This week’s WonderWoman is Tamika L. Gardner, Founder of The Baby Chef™. Tamika started The Baby Chef™ after creating SimplyBabyFoodRecipes.net, with the belief that every baby deserves the right to experience fresh and healthy food. Simply Baby Food Recipes offers lots of homemade baby food recipes that are easy to make and healthy for babies and toddlers. The Baby Chef™ ensures that parents will be fully equipped to make their own baby food, while making life easier with unique products that save on food preparation. Additionally, The Baby Chef offers other unique and natural products for babies and children. Here’s how Tamika did it…
When did you have the light bulb moments that became SimplyBabyFoodRecipes.net and The Baby Chef?
When I was pregnant with my first born, Nikai, I knew I was going to breastfeed her because of all the great benefits that it offers. However, when Nikai was ready to graduate to solids, at about 6 months, I did not like the idea of buying store-bought food in a jar for two main reasons – the lack of freshness and taste, and the price.
We had already saved hundreds of dollars through breastfeeding and I wanted to continue those savings. So I received some advice from my grandmother, who never fed her children baby food from the jar because it wasn’t invented yet! My father, my uncles and aunts all grew up on mashed potatoes and mashed up collard greens and cornbread. That was the moment the light bulb went off and I researched infant feeding on the internet and eventually made my website in one weekend.
After having an internet presence for a few years, I wanted to offer parents the tools they need to make homemade baby food and other feeding accessories. Then The Baby Chef™ was born.
How did you get the business started?
It was really easy for me to start the business online. I partnered up with a couple of distributors/manufacturers and had a virtual grand opening of August 2008.
What is a typical day like for you Tamika?
Having two very young children only 18 months apart, my day is extremely busy. I spend most of the day caring for them. However, since I am cooking three meals a day plus snacks, I do not lose out on an opportunity to make a recipe. So therefore I keep a camera in my kitchen and I take picture of things that were a hit and I’ll upload them to my site with the recipe. Most of them are on-the-fly concoctions. I spend time in the evening checking and processing orders, and working on a new business venture that will launch within the next couple of months for mothers-to-be.
You recently featured the Apple Smash Smoothie on SimplyBabyFoodRecipes.net, sounds yummy! Where do you get your inspiration for baby food recipes?
Cooking is a passion of mine and I love trying new recipes. The inspiration comes from within most of the time. Sometimes I could be laying in the bed and think of something new to try. Or, I could be at the grocery store and see an interesting vegetable or fruit to experiment with. I also get lots of inspiration from the Food Network.
What do you suggest for moms with babies and toddlers that are picky eaters?
Well I have a lot of experience in that category because even I have picky eaters! My husband, Troy, will tell you that we eat like Kings and Queens in my household. I go out of my way to make sure my food is restaurant quality in presentation and taste, but my kids still have picky tendencies. They weren’t that way when they were babies, but now that they are 2 and 3 years old, they suddenly don’t like foods I used to feed them.
So here are a few tips for getting your kids to eat:
1. Never express that you don’t like something in front of your child. They may decide that they don’t like it just because you don’t.
2. Offer your child a variety of food so that you can find out what they do like. It is natural for children to dislike food. Even adults have likes and dislikes so don’t think your child has a problem.
3. Expand your child’s horizons by offering them food that you wouldn’t eat or dislike. You may find that they do like foods that you dislike.
4. Season vegetables thoroughly, especially canned vegetables. Vegetables taste best when they are seasoned well with butter and other spices.
5. Be consistent and keep offering your child the same food even if they don’t like it at first. You may find that they will eventually like the food after a few times so don’t give up.
6. Don’t reward your child with dessert or other sweet treats if they don’t eat their meal. In fact, it’s best to not offer desert or other sweet treats at all until they develop good eating habits. Otherwise, they will learn that they can skip out on the meal and go straight to junk food, which can further add to the childhood obesity problem.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed The Baby Chef? What’s your best marketing tip?
The most effective way I have promoted The Baby Chef™ is through SimplyBabyFoodRecipes.net. The people who are looking for recipes are the ones who need the tools to make baby food. Search Engine Optimization is also very key in getting my site in the Search Engines.
I highly recommend spending time on Search Engine Optimization. It works and I have not had to invest in expensive pay-per-click campaigns because people find my site organically. However, it is more work involved and can be costly if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else starting their own business?
I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, and I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned that things take time and to not try to be Super Woman, trying to do everything at once.
The advice I would give someone else trying to start their own business would be to keep taking strides toward achieving your goals, even if the strides are small sometimes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take time to have a viable business. Also, if something is not working the way you thought, then change your plan, but don’t give up.
What goals do you have for The Baby Chef this year?
The Baby Chef™ will be going through some changes this year, but for all good. There will be a book and an ebook coming out soon and a series of cookbooks for 2010. Also, The Baby Chef Store will be changing, and will be a part of another site that caters to moms and children (you will still be able to reach the store at www.TheBabyChefStore.com).
The main goal of The Baby Chef ™ is to help parent nurture healthy children, which my main goal, and this will be accomplished through the books. Prices on the site will also be reduced to give parents incentive to make their own food, should they wish to purchase. However, buying expensive gadgets and tools are not necessary. I made my own food and I didn’t have any of the products that I sell at the time.
What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?
I have learned to stick to my goals and to continue to ask for guidance and inspiration from my higher power. At times, I considered shutting down everything because it is a lot to handle with young kids. However, I have come too far and I don’t give up easy!
I have learned to be flexible, to change things as needed, and to not second guess myself. When I get an inspiration or gut feeling, I act on it right away. Both The Baby Chef and Simply Baby Food Recipes were weekend wonders, meaning they both were created and live on the internet in a weekend.