Just a week ago, two men who decided to start a baby food company in their kitchen began moving their first shipments of their “crazy idea” on Amazon, and orders are pouring in for more.
It all began when David Fullner-Auld, a vice president of post production operations at ViacomCBS Network, and his husband and business partner Daniel Fullner-Auld, a former director of learning technologies and academic support at John Jay College in New York, decided to jumpstart their second careers from their kitchen.
Launching a baby food company during a pandemic might not seem like a great idea, but this team had a secret weapon: their son, Paul Kekoa (Kekoa is Hawaiian for brave warrior.
Paul was the reason behind their idea to get into the baby food business. After his birth in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Fullner-Aulds wanted to give their son the best organic food they could
possibly find. And after doing some research and seeing what was available on the market, they started making food for Paul instead of buying it.
To make the foods more appealing, David tried different combinations of ingredients not usually found in baby food, like fennel, kale, curry and beets. He used Paul as his tester.
“If he didn’t eat it, it was move on and start over” says David.
The more Paul ate, the more they knew they were on to something. Today, they’re selling Kekoa on Amazon with flavors like Curry Vegetable Mango; Beets, Fennel & Kale; and Apple & Ginger.
But how did they get here?
“I started to post the meals I was making online and friends would tell us that Paul was eating better than they were, and if we made the foods available, they would try and duplicate the
recipe for their children,” said David. “And the next thing you know, I told Daniel I wanted to start a baby food line.”
According to data from Statista, the baby food industry has grown steadily, from $71. 8 billion in 2018 to projected sales of $98.9 billion over the next three years.
So maybe the timing was good after all, despite the pandemic.
“They offer a must-have product to families at a time when we need it most,“ said Glamis Haro, a Senior Business Advisor at Columbia University Small Business Development Center, who helped the duo move their business from the kitchen to the assembly line.
Haro said she was sold the minute she tested the product. “As a mother I can tell you, no other baby food compares,” she said. “And with everything going on with us, worrying about what’s in our
baby’s food, this is a no-brainer. It tastes great and it’s healthy.”
While David worked on recipes and flavors, Daniel, left his job to get the company off the ground and be home more with their son. Then, Covid hit.
According to Haro, it’s the only thing that kept Kekoa from being on shelves sooner.
With production at a standstill at the beginning of the pandemic, the Fullner-Aulds decided to take advantage of the break and switch operations to the west coast, where they could get their food supplies ready for production. This turned out to be a key move.
“We had great partners who helped us with our footing and now we are up and running and selling on Amazon, we can plan the next steps, which include brick and mortar stores,” Daniel said.
The supply chain issue, which is still impacting every industry, is equally challenging for this duo, so they’re just using the ingredients that are available and keep their production moving.
“With any new business, you’re going to come across a lot of hurdles but you have to accept the challenge and
beat it,” said David.