Please, to the Table What’s for dinner? Entrepreneurs Emily Golub ’06 and Mary Drennen ’02 have the answer: online food kits.
Emily Golub ’06 and Mary Drennen ’02 created their online businesses right around the time Blue Apron and Hello Fresh hit the national scene, allowing consumers to bypass the grocery store and have meals delivered directly to their doorsteps. The trend shows no signs of slowing down, and each is growing her business to meet America’s appetite for delicious fare.
For Golub, that focus is on organic food kits to prepare at home, while Drennen’s business delivers fully prepared meals that just need heating up.
So, sit yourselves down. Dinner is ready.
“I’ve always loved going to the farmer’s market and collecting my weekly vegetable allotment from my CSA,” said Golub, owner and founder of Garnish & Gather in Atlanta. “But after the sixth week in a row of cabbage, I needed to up my cooking game.”
For her, access to organic ingredients was like a gateway drug, and she soon had her own vegetable and herb garden and was experimenting in the kitchen. Like most families, she struggled with balancing work and life, which made starting her own company promoting locally sourced food an intriguing option. “It’s been a wild journey,” she said, “but I feel so lucky to have this business.”
G&G, now celebrating its fifth year, has between 15 to 20 employees and is still growing. “People want fresh, healthy meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes,” Golub noted. “I want G&G to be a local model in providing that service, while also supporting local farmers and local chefs. We deliver only in the Atlanta region (or there’s a pick-up option).”
Her meal kits include all the ingredients to make a mouthwatering meal, plus an important addition. Tapping into the local culinary scene, she’s partnered with top chefs in Atlanta who share their favorite recipes and cooking tips that accompany her food kits. “My customers can recreate their favorite restaurant meals in their own home,” said Golub. “In today’s busy world, we don’t sit down to eat with our families as often as we should. Sharing a meal together is so important, but difficult to make happen. My kits simplify that part of life so people can enjoy each other’s company.”
A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Drennen is no stranger to the kitchen. As a college student, she worked in the restaurant kitchens in Birmingham, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina. “I have always loved food and the creativity of cooking from scratch,” she said. But after those summers, she knew she didn’t want a career in a restaurant.
While working in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen in Birmingham, Drennen and a colleague started what she thought would be a small meal-delivery gig with a local gym. At the time, she had no idea it would lead to Nourish Foods, a Southern-inspired, direct-to-customer, fully prepared meal-delivery service. From two people, the company has grown to 25 and prepares and delivers over 6,000 meals per week, shipping them all over the continental U.S.
“It actually was great to start out working on a private label for a gym,” she said. “We made lots of mistakes, but it allowed us to develop our business plan and figure out what was going to work and what wasn’t.”
Drennen spends most of her time “in the weeds” looking at financial statements, corresponding with clients, reading contracts, reviewing press releases and advertising campaigns, and searching for the next piece of real estate to move her ever-expanding company into.
“Culinary school prepared me for high-volume food production, but it was my liberal arts education at W&L that trained me to handle many other aspects of running a business,” the English major noted. “Cooking doesn’t play as large a role in my day-to-day responsibilities, so I make sure I swing by the kitchen for frequent tastings.”