Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff interviewed Tiny Chefs founder Anna Reeves. Reeves has been a vendor for Flex in the DC area for several years. This year, Flex helped Tiny Chefs expand to Connecticut. Years of working together and lots of mutual respect made for a great conversation!
Flex Academies: Anna Reeves from Tiny Chefs. Thank you for joining us today.
Anna Reeves: Thank you for having me.
Flex: You have been a vendor and a great partner for Flex Academies for several years now, so I wanted to interview you, just kind of talk about what the experience has been working with Flex and our partnership, and what it’s been like for you guys.
AR: Working with Judy [Bunnell, Flex Academies Vice President and COO] firsthand has been wonderful. I met Judy a few years back and I met you even before that through Ashley Tutors. I remember meeting you, and it’s been wonderful working with Judy so much so that we have expanded with her to Connecticut because it’s just so easy to work with Flex.
Flex: Talk about that expansion into Connecticut: What that’s been like for you guys and the experience taking your business from here to up there.
AR: So what we offer in addition to afterschool enrichment classes, we are able to also offer in Connecticut: Birthday parties, at home birthday parties, all cooking-related. We are in two schools in Connecticut, in Greenwich. We would not have made a connection otherwise if it were not for Flex. Getting our foot in the door has been wonderful and we hope to work with other schools as we have approval to bring food in. I think that’s one of the limits but it has nothing to do with either of our companies.
Flex: And obviously cooking is your main focus, so talk about the focus over the last several years on healthy eating. Talk about the effects of healthy eating: It must be kind of nice to see your work translate to health in kids.
AR: Absolutely! To your point we’ve seen loads and loads of kids who have never heard of certain healthy ingredients that are now cooking with them at home or they are being exposed to them in the classroom. When we come in, oddly enough, we do get pushback from some parents in some school districts. They are looking for sort of a sweeter edge. So you know, we’ve learned the hard way that we kind of have to mask the fact that we are using kale or that we are using super healthy foods. So we’ve learned to alter the title so that it says something like “curly lettuce” instead of kale because some of the parents are kind of saying ‘where’s the fun stuff?’ So it’s sort of a double-edged sword.
Flex: Very interesting. So let’s pull the ingredients out of this and let’s just talk about how you know the kids are having fun. I’ve been in your courses but how do you know when you are in there and you say we’ve got it, this is good?
AR: We’ve had kids cry when they find out it’s their final class and we just say ‘Look, you can sign up again,’ so that’s a good sign — but not a good sign because we don’t want kids to cry! Repeat business is always a plus too because that means the kids love it so much they want to come back for the next session. One of the things I always noticed when I was teaching was when a kid would only take a little tiny bite so they could take it home and share it with their family because they were so proud of what they had done.They didn’t want to gobble it all up. They wanted to bring it home. So that’s always a good sign, too.
Flex: One of the reasons we partner with many of our vendors, especially you guys, is the extraordinary instructors you have. Talk about the process you have with your instructors and how you approve them.
AR: First of all, being a teacher myself, I think it’s important for my program to be quality in my eyes. I have to hire professionals that either have a teaching background or have worked with kids in the past. Having food knowledge is definitely a plus and we definitely want at-home cooks on our roster. More importantly, I need to know that when I’m not there and present that the people that are employed by us can handle a classroom full of children on their own without much direction.
Flex: Well that sounds like the age old question of being an entrepreneur. You cannot be in lots of different places at once. You can only be in one place at a time. You have a fantastic company. We are so happy to partner with you guys and you have fantastic instructors so we will hopefully continue our partnership in Maryland, Connecticut and New York. We will go to all these different places together. So thank you for your partnership.
AR: Thank you.
To watch this interview, please visit our Video On Demand site.