Americans' interest in cooking has drizzled down to the nation's kids. From cooking classes and kits to full-fledged cooking parties, this still-hot category even includes kids' cookbooks in the recipe for success. "The awareness has risen," confirms Julia V. Jordan, president and founder of Spoons Across America, a New York City organization that provides food and cooking education programs to schools and community organizations nationwide. "There's much more of an interest [in] having children learn the skill of cooking."
And entrepreneurs like Barbara Beery, founder of Batter Up Kids Culinary Center, are stepping up to teach them. Batter Up Kids started out offering cooking classes, but today the Austin, Texas, business also retails cooking kits and cookbooks written by Beery, with annual sales of about $465,000. The interest has been so strong, in fact, that Beery, 52, started franchising her concept this year. According to Beery, "[Cooking] is a life skill, and if we didn't present it in a fun format, kids wouldn't want to keep coming back."
Whether a kids' cooking business takes a recreational bent or a more serious one, like teaching children about health and food preparation, the key, experts say, is to keep it fun and age-appropriate. Even kids as young as 2 can participate with doughy, cookie-type foods. Tweens are a great entry point into the market, as are simple cooking parties. Jordan suggests looking to regional food trends for what's hot with kids in your area.
Before you whip up your own kids" cooking business, consider the following ingredients for success:
- Play it safe. Be 1,000 percent sure of your safety procedures. Ensure all cooking classes are age-appropriate--for instance, keep 5-year-olds away from flames and knives. And as children get older, you should incorporate kitchen safety training, notes Beery. Also make sure your kitchen is compliant with all local and state sanitation requirements before you get started. Insurance is another consideration: Beery met with her insurance agent to discuss her needs as well as the kinds of cooking tasks the kids would be involved in at every age. The number of children in the classes was also a factor in the type and amount of insurance. Says Beery, "Typically, our type of business needs insurance which is used for private, academic and vocational schools."
- Add cooking peripherals. Selling related products can add to your bottom line, note experts. Beery, for example, writes children's cookbooks and sells take-home cooking kits.
- Check out the competition. The children's cooking market is definitely a hot one, so see what your local competitors are offering. "You might find out that you're in a little more crowded place than you thought," says Julia V. Jordan, president and founder of Spoons Across America, a New York City organization that provides food and cooking education programs to schools and community organizations nationwide. Determine how you might differentiate your company's services.
- Offer more than just cooking. Many parents love a full-service party for their kids--where the vendor provides not only the cooking materials, but also the location and cleanup. Market themed cooking parties with all the trimmings to stressed-out parents who, like Beery's clients, are relieved to hand over those duties and willing to pay a premium for peace of mind.
- Test that recipe. Check out local community organizations, suggests Jordan--they might give you an opportunity to organize a trial class. "It's a win-win for that group--and you're off doing it for some test marketing," she says. Just think, a local Boys & Girls Club, Girl Scout troop or other after-school program might be looking for a fun new activity for its young charges.