Vital Stats: Tina Kuna and Stephanie Firchau, both 40, co-founders of Dream Dinners Inc.
Company: Home meal-preparation service, with five locations in Washington state
2003 Sales Projections: $1.8 million to $3 million
Noshin' Notion: A stay-at-home mom with a catering background, Firchau had been preparing and freezing meals to save time during busy evenings. But she found her knack when she staged a larger cook-out with girlfriends at a rented commercial kitchen, charging only for the cost of food. "I was getting phone calls and e-mails from [friends of friends] asking if they could come," Firchau says. When eight sessions filled quickly, Firchau realized she had struck gold and asked longtime friend Kuna to be her business partner.
"Our recipes aren't gourmet, but we push the limit to get people to try new things."
Class in Session: Twelve customers, each paying $160, migrate around the refrigerated stations, preparing any 12 of the 14 meals featured monthly. Pre-chopped ingredients, measuring cups and simple instructions for creations like lemon pork chops or herb-crusted flank steak await. Pre-ordering their selections, "all they need to do is follow the recipes, and they're done in two hours," says Kuna.
Teen Dream: Firchau's 17-year-old daughter caught the entrepreneurial bug, too, and began delivering cooked Dream Dinner meals within a 20-mile radius for a small fee. A new kitchen, opened in April, focuses on deliveries for eaters all over Washington state.
Food Fancy: "We've had people e-mail us their FedEx numbers," says Kuna, recounting the intense interest that has them getting ready to franchise. "We even had two women from Sacramento, California, fly up, cook over the weekend, and pack everything to ship on the plane home."