Anonymous donor steps up to the plate to fund ASU foodpreneur program

December 21, 2018

With new funding and a new coordinator, Prepped — a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University — is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019.

The program is a collaboration from the office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation with additional support from the College of Health Solutions. Prepped participants at the fall showcase Prepped, a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University, is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019. Download Full Image

The new donors chose to remain anonymous, as they wanted the impact of their gift to be the focus.

“This couple was inspired by the accomplishments of the entrepreneurs over the past couple of years and they wanted to help ensure future success, so they’ve committed to funding Prepped for the next two years. We are incredibly grateful to them for their generosity,” said Rick Hall, director of health innovation programs and clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

In addition to providing funding to keep the program free for the business owners and to reimburse costs toward food-safety training and permits, the significant gift also allowed for a new program coordinator position.

Natalie Morris was recently hired for the job, bringing a wealth of experience to the role. Her academic background is in food culture, communications and culinary arts. She’s also a food entrepreneur herself and has worked in nutrition, academia and grassroots nonprofits over the past 12 years.

“Natalie is a perfect fit to coordinate the efforts of Prepped. She has worked in the local food ecosystem for several years and has developed a strong network in the community. Natalie has a passion for empowering food entrepreneurs and is also very interested in sustainability, an important issue that she is infusing into the curriculum,” Hall said.

Morris says Prepped essentially brings all of her interests and backgrounds together, helping small food-based businesses achieve liftoff and doing so in an inspiring academic setting.

One of her favorite aspects of the program and also the most rewarding is getting to work alongside the female entrepreneurs who participate.

“I'm just back here putting the pieces together each week; they're the ones who are managing their businesses in addition to being mothers, caretakers, bill-payers and everything else at all times. I love that I have the opportunity to contribute to making their lives even the tiniest bit more manageable and that Prepped has been designed to give them the tools to run businesses efficiently,” said Morris.

Her vision is to build on the momentum and achievements of previous cohorts while introducing new elements that support the sustained success of each of the participants.

“When we are thinking about the curriculum, the instructors or mentors, or our community partners, we are always thinking about how these pieces of the puzzle will be of value for everyone. One such example I'm proud to announce is that we've collaborated with the FoodLab at ASU's School of Sustainability to integrate more corporate sustainability techniques into the weekly lessons and, in looking ahead, having our own commercial kitchen (a priority need for food businesses) is on our radar,” Morris said.

Originally founded in 2016 by Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU, Prepped’s growth and the community it has created are two things she is incredibly proud of.

“When we started Prepped just over two years ago, we didn’t anticipate just how impactful the program would be. We have been able to support dozens of entrepreneurs in the scaling up of their food-based businesses, accelerating the growth of revenues exponentially, and helping create dozens of jobs. And perhaps most importantly, fostering a community where even long after participants have completed the program, they still come together around food, culture and helping each other in any way they can,” Choi said.

To date, 63 businesses have been prepped and, as Choi said, the supportive community they’ve built continues as they get ready to welcome the next cohort.

Devereaux Jackson from Q-Tsie was in one of the early cohorts and says the experience exceeded expectations and continues to even now.

“This is abundance. I am continually in awe at the wealth of industry knowledge and support that Prepped has made available to us. I am immensely grateful,” Jackson said.

For anyone on the fence about applying, Morris says if you fit the eligibility, don’t let fear stand in your way. Instead, just go for it.

The program runs each fall and spring with applications for the next cohort open now. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

For eligibility and additional program information, visit the Prepped website:

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


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ASU's Prepped helps food startups cook up a business plan

November 18, 2016

Mentors, industry experts work with food entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities in inaugural six-week program

When Kim Goode throws a party, she likes to walk around the house and watch people eat.

“It’s nice to see people enjoying what you make,” Goode (pictured above) said. “Food makes people happy, and if it’s good food, mmmmm. ... Our culture is based around food. If there’s a get-together, there’s going to be food there.”

Goode works part-time cooking for non-profits; she also attends school and takes care of her kids. She has had the dream of baking for a living since high school but never had the money or time to take her enterprise to the next level.

“Now I’m in a better place to take the time to invest in myself,” she said.

She wants to own a catering company — Goode Eats and Sweets. Soul food and retro desserts, like banana pudding, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.

“I do a lot of things,” she said. “I put my twist on it — a little soul food, a little Southern. I like it all, so I try to make it all. ... My family is from Mississippi, so you’ve got to know how to cook something.”

She can make it all. The problem is she doesn’t know how to do it all. That’s where Prepped came in.

Prepped is a free six-week program offered by Arizona State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This fall was the inaugural kickoff. Entrepreneurship programs at ASU usually revolve around tech of some sort. The staff decided they wanted to do something different and chose to support food startups.

“Our intention is to support food entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities,” program coordinator Michele Rudy said. “We want to see your business grow.”

Goode was studying sustainable food systems at a community college when her instructor posted a link to the Prepped opportunity.

“There are a lot of programs for entrepreneurs, but none of them are for food,” she said.

Goode started cooking with her mother when she was 6 years old. “She got so good I don’t do it any more,” her mother said.

Until now, Goode’s sounding board has consisted of a cousin who always hangs out in her kitchen. “I just stick stuff in her mouth and she’s like, ‘Uh-huh,’ or ‘You need to do something with that.’ ” Possibly the most flattering compliment came from her grandmother, who asked her for her carrot cake recipe. “It’s just a little bit better than mine,” Goode said her grandmother told her.

“I never heard that from her before,” Goode said.

All of which is nice to hear, but won’t necessarily get a business off the ground. With Prepped, she has learned finance, food handling and basic commercial cooking.

“I didn’t even know you can rent a kitchen,” she said.

Goode’s mentor, Giovanni Pace, executive chef and owner of Scratch Catering in Tempe, has been walking her through getting a license.

“I was ignorant of what was out there,” Goode said. “They’ve kept me from buying things I really don’t need.”

On a Thursday afternoon, she is baking candied walnut tea cakes, an after-school or -church snack.

“It’s not super-sweet, but enough to satisfy that sweet tooth,” she said. (See recipe video at the bottom of this story.)

She kneads dough and nuts. Being a baker is something like being a surgeon; a lot of it is in the feel of the hands. “It’s a snack,” she said. “It’s not going to be super-pretty, but I’m going to pretty them up a bit.”

She rolls the dough flat, then punches out discs with a drinking glass. Fifteen minutes later, she opens the oven door for a peek. “Oh my — these are big like Texas.”

They are eye-closing, mouth-watering, give-me-another-one good. “Mmmm,” raptures a visitor.

Goode throws her head back, smiles, slaps her thigh. “That’s what I like to see!”

Six days later, Goode and her 14 classmates have gathered in the huge commercial kitchen in the Health South building on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Usually the kitchen is used by nutrition students.

Tonight is mentor night, where food experts will critique them and give advice. The entrepreneurs are on edge, and tension is palpable. They’ve brought ceviche, Belgian waffles, and a cake that looks like a jewelry box, among other dishes. Goode brought Peruvian chicken with Peruvian yellow rice.

“I hope it’s hot,” she said.

The mentors present include a marketing expert from Fry’s, restaurant owners, culinary school faculty, and food truck operators.

Michael Mazzocco, owner and president of The Herb Box Catering Company, is involved with the Small Business Leadership Academy in the W. P. Carey School of Business, which is how he heard about Prepped.

“I think it’s a great way to learn about myself and help others,” he said.

His company’s motto is “Passion lives here.”

“You have to be passionate,” he said. “If you’re not passionate, it won’t work.”

Rudy calls the room together and addresses the group. “Advice for the entrepreneurs: Ask lots of questions,” she said. “Advice for the mentors: Keep it real.”

The mentors move out around the room. One asks Goode if she’s on Instagram. (“Yes.”)

Questions fly around the kitchen.

“Who are your suppliers?”

“Do you have business cards?”

“How long do you marinate the shrimp?”

Sasha Reyes, 29, is an in-home personal chef. Many of her clients are professional athletes and people on restricted diets. Most athletes are careful about what they eat. Most, Reyes stressed.

“I’ve seen Crunch Berries in some people’s cupboards, and we get rid of those right away,” she said.

Tonight she’s dishing up two versions of roasted polenta with an eggplant caponata, one vegan, one with grilled chicken.

Reyes started her own company — Body & Soul Food — about a year ago.

“This course has definitely given me the ability to key in on areas where I have some weaknesses,” she said. “I’m going to make some changes in the new year, maybe do some rebranding.”

Lorenzo Santillan has a food truck in the wings. He sees classical Mexican cuisine, like mole and tacos al pastor, on his horizon. He also slaughters pigs for parties.

Brought from Mexico when he was 9 years old, Santillan sees self-employment as job security. No one is going to ask him for his residency papers if he’s the boss. With food, “I’m rewriting the history of my family,” he said. “This course has opened up so many doors and given us so many resources.”

His food truck will be named Ni De Aqui Ni De Alla; “Neither Here Nor There,” he said.

Santillan has earned his food handler’s certificate through the course. “Our mentors are amazing,” he said. “Each one has given us knowledge.”

He found accounting especially valuable. “That was an eye-opener,” he said. “I think by the end of this we’ll all understand where we need to be in the next six months.”

After the Prepped course ends, Goode plans to rent a kitchen space, “then I’m going to get out there and hustle as much as I can.”

This group’s final meeting will be the week of Thanksgiving. Applications for the next cohort will be accepted in the spring. For more information, visit:


How to make Kim Goode's Candied Walnut Tea Cakes. Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Top photo: Prepped entrepreneur Kim Goode poses for a portrait at her family home in Phoenix on Nov. 10. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News