Highlights from the Week of 5/14
- Received valuable input from a diverse, impressive set of leaders
- Volunteered and gained valuable insights at a nutrition class held by A Just Harvest and led by Nurture Your Family. It was inspiring to see how parents and kids responded – so enthusiastically – to what they learned about nutrition and helped spark new ideas for how FTK marketing and meal labels can help build knowledge among customers of everything from protein sources to sugar content to appropriate portion sizes.
- Did a practice pitch for the KIN Global Prize competition, coming up on June 1st. Received great feedback on presentation content and style from Professor Van Camp, Stephanie Wolcott, and the always amazing KIN student leadership team of Ivi Kolasi, Peter Weyrens, and Jeff Behrens.
- Continued planning the FTK Launch Party. Thank you to Brooke Houston, Jen Helms and Eric Mercep for helping us finalize FTK t-shirts, set up the registration site and help brainstorm an exciting event program.
- Scheduled focus groups with parents at the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center for the evening of Wednesday, June 13th.
A HUGE thank you to friends, supporters and advisers
Thank you to everyone who took the time to email, call or stop us in the halls of Jacobs to congratulate us on the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award and to show your encouragement. As always, these gestures make me both grateful for this incredible community that has supported us throughout the year, and nostalgic about leaving Kellogg and venturing forward without this school’s incredible energy.
Input on our pitch, impact metrics and brand development
As we mentioned in last week’s post, we’ve been very focused on establishing rigorous social performance measurement framework, to evaluate Fresh Takes Kitchen short- and long-term impact on health in the communities we serve.
After receiving great input from the HUB community and Jason Saul, we sought feedback from Liam Krehbiel, founer of A Better Chicago and one of the KSEA judges who strongly encouraged us to develop more concrete, measurable metrics before moving forward. He directed us to Bridgespan’s white papers on Programmatic Theory of Change, and offered great insights based on that approach, including
- Explicitly distinguish between internal and external indicators – internal indicators being the “outputs” most directly associated with FTK that we can easily measure (i.e. # of meals sold) and external indicators being the intermediate and ultimate benefits that we determine by extrapolating based on existing research (i.e. if a customer replaces 5 meals / week with FTK meals, she would improve her BMI by a certain amount in a year).
- Consider identifying an overall social ROI created through an investment in FTK, i.e. an investment of $X yields a reduction in $Y of health care costs over five years.
- Validate that our meals are leading customers to “convert” their diet by substituting unhealthy options with fresh, healthy FTK meals. This can be done by interviewing and surveying customers upfront and periodically, to assess shifts in their behavior.
- Finally, research to land on a measurable indicators of real change that we can most directly affect, such as BMI, cholesterol or blood pressure reduction.
Later in the week, Carter Cast met with us to share his framework for marketing and brand development. Carter’s geniusness with respect to developing and promoting a strong, relevant brand became very obvious in just a 45 min meeting – and it was clear how his leadership led incredible companies like Blue Nile and Walmart.com to flourish. His first comment during our meeting struck a chord – that most companies jump straight to developing their brand identity – their logo, editorial voice and image. But companies that nail brand image are rooted much more deeply than that:
- They start by identifying a core set of vision and values – your touchstone and beacon. For Phil Knight, this is “the athlete in all of us” and for Steve Jobs this is “beauty and ease.”
- They then move to establishing a firm brand essence – the personality and positioning of a brand. For Michelin tires this is “peace of mind.”
- Only then do they move on to establishing a brand identity – that aligns perfectly with their vision, values, personality and positioning. This includes the logo, design, offering set, sounds, language and internal company behavior.
Carter pushed us to use more than just words throughout this process and to use images, sounds / songs and quotes to help us get concrete about what our brand is (and what it is not). It was an eye opening meeting, and got us so excited to hole up in a conference room for a few days to make serious headway. It became clear that true brand development – if done well – will help us get rooted in our vision and mission, potentially just as concretely as our performance metrics will.
Finally, we had a very helpful session with Sandra Yu, our KIN Global Prize Mentor and the President of Global Marketing at Mead Johnson Nutrition. Her two biggest pieces of feedback were to:
- Be up front and concrete about our competitive advantage, now and in several years once we have shed light on the opportunity in this market.
- Better define our food philosophy, and align it with existing frameworks – such as Choose My Plate or the USDA Food Pyramid.
An eye opening and inspiring Saturday morning
After a great meeting with Anthony Boatman of A Just Harvest a few weeks ago, we were invited to observe and help out at one of their nutrition and cooking classes for under resourced individuals in Rogers Park – led by Nurture Your Family, an organization whose mission is to empower family members of all ages with the tools and resources needed to prepare healthy and delicious meals, even when faced with limited time and budget.
It was an inspiring, eye opening and motivating session. There were about ten sets of participants, about half of whom were families with young children. During the session, children and adults were split up – with both groups getting an age appropriate lecture/Q&A session about nutrition and then a hands on cooking lesson. Adults learned about sources of protein and iron, and about appropriate portion sizes while children learned how to rank beverages in terms of their health impact.
Once again, it was clear that everyone who came to this session – including children! – were very eager to eat healthy. When the kids saw visuals (in the form of sugar cubes) of how much sugar was contained in a Gatorade versus water or skim milk, they were clearly shocked and excited to make different choices at school the following week. When adults were shown an appropriate serving size of pasta (half a cup), they too were surprised and open to the idea of eating off of a smaller plate at home. Some exciting ideas and takeaways:
- Provide explanations on health and nutrition in fun, visual ways (through our labels, marketing material and cooking demonstrations), especially for children. Tie nutrients to their impact on the body (calcium = strong bones) or show unhealthy traits using memorable images such as stacks of sugar.
- Explain our serving sizes clearly, again through our labels and marketing material, and show how closely we’ve followed generally accepted public guidelines – these messages resonate! This can accomplish two things – help customers make better portion size decisions beyond our meals and fend against the potential portion size complains (we haven’t heard them to date though!)
- The kids I spoke with didn’t immediately like a lot of food items. But when they saw adults eating something, they got curious and were eager to try them out. For example, “bean dip” prompted a few “ewws” right away. But after some of the mothers were raving about the dip they had just made, the kids shyly saddled up to try it out – and most of them were pleasantly surprised.
- Many participants were used to eating vegetarian for a third to half the month, based on their benefits and EBT schedule. They were open to the idea of purchasing prepared vegetarian meals as long as they tasted flavorful and didn’t leave them hungry.
And most of all, the session reminded us once again to respect our customers. This is not a new thought at all – it is a philosophy we started with and solidified our commitment to during the pilot. But I was struck by this during the nutrition class once again. Our customers are intelligent, discerning and want the best they can get for themselves. They like to be educated about health and our products. They want quality products – both in taste, health and image – and know when they are (and aren’t) being treated with dignity.
Coming Next Week: A follow-up meeting with Ari Levy and tour of OrganicLife’s facility. Continued preparation for KIN and the FTK launch party. A visit to a student plant sale, co-run by A Just Harvest and Dale Elementary School.