These Columbus parents built a business selling healthy ice pops for kids. Now, they're looking to expand their brand.
Anique Thomas hadn't been much of a cook, but that all changed once she had her son.
After Ali was born four years ago, Thomas said she became passionate about the things he ate, mindful of the benefits of healthy eating and living, particularly given the health issues present in her family, such as diabetes and cancer. “It became a therapy for me, because I knew exactly what my child was getting,” she said.
What started as a way to feed her son fruits and vegetables has grown into a business for Thomas and her husband, Ali Russell, of Columbus. Too Good Eats makes fruit and veggie ice pops and pouches that are sold at local farmers markets, grocery stores and online.
But before the business, there was just a blender. Thomas and Russell had Ali during their senior year of college, in 2013, she said. When Ali was a toddler, Thomas added vegetables to his smoothies as a way to sneak more nutrients into his food. She realized, though, that she and her husband could stand to add more vegetables to their own diets. Around that time, Russell began experimenting with ice pops, creating a flavor with kale, mango, lemon and apple, Thomas said.
The couple knew they wanted to start a business. But first, they had to find a place to make their products. Thomas found 1400 Food Lab in Columbus (formerly The Commissary), which they joined in April 2016. The incubator for startups is open 24 hours a day, giving entrepreneurs flexibility, Thomas said. “It's just a good community.”
The lab offers a commercial kitchen that can be rented by the hour, along with storage and event areas, said general manager Karen Chestay. The facility has more than 100 registered clients, about 75 percent of which actively use the space, she said.
Russell and Thomas launched Too Good Eats in June 2016, funding the venture out of their own pockets. To date, their primary customers have been moms with young children. Their first year in business, they made a little more than $10,000 selling ice pops at summer farmers markets, Thomas said. They introduced the veggie pouches in February 2017 and made $15,000 last year, selling at farmers markets, festivals and through catering, Thomas said.
Locations that carry Too Good Eats' products include the Bexley Natural Market, It's All Natural in Gahanna and South Side Roots in Columbus, Thomas said. The items also are available for home delivery at toogoodeats.com, where a four-pack of pouches is $14 and a 10-pack of pops is $20.
Although originally designed for Ali, now 4, Too Good Eats is moving away from marketing its products as baby food and promoting them as a treat for both children and adults, Thomas said.
Dublin resident Meghan Hurt, the mother of 13-month-old twins, Cash and Beckett, said she found the Too Good Eats pouches after her doctor recommended homemade baby food. “I realized I was not going to have time for that,” Hurt said. She likes the fact that the products are made locally, and that she can expose her sons to unique ingredients, such as mint.
To make the pouches, Thomas cooks fruits and vegetables for a maximum of five minutes, then blends, packages and freezes them. Once frozen, the products are good for up to six months, she said.
While Thomas develops recipes for the pouches, Russell oversees the ice pops. He aims to make them attractively colored and also chock-full of vegetables.
Too Good Eats now offers about a dozen different ice pop flavors, all of which have a yearlong freezer life. The most popular are the green and red pops, Thomas said. Green features kale, organic apple juice, lemon, mango and banana, while red includes organic apple juice, carrots, strawberries, cherries and dates.
Eventually, Russell wants to market the products directly to schools, nursing homes, day care centers and hospitals. He'd also like to create direct subscriptions for customers. The most rewarding part about Too Good Eats, he said, has been building something together with his wife.
Russell said the business venture has taught him to be open-minded and consistent, and to always look for ways to improve. “Both of us are really passionate about the health side of it,” he said.