The winner of a local business competition has big plans for the free rental space she’ll get in downtown Lansing. Lansing Built to Last chose Sweet Encounter Kids Culinary Academy from a list of nine finalists. One parameter used in judging was the ability to operate physically during and after the pandemic.
Along with space on South Washington Square, the prize includes free legal help and IT support.
WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with winner Nikki Thompson Frazier. The prize will help her expand the business she started five years ago.
SCOTT POHL: What appealed to you about this contest?
NIKKI THOMPSON FRAZIER: When I first heard about Lansing Built to Last, I was super excited because I thought, wow, this is an opportunity as an entrepreneur to really have all these tools available to you to really help support and nurture you in your first year of starting a business. It just so happened I had already started Sweet Encounter Kids in December. This competition, I believe, was announced maybe in February, so when I heard about it I thought, great, I can use my new idea to really create the business of my dreams.
I feel like Lansing Built to Last offers all these different things that you need as a small business that people don't always think about. These things are literally gifted to you when you win this competition, so when I found out about it, I just knew that it was kind of that dream come true.
POHL: Winning this contest is allowing you to make a reality your dream of this kid's culinary program. Tell me about the program you envision.
THOMPSON FRAZIER: Sweet encounter Kids Culinary Academy consists of two primary products and services. First, we have our monthly subscription box for kids, where kids receive a kit in the mail every month. The kit includes three theme-based recipes. For instance, this month, our theme is backyard barbecue, so we have some really cool recipes for that. They get a utensil of the month, they also get STEM-based activities and family fun activities, conversation cards, so you can talk with your kids about different questions over dinner, over meal time, which we love to do in our family. So, there's tons of different goodies you get in the box every month.
Our second thing is we offer hands-on cooking classes for kids. Right now, most of our classes are virtual, and so when we do our classes, we really incorporate science and technology, engineering and math as much as we can, to really bring that to life and show how food and science really are interconnected.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIFE SKILLS
The pandemic has shown us that people still love to cook and bake. It is still a family pastime. Nikki Thompson Frazier
POHL: Will you be teaching your classes in this space? Will there be a kitchen there?
THOMPSON FRAZIER: Yes, there will be a commercial kitchen in this new space, and there'll be classes, so I'm super excited. Prior to the pandemic, I started teaching classes in our neighborhood center, and it was so exciting to be in there and hands on with the kids. I did a Valentine's Day cookie class right before everything shut down, and it was so much fun. We had tons of kids there. They got to literally make the cookies and decorate the cookies. So, we will have a kitchen and we will be able to get in there with the kids, really show them some fun skills that they can use.
POHL: Will this also be a retail space? Will I be able to pop in and get cupcakes right there?
THOMPSON FRAZIER: Yes, you can pop in and get cupcakes, cookies, dessert bars, you name it. We're probably going to run our baking throughout the night, early morning, so when you come in in the morning, we'll have a case where you can purchase items from the bakery. You can special order for weddings or birthday cakes or whatever it is that you may need. Office parties, you name it, as well as in the afternoon and evenings we're going to utilize that space for our classes, and we're super excited about that.
That space is also going to be where we assemble our boxes every month they get shipped out, and we have people that are subscribers for our boxes all across the U.S. right now, so we're super excited. We want to continue to grow that, and then grow internationally, because there's other businesses similar to what we're doing that have international sales, and so we want to bring that to Lansing too.