An Interview with Happy Grub Founder Ashley Davies: From Mom, to Happy Grub, to Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Happy Grub and how you turned it into a successful business?
The inspiration for my brand started when I became a parent. I realized I needed things that made my life easier, especially around mealtime. And I realized that there wasn't an easy solution for making pancakes, which is a staple in our home. Everyone loves pancakes, but no parent likes to make them at home because they are such a hassle and a mess. So, I started putting pancake mix in different containers and testing them out. Once I found the best type of vessel, I then had to find the best ingredients. The longest and hardest part was finding the ‘best for you’ ingredients that tasted as yummy and as natural as the flavors I was looking for.
Something I learned from Laurie on Shark Tank is that if you can hit all three of these, you will create a successful business:
- Solve an existing problem
- Sell at a reasonable price
- Product has mass appeal
Not only did we cover all of these aspects, but we created a product that was new/ unique to an old/ sometimes stale category.
What challenges did you face while starting your brand?
When starting my brand, one of the biggest challenges we faced was creating an innovative product in a category that hadn't seen change in years. It had been a long time since anyone had introduced something new in the pancake aisle, so we needed to bring innovation to an unchanged category. Finding someone to help us make our product was also a challenge, since it was a brand new concept. We had difficulties working with an inverted bottle filled with a powder substance, and had to educate potential vendors about it. We contacted over 500 different companies before finding one that was willing to work with us on the bottle, manufacturing, and other aspects. Thankfully, they recognized the need in the market and knew we would be successful.
What challenges have you faced while running a business and being a mom, and how did you overcome them?
Running a business and being a mom are two full time roles. Trying to have a work-life and mom-life is a tricky balance, but that is why I wanted to bring my business and my family together. When I created the business, I also wanted to make sure the product was useful for all parents, and not just my family.
Some days, there are not enough hours in the day for your family and your business. For example, I was up at 4 am today to work on the business before my kids woke up. I still face challenges every day, and there is never a solution for any of it, it's rather about finding a balance that fits your specific situation. If you are a morning person, use those hours to your advantage, if you are a night owl catch up while everyone is sleeping.
How did you feel when you were asked to be part of the new "Food Stars" competition show with Gordon Ramsay?
The casting team found us from all of the buzz we were creating. When they first reached out, we thought it was spam and ignored them. However, when they reached out again and we did some research, we realized it was legitimate. We officially applied and were selected from thousands of applicants to be on the show.
That’s when it really hit me that I would have to leave my family for a couple months to film. I wanted to say no since the whole reason I started this business was to spend more time with my family, but I knew this was an amazing opportunity for Happy Grub. My family was super supportive and stepped up big time to help out while I was gone. My mom and Andrew's (my husband) moms came to watch the kids while I was gone and while Andrew was also working.
It was exciting but frightening. The whole process from start to finish, was from September 2021 to April 2022.
The employees I brought on to help me start Happy Grub, also stepped up more than I could have imagined. They ran the whole company for me while I was away and unable to use my phone or computer for the majority of the time.
What has it been like working with Gordon Ramsay? Have you learned any valuable lessons from him?
Yes. Less is more. Don’t try to overdo it or over-sell yourself. Do what you know you are capable of and know what your strengths are. Also do NOT over-promise and under-deliver. It was a learning experience that every entrepreneur would hope that they could experience. He was insightful, inspiring, and pushed you to limits you didn't think were possible.
Can you share your favorite recipe with us, and why it remains a standby?
Chicken Noodle Soup. Everyone loves it, even the kids. And It’s a great way to get my kids to eat their vegetables. See how easy it is to make below!
How important is using organic and natural ingredients in your cooking, and how do you ensure that your ingredients are sourced responsibly?
It is a necessity for Happy Grub to make sure we are sourcing the best natural ingredients, because we need to ensure we are giving our kids the best nutrition possible in a world of processed foods. If I wouldn't eat it, I wouldn't expect my kids to. We want to give kids nutritious food that will give them energy all day long, so we have to start them with the right things.
At Happy Grub, we make sure we have certifications from every company, only use USA products, and go through multiple levels of testing. The products all need the certification before they can go into the bottle.
How do you come up with new recipe ideas, and what is your creative process like?
When I see that there is a need for a new recipe or product that doesn't exist, I start from the very beginning, draw it out and keep it all organized. Then I find the best ingredients. It is also important to follow and keep up with trends. You don’t want to become the next Blockbuster.
I am always looking for creative solutions for the kitchen!
When I go grocery shopping, I look at the different products on the shelves and ask “How can I make that better?" For example, is it messy, time-consuming, etc.? I look at all types of products to see if I can make it better or easier and that is when I start to develop an idea.
Do you have any tips for making the perfect pancake?
For making the perfect pancake - use Happy Grub! The perfect pancake has perfect ingredients that blend perfectly. You’ll need to make sure there are no lumps and that you don't flip too early.
Since every kid is different, they each have different preferences. Let your kids pick their favorite flavors and toppings, providing them with healthy options. The perfect pancake is different for everyone.
As a successful entrepreneur and mom-cook, what advice would you give to aspiring business owners in the food industry?
The best advice I can give is that once you start something, continue to grow and develop the idea. Don’t get hung up on how long it will take you to do it. In reality, the failures will happen so it should not deter you from becoming a successful entrepreneur.
What are your plans for the future of Happy Grub, and do you have any exciting projects in the works?
The plans for Happy Grub are to continue to grow, launch new flavors, expand in all of our retailers, and to continue creating a line of products for mealtime convenience.
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