Smart Ideas Roundup 07/08
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What: Interactive cooking community
Who: Jennifer Beisser of ChefsLine Where: New York City
When: Started in 2006 Startup Costs: $61,000
Jennifer Beisser, who had a demanding job doing nonprofit community work, found she had little time to spend in the kitchen. Beisser, 39, started wishing she had professional help, which would motivate her to cook more often. Her big idea came on Thanksgiving Day while listening to her husband talk to his chef friend on the phone. Beisser began to wonder if getting cooking advice could always be that simple.
In 2006, Beisser quit her job and devoted her full attention to launching ChefsLine, a subscription-based company with a mission to empower everyday people to become their own personal chefs. Through ChefsLine, members receive cooking and menu planning advice from professional chefs, either by phone or over the internet. "[Americans] are super interested in food, but that doesn't mean we can get food on our table," says Beisser. "We need to sit down together as families and enjoy that time."
With a dietitian, a nutritionist and even a wine consultant on staff, Beisser's aim is for ChefsLine to be able to help with any cooking question or party planning need. For $15, users receive 30 minutes with a live coach online or over the phone, and for a $34.95 a month membership, they have unlimited access to the hotline and can even take a cooking class by webcam. The website also allows members to post questions for the staff.
In the future, Beisser hopes to expand internationally, adding chefs from other countries to the current staff of 25. With about 500 calls per month and a growing membership, 2008 sales projections are more than $200,000. Overall, Beisser loves that cooking no longer has to be a huge production. "I can now whip out a dinner party in a minute," she jokes. "It's 9:30 at night and I haven't cooked yet; I pick up the phone and know I'm going to have a really fun conversation."
What: Self-cooling clothing
Who: Kevin Pringles of Chill Factor Clothing Co.
Where: Tempe, Arizona
When: Started in 2007
Although Kevin Pringles knew that he wanted to start his own business, he didn't have a product to do it with. But his mom, Linda Cook, had an idea: a "cooling hat" invention she had toyed with in the '90s that never caught on. In 2004, Pringles took his mom's cooling hat idea to the the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative at Arizona State University. He won the competition two years in a row, taking home a total of $30,000. With the cash prize and additional financial support from his family, Pringles launched Chill Factor Clothing Co. with his mom in the summer of 2007.
The company makes cooling hats and neck coolers, using hydrocrystal technology, which allows the items to stay cold for two to four hours. When the hat is soaked in water, the crystal material inside the lining absorbs 400 times its weight and turns into a gel. "If you're going outside for a long day, soak this in ice water and you pretty much have a 33-degree hat on your head," says Pringles, 22. "And in Arizona, it gets over 110 or 120 degrees, so it really comes in handy."
The cool clothing is sold on Chill Factor's websiteand in local Arizona stores. Last year's sales were $20,000, but 2008 sales should reach between $100,000 and $200,000, with new clothing being released by the end of summer.