By Anjali Joshi
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. When Aparna Pande, mother of twin boys with food allergies, found herself tired of mulling over hard to decipher food labels, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She launched Kidstir last year with the mission of teaching children about healthy eating and getting them involved in the meal preparation process, all while having fun in the kitchen!
In our latest ‘masalamomma-preneur’ feature we talk to Aparna about her challenges of launching a startup, the inspiration behind her company and how it’s making a difference in the lives of moms everywhere. She’s also giving away one of her fabulous kits for kits, so scroll down to learn how you can win!
What is Kidstir?
Kidstir is a children’s educational products company focused on food and cooking. Our mission is to spark a love of good food in kids! We launched in early 2014 with our flagship product, a subscription based cooking kit that delivers fun food adventures directly to families’ homes each month. In the first month of a subscription, the child receives a special cookbook binder that they can personalize with their name, and contains tabs reflecting all the chapters of a cookbook . The accompanying kit is designed around a chapter such as Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, etc. Each kit contains three step by step recipes, three foodie pages, three games and activities, two kid-sized cooking tools, and a specialty ingredient. A printed and digital shopping list is also provided. Month after month, children develop important life skills while building their cookbooks and making memories with their families.
What inspired you to launch Kidstir?
My twin boys, now 6 years old, were diagnosed with severe food allergies when they were just one year old. For their safety, I had to become hyper aware of everything they were eating; yet sadly, the more I learned the more scared I got. There were so many things in their food that I couldn’t fully understand. Finally, I decided to stop cowering in fear and take matters into my own hands. I pledged to teach them about food and cooking so they could enjoy all the wonders of good food while staying safe and healthy.
As I spoke to other mothers, I learned that I wasn’t alone. Whether it be concern from allergies, a history of other family health issues, or simply a love of food — almost every mom wanted to help her children build a healthy and happy connection with food. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done, and especially for busy moms. This was the final insight that led me to action. With my professional background in creating and marketing children’s products and content, from best in class companies and brands such as Mattel, Disney, Parents, and FamilyFun, I felt it was not just an opportunity but my responsibility to take my experience and knowledge to create something that helps families.
How does your experience at Disney and Mattel shape the way you take on the challenges of a start up?
I am so lucky to have learned about creating products and content from the best of the best. Not only do I have knowledge that I can apply directly, but I have met talented people who work with me and advise me on Kidstir. I also have a very powerful vision of what we can accomplish through Kidstir, and high expectations of our ability to execute this vision, though not the huge budgets and staffs that I once had access to. That’s one of the tough aspects of melding my experience with my new venture.
What is the most challenging part of entrepreneurship? The most rewarding?
The most challenging is executing our vision with limited resources. We have so much opportunity, so many ways we can grow and creative positive impact, but my team can only answer so many calls, write so many emails, develop so many products, and pack so many boxes. The most rewarding is the other side of this same coin. Creating something ourselves, with our minds, knowledge and the assistance and advice of people we respect — including our littlest advisors — is unbelievably gratifying. Getting feedback from our customers, initially our friends, and now scores of folks who have found us and become Kidstir fans, about how our products are helping them make memories and set their children on the right path is priceless.
For example, recently we noticed that a customer had dual subscriptions. Concerned this might have been a mistake, we contacted her. What she told us blew us away. She shared that it was absolutely intentional, and in fact, each month she receives one kit at her home, while her granddaughter who lives in another state receives the same kit. They choose a date and cook together over Skype! We were absolutely amazed at how this grandmother overcame physical distances and used technology and our Kidstir kits to spend quality time with her granddaughter. It’s stories like these that has made creating and building Kidstir such a joy.
How do you manage to “have it all”? That is being a mom and entrepreneur?
It’s difficult. Launching Kidstir has, in many respects, been like birthing and raising a third child. That requires a tremendous amount of investment, love, patience, and sacrifice from the whole family. In some aspects, I have more “freedom” because I am no longer accountable to a boss, nor do I have to commute an hour in each direction daily. On the other hand, I am accountable to myself, my family, my customers, my business partners, and my team, and my hours are 24 hours a day instead of 10 or 12 hours a day!
My children do see me at home more often, because my business is run from home, but they also see my working all the time. That was very hard for them, and even for my husband and extended family. There was lots of stress and uncertainties and so much sacrifice from everyone. Yet there were moments that things started to come together. I remember the day one of my sons mentioned that a classmate at his school knew about Kidstir cooking kits. He told me this very quietly, with his eyes wide as if still in some disbelief, and a glimmer of pride shining through. He had seen me talk about Kidstir, the website launch, products coming home, packages being shipped out, the entire process. But suddenly, a real kid, someone he knew, was having fun with our products and it had somehow come up spontaneously in conversation at school.
What role does your family play in your day-to-day life?
My family has been the foundation on which this business was built. My children were the inspiration, and once the concept was rolling, every member of my family was integral to the business being built. I truly understand the concept of a “family business”! From the name, the website, the photos, the recipes, even packing and shipping, my kids, my husband, my parents, and my in laws have helped. In fact, that’s the case for the whole team — all of our husbands, kids, friends, and extended families have helped in every way they can. We are very fortunate, and very grateful.
Do you think your cultural background or South Asian upbringing played a role in your decision to launch Kidstir?
My cultural background fostered my love of food, and led to my desire to pass that along to my children and children everywhere. I remember to this day the special dishes each of my grandmothers used to make “just for me” and even today what my mom still prepares on my and my children’s birthdays. Food is such a powerful emotional connector in our culture, and I do think that experience helped me see how it is so in almost all cultures. What we’re doing at Kidstir is teaching children about food across so many dimensions — nutrition, appreciation, culture, origins, science, vocabulary, even gratitude. We are helping put them on a path to health and also giving them a way to connect with their families and the world.
Where do you see Kidstir in 5 years?
My hope is that the Kidstir experience becomes a rite of passage for young children. We’d love nothing more than for every child in America — and eventually abroad – to have a Kidstir cookbook. Today they might be cooking with it. Years later, they will thumb through it, remembering that time they made the taco spice rub with mom (what a mess we made! how yummy it was! how much we giggled!). And all that they learned. In fact that scone recipe might be one they’re still making well into adulthood!
What would advice would you give parents who are looking to get their children involved in the kitchen?
Kidstir is a great way to get started. Our subscriptions have no risk, so you can order, try us out and cancel anytime. We bet you’ll have so much fun while teaching (and learning) that you’ll want to stay month after month. We also have tons of free recipes, games, and activities in the DIY section of our website.
Follow Kidstir on twitter @kidstir
Can’t wait to try out a Kidstir kit yourself? Masalamommas and Kidstir have teamed up for an awesome giveaway this month. Get your hands on one of these fabulous cooking kits and start making memories with your little ones. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling us what your kids love to cook. Open to US & Canada readers only. Deadline to enter is Feb 20
at 11:59pmEST. One random winner will be drawn via random.org. Winner will be notified via email and will have 24 hours to respond. Good luck!
Leave your comment below to win one of these snack kits!
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