Laura Manivong is feeding a hunger for keto diet-friendly pizza crusts that already stretches to freezer aisles across the metro — with stores and distributors salivating for more.
“Out of the blue, I just called Sam Paris and Paris Brothers,” Manivong, founder and CEO of Fattyhead Keto Crust, said of how a recent distribution deal — which includes a slew of Cosentino’s-owned grocery stores across the metro — came together for the startup.
“Sam was nice enough to take a phone call from me — had no idea who I was. I talked to him for a little bit and he didn’t know anything about my product. He was just nice enough to talk a little bit about how distribution works,” she recalled, adding that she reached out to Paris on advice from the Ennovation Center in Independence — where she holds commercial kitchen space — and Xander Winkle, entrepreneurship enabler.
Headed for freezer cases in such metro suburbs as Raymore, Lee’s Summit, Overland Park, and as far west as Ottawa on the Kansas side of the state line, Manivong said baking a local distribution footprint for the company — which produces a low-carb, ketogenic pizza crust — is just the start of Fattyhead’s rise.
“I don’t even think it was a month [after talking to Paris], Consentino’s contacted me … and I went in with Paris Brothers for a meeting and I sat at the head of the table with four executives, sitting around looking at me,” she said, laughing as she detailed the surreal experience that came less than two years into her startup journey.
Click here to read more about Fattyhead and Manivong’s days selling her crusts in a QuickTrip parking lot.
“They had lots of questions. I brought in all the numbers. I brought in how much it costs for a piece of parchment paper, how much it costs for a cardboard box and cheese,” she said, adding the group was pleased with the startup’s production costs — a pride point for the entrepreneur, who walked into the meeting armed with skills that primed Fattyhead for distribution.
“They get entrepreneurs coming in with a really nice food item, but they’re still shopping at grocery stores for their ingredients,” she explained. “They haven’t factored in the cost of distribution to the pricing of their ingredients. That was a singular piece of advice that I got from the Small Business Development Center through UMKC.”
“They said — you’ve got to price for distribution at the beginning. Even if you’re the one delivering it!”
Stocked with ingredients that already have eased the recipe for building a business, such advice has greatly helped Manivong find her footing as an entrepreneur in her second act — following a 21-year career as a senior TV news producer at Fox 4 News in Kansas City.
“It’s been the same,” she said of ways entrepreneurship and the fast paced world of TV news go hand in hand. “The reward is greater in the fact that I feel like I am partnering with these people as opposed to working for a corporation and just earning a paycheck.”
Now fully immersed in entrepreneurship, establishing an even wider footprint for distribution is the lead story in Manivong’s startup journey.
“I get messages from individuals on Facebook who are like, ‘Hey, are you shipping to Florida yet?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m not shipping because it’s frozen,’” she joked, further citing proof there’s a rising demand for Fattyhead and food alternatives.
“I’ve got a store in California that would love to have it. I’ve got people in Hawaii and Canada. I got a phone call the other day from a guy who owns 16 pizza restaurants in the Twin Cities area, he’s a franchisor. He’s like, ‘I’ve seen the reviews, I’ve seen the talk, I’d like to bring it on.’”
Reaching such goals won’t come easy, Manivong notes, adding she’ll focus on building a team in early 2020 — moving beyond her current workforce, which consists of herself and her ex-husband.
“I call him and he comes over to help me make the crust, because I can’t do it all,” she laughed, adding that the pair hauls 48 bags of almond flour home from Costco each week.
“I’m going to have to probably build another two or three pallets before I ever get a paycheck,” Manivong said. “Most of my days are at least 14 to 16 hours long. …The demand is out way beyond Kansas City. I just said, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be hard no matter what I do,’ So I’m going for it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.