruits and veggies.

debbi

In the beginning:

As a young teenager, one day I picked up a tattered cookbook in my mother’s kitchen, looked around to see what ingredients we had, and began making the most scrumptious banana bread. Gifting loaves and loaves of it over the years, people would say, “This is the best banana bread I’ve ever had!”

“One day I’m going to start a banana bread business…” I would respond; guarding the recipe and the “secret ingredient.”

After adopting a vegan diet, I realized I had to adjust the recipe to be in-line with my values, so out went the dairy and the eggs. Ever striving for optimal health, I began making other changes to the recipe; replacing the white sugar with dehydrated cane juice, switching to whole wheat flour, and removing the fat. And when I muffined it, the light bulb went off, and Banana Love Muffins was born.

Everyone deserves a delicious treat. Banana Love Muffins are perfect for people with egg or dairy allergies, who follow a vegan diet, or are concerned with the amount of fat, cholesterol, and refined sugar they are consuming. And even if you’re not concerned with any of that, you will love Banana Love Muffins, because they are really, really good.

What Have We Learned: 

If you have a quality product and work hard, that’s half the battle. Stay the course, stay true to your values, stay positive, trust your gut, don’t get distracted, and don’t get discouraged. Other people’s business strategies are not your business strategy. Ask for help, which I don’t do enough. Sell, sell, sell.

I truly believe things happen at the time and way they are meant to, so if that big order I’ve worked long and hard to get doesn’t materialize, I believe something bigger/better is waiting in the wings.

Some of the best things I’ve learned are some of my favorite bits of Banana Love Wisdom like: “Most everything you want is just outside your comfort zone,” beginning is easy; continuing is hard, and I try to remember what Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Always keep your sense of humor.

What We Love: 

I love when people say, “Wow!” after tasting Banana Love Muffins. And, that’s the most common reaction. But, what I love most is changing the perception of what people think a vegan baked-good is; especially one with no added fat.

I run across a number of people who have issues with dairy or children with severe egg allergies. I love how excited they get when they realize they can actually enjoy Banana Love Muffins

I also love that, in some small way, we are doing our part to help the community get healthy by not only offering a healthier treat, but contributing to causes that promote eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

I love that we are helping people, the planet, and the animals in such an easy, delicious way.

What Is Next For Us: 

Banana Love Muffins is really just getting started. Now that we have our new packaging, we are focusing on expanding to a variety of retail outlets. We will also focus on increasing sales to food services. Banana Love Muffins are perfect for cafes, schools, businesses, hotels, and really should be served at the White House and House and Senate dining rooms. Banana Love Muffins can quite literally help our government trim the fat.

As a new business, I want to make sure we successfully build the brand with our classic muffins before we venture into other pursuits. I’ve got a zillion ideas rolling around in my head, but I want to make sure we don’t crash and burn by doing too much too soon. If we keep at this trajectory, there will be time enough to do everything.

Changing the world is hard work, but we’re doing it one delicious Banana Love Muffin at a time

Awards/Acclaim

http://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2013/08/27/going-bananas-over-a-new-line-of-muffins/

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/08/shark-tank-holds-auditions-in-washington-93138.html

Hurdling Barriers to Entry

union kitchen food incubator

How startups can survive and grow in the food business

Our first business was the Blind Dog Café, a little spot North of U Street (come visit us sometime!).  It was our first experience running a food business and we quickly learned how many obstacles there are, not just for startups in general, but specifically for those in the food business.

Most people launch a food businesses because they’re passionate about sharing their creations with a wider audience. Very few wake up and think to themselves, “I can’t wait to negotiate with the trash collection company today!” A successful business, though, is one that focuses on operations and the most important part of any business – the customer.

In that spirit, Union Kitchen brings food businesses together to overcome common challenges and provide critical mass for sales and growth. There are barriers we all face and lament so Union Kitchen relieves business owners of the stresses of capital investment, operational nuisances, and vendor negotiations while helping connect businesses to customers and sales opportunities. Union Kitchen applies what we have learned (and are still learning) to find solutions that let food entrepreneurs focus their attention on creating their products and reaching their customers. Leave the nuisances of administration, cleaning, and finding a bookkeper to Union Kitchen. The hurdles we help businesses leap over include:

Startup costs: This is the first big eye opener when people explore opening a food company. Deposits, construction, commercial kitchen equipment, and inventory add up quickly, and are major factors that stop new businesses before they start. Union Kitchen minimizes start up costs by providing prep space, cold storage, dry storage, inventory, and commercial kitchen equipment for our members so they don’t have to take on startup costs themselves.

Government regulations/licensing: We have created streamlined processes for Union Kitchen members to get licensed, reducing what could  be a days or weeks long endeavor into just a few hours. We forge relationships with local regulatory authorities and health inspectors to make sure that our members operate safely and face minimal challenges in working with the government. And we’re here to help troubleshoot, reducing psychic stress and getting businesses out of government lines and in front of the  customer.

Vendor relationships: There are both monetary and time-and-stress-related benefits to pooling resources when dealing with vendors. Combining so many food businesses under one roof allows members to save money through scale and group negotiations. Even more importantly, the more time a food entrepreneur is spending making sure trash gets picked up or that toilets are clean, the less time she is spending in the kitchen or meeting her customers.

Trusted, verified partners: Fledgling food entrepreneurs can’t do it all on their own. They need good, trustworthy partners like lawyers, accountants, graphic designers, and web developers. Finding good people is a time-intensive process, which is why Union Kitchen members benefit from shared knowledge and recommendations of service providers. The Union Kitchen offices above the kitchen are  home to PR experts, social media strategists, and graphic designers who work extensively with and provide discounts to Union Kitchen members.

Getting products to market: A startup bakery doesn’t have the resources to hire a sales team, even though the baker might not be the best salesperson. In the food industry, just like any other, success is driven by getting product to market. At Union Kitchen, we help members answer the big four questions: Who are my customers? Where do I find them? How do I get them to buy? How do I get them to buy again?

Union Kitchen gets our members’ products to market through catering and distribution. We host regular tastings with the likes of Whole Foods, Mrs. Greens, Smuckers Farms, and Relay Foods, which gives members the opportunity to build relationships and sell product. Each month, we cater dozens of events and help curate markets, connecting Union Kitchen to our community and our members to their customers.

Opportunity cost: Any time spent by business owner on something other than producing or selling is costly. In the food industry, there is huge opportunity cost in time spent on operational details. Union Kitchen gives this cost back to the business. Through scale, pooled resources, and institutional knowledge gleaned from our experiences, we take on the opportunity costs for our members so they don’t have to. In doing so, we help businesses focus on what they do best… feeding their customers.

 

union kitchen food incubator

Union Kitchen, the food incubator, will open a second facility, growing the ranks of membership and the impact of the incubator on small businesses, jobs, and culture. Currently working with 55 food businesses in NoMa, Union Kitchen’s second facility in Ivy City will more than triple the square footage and house an estimated 70 additional members.

The incubator provides space for production and opportunities for sales, including driving business to members through catering and providing distribution services. “Union Kitchen is a solution to meet the challenges we faced as small business owners at the Blind Dog Café,” said Jonas Singer, a co-founder of Union Kitchen. “At Union Kitchen, we create community and, through that community, the efficiencies to overcome the growth constraints common in the food industry. The response to Union Kitchen has been incredible.”

Union Kitchen removes barriers to entry by eliminating the need for small businesses to take on debt, purchase expensive equipment, sign a long-term lease, enter disadvantageous distribution contracts, or take many of the other risks that business owners have come to expect as the norm for starting a food business. The new facility will include a focus on providing businesses growth opportunities, addressing the gap that many operators face as they grow from micro enterprises to regional businesses.

Currently, Union Kitchen offers a full slate of business services including catering and distribution, and covers operational costs for its members, including utilities, taxes, cleaning, trash collection, and more. For independent operators, these services are costly and a distraction from focusing on what matters most – preparing their best product and finding more customers. Many operators struggle to expand as they run out of space, making scaling impossible and constricting their ability to grow their businesses, customers, and jobs.

“The last year has been very exciting for us,” said Cullen Gilchrist, Union Kitchen co-founder. “A thriving food scene in DC plays such a huge role in the city’s culture, and it’s something that is incredibly important to us. We think of this new opportunity not just as an investment in our company, but also as an investment in our city.”

The Union Kitchen team – comprised of 13 District locals – plans to open their state-of-the-art facility in late 2014. To learn more about Union Kitchen, visit unionkitchendc.com or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Valentine’s Day Romance

Every lovers favorite holiday is right around the corner and nothing says I love you like an edible gift. Treat your hunny to one (or some, or all) of these great gift ideas – made right here in Union Kitchen. From our hearts to yours.

1. Pork Dreams? Pork Dreams. Good for the guys, even better for the ladies. Nothing says date night like charcuterie & cheese for two. Find Cured DC through their CSA or online store.  www.cureddc.com

2. Time for a little sprucing in the bedroom? Adorn your walls with a colorful neighborhood map – now available at a special lover’s rate. www.cherrryblossomcreative.com

3. Tuckered out from the big night out? Beets make the heart grow fonder: Drink yours (and hers) with a starter pack from Jrink. www.jrinkjuicery.com

4. Can’t make a trip to Paris by VDay? Take your hunny over to DC Patisserie for your own little taste of French (Macaron) heaven! www.dcpatisserie.com

5. Keepin’ it low key this Valentine’s Day? Make love, not dinner with an at home delivered meal by Ciao Chow. Order online, for now and for always. www.ciaochowdc.com

6. Searching for the perfect handmade gift? Truffle yourself no more. The artisanal chocolatier at Chocotenango has got you covered. www.chocotenango.com

7.  You know how they say everything’s better behind closed doors? Show your heart (& your stomach) what it’s all about with reservations for a private dinner at Chef Ben’s in house supper clubs. www.blincatering.com

This post was brought to you by Union Kitchen Caters. To order custom gift baskets with these and other delicious products made here at Union Kitchen, please write us catering@unionkitchendc.com

Cured DC Cherry Blossom Creative Jrink Juicery DC Patisserie Ciao Chow B. Lin Catering Chocotenango Image Map
3
3