I have dealt with dozens, if not hundreds of entrepreneurs, on five continents, during the course of my career. A disturbingly high number of them don’t really understand the basics of business, they have an idea for a product or service, or are maybe in a test stage, but there are some fundamentals not in place for growth.
Thankfully, those kind of people are why I was able to make a pretty fair living.
Rarely do I run into a founder/start-up who really “gets it” and has all the bases covered, but there’s a woman in Indianapolis that fits that profile – Kim Harvey.
When she set off for college, Kim knew she was going to be an entrepreneur, even if she hadn’t narrowed the selection of segments that she wanted to be a part of. After graduation, she set out to earn some money, did, socked it away, and used it to start her first venture.
Kim came from a long line of successful home cooks, including her grandmothers, mother, and aunts, so she was surrounded by cooking and baking of all ilks since she was a sprout – and made her first Key lime pie when she was 14. She loved the subtle and intricate flavor Key limes imparted to confections.
Moving to Chicago, she created Kim’s Key Lime Cookies, in two different varieties, powdered sugar dusted and dipped in white chocolate, located a commercial baker to work with, a company to design and manufacture custom cookie tins, and samples in hand, headed out to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.
She was placed in the “new products section” of the trade floor, scored early and big, with orders from Nordstroms, Macy’s and other outlets. Today the company is debt free and growing, with direct sales online, and retail outlets like Stein Mart, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshalls. Her immediate goal is to get major lux hotel chains and cruise ships to include them as in-room perks.
I have no doubt she’ll succeed.
While I usually give advice to start-up founders, to “focus, focus,” Kim had some slow periods with the cookies and was looking for a product to even out the peaks and valleys of sales, and particularly wanted something suitable for infomercial sales.
Wanting to fill a void in product availability, while staying in the cooking segment, Kim started experimenting with ways to cook burgers in a microwave, have them come out tasty, with great texture and browned.
She played with different materials found in the home, before hitting on a design that worked with the microwave, a tool that would hold four burger patties, cook them and not have spatter all over the inside of the microwave as a result. The utensil also provided for fat drainage, resulting in a healthier burger.
When she thought she had the design down, she made some drawings, went to a cad company for the pics of the final specs, and then to a model building company for some prototypes.
Prototypes led to manufacturing molds, molds led to manufacturing, manufacturing led to a patent application (since granted) and the Microwave Magic line of cooking utensils was born.
The marketing push is on, the cookware is destined for the TV shopping channels and other distribution outlets.
Is Kim done creating and marketing products? Or course not. As she looks around the house, where others see problems, Kim sees solutions, and creates a product to fill the void. A new yard tool is next in the queue.
There’s so much venture capital available for tech (and apparently coffee shops and burger places), but it’s hard to find for consumer products. This is a small deal that could be a substantial venture some day with the right money guys behind it.
Kim’s “can do” attitude and tenacious manner of making it through all the steps to get products to market, without having the experience, is just amazing, and she’s a great role model for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Kims Key Lime Cookies