Love wasn’t enough to sustain the original model of Happy Food Co., but the meal kit company’s ability to pivot opens new doors, said Kiersten Firquain.
“For a startup in Kansas City … it is difficult,” Firquain, head chef and co-founder of Happy Food Co., said of geographical challenges that contributed to its restructuring, a move that cut its staff to 8 people — a 60 percent reduction — at the end of 2019.
“It sucks,” she continued. “We had a really great team, that we can no longer afford to keep and so we had to let a lot of people go and it was a really tearful day. … We’re seeing it in the news now. Companies that we know the name of are having a hard time and no startup is immune to that, I guess. No matter where they are.”
Happy Food Co. isn’t hiding from the harsh reality of business, Firquain said as the company shifts its focus to innovation in catering.
“Change and chaos is kind of the way it goes,” she said. “Although it was difficult, everybody understood the new direction and they’re still totally supportive, which is cool.”
Started by Firquain and co-founder Jeff Glasco in 2015, Happy Food Co. saw success with its farm-to-table meal kits, but the model ultimately became tough to maintain, Firquain noted. At its height, the company offered kits in about 60 stores across the metro.
Click here to read more about the beginnings of Happy Food Co.
“We loved doing it and we loved producing a product that people wanted. But we couldn’t figure out how to make it profitable, delivering to retailers every day,” she said, adding the startup will continue to sell meal kits from its Overland Park headquarters while turning its attention to something more profitable: catering.
“I had a catering company called In Home Bistro for about 20 years and we decided to rebrand it as Get Happy catering and bring that under the healthy food umbrella,” Firquain said, further explaining the pivot.
A portion of the Happy Food Co. production facility is expected to be converted into an events space with the startup regularly hosting community events. Traditional catering — including in-home dinner parties in partnership with Somerset Ridge Winery — also is on the menu.
Welcoming customers to the Overland Park space has increased Happy Food Co.’s abilities to interact with customers, which has been a newfound blessing for Firquain, she noted.
“We know that we’ve got a product people want,” Firquain said with optimism for the company’s new direction. “It’d be different if we were putting out something that nobody was buying, but we were literally selling out of everything we put into the market. So we just have to figure out a more profitable way to deliver that convenience, really high quality service that we know people want.”
Despite changes in scale and structure, Happy Food Co. will continue to partner with more than 75 local vendors, she added.
“We still want to produce good food for real people,” Firquain said. “No matter the setting, no matter if it’s a meal kit, no matter if it’s a dinner party, appetizers at a non-profit event. That’s our driver.”
Click here to explore Happy Food Co. catering options.
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.