Most of us may have thought we were headed along on a straight career path when we realized the winds of change were blowing in another direction. We could choose to drown or tack in another direction. Barbara Beery, founder/owner of Batter Up Kids, has been able to use her experience as a teacher to follow some interesting new culinary opportunities.
Barbara Beery founded Batter Up Kids, a cooking school and culinary program specifically for kids, in 1991. She is one of the pioneers of connecting kids, cooking and the Internet as a teaching tool. The evolution of Barbara’s business has led to many other successful ventures, including the launch of Kids Cooking Shop, her innovative website just for kids’ cooking products. She also is the author of 11 children’s cookbooks, including three best-sellers, which have sold over 300,000 copies! Her newest title include Pink Princess Cupcakes is coming out in March 2010. Barbara also has been a spokesperson for such national companies as Sun Maid Raisins, Uncle Ben’s, Borden’s and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
I asked Barbara how she developed her unique FOOD JOB, and this is what she said:
Q: Before you founded Batter Up Kids, you were a elementary and pre-school teacher. How did you make the transition to cooking school teacher?
A: I had taught elementary school and pre-school for about 6 years before beginning Batter Up Kids. Teacher is the “key” word. After having years of hands-on classroom experience and having learned child behavior patterns and classroom discipline, I realized I had the ability to teach kids anything! I think I would have been far less successful had I not had a strong background in teaching. I also loved to cook, so it seemed a natural to combine the two passions.
Q: Did the business evolve slowly or did you quit your job to teach the culinary programs?
A: It was really an evolution over three years. I developed the cooking school concept and would teach cooking in the afternoons when I finished my pre-school teaching job.
Q: Before you launched Batter Up Kids, did you get or have any formal culinary training?
A: No. My mom was my teacher and she was a wonderful cook and ALWAYS encouraged me to be by her side in the kitchen. At the time, I didn’t think I needed culinary training. Rather, I needed plenty of recipes that were easily adapted to kid-friendly recipes. I subscribed to every cooking magazine on the market and went to libraries. I checked out loads of kids and adult cookbooks.
Q: A business name can serve as a selling tool. How did you come up with the name Batter Up Kids?
A: The original name of the business for the first four to five years was called “Now We’re Cooking.” When I took the next step to get a nationally registered trademarked name, that name was taken. I asked my own three kids to throw out names (pardon that pun) and somehow the name and the phrase Batter up Kids just struck the right note. I loved the play on words. It was just a fun name that caught people’s attention and made them think….what is this business?
Q: Do you see any trends in what kids want to cook most?
A: YES…sweets! Pastas and homemade breads and pizzas; fruits and veggies must be presented in clever ways, but hands down cakes, cupcakes and desserts always draw the largest class numbers.
Q: I see that you are transitioning the business from cooking school programs to culinary products for kids. How did this come about?
A: After 18 years of teaching kids how to cook, I had developed a keen awareness of products and supplies that work best for kids in the kitchen. I spun this experience around and spent over a year going to markets and trade shows for houseware, giftware and toy fairs and found hundreds of kid-friendly, user-friendly products for kids and ‘tweens. I also realized that it was time to change the business model. It was a very exciting move. I felt strongly that a “Williams-Sonoma” type of online shop for kids with time-tested cooking demos would be a great business.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to start a business, teaching kids to cook on a small or local scale?
A: LOVE what you do. I still work 50 hours a week and feel like there is always more that I should be doing! Start the business venture off slowly so as to limit your mistakes, and have loads patience and faith. You need to love to teach children as well as have a keen understanding of what it takes to teach one successful class. From there, you need to continually create new programs.
Developing a well-thought through lesson and lesson plan takes time and experience; it does not instantly happen. To execute one 90-minute class involves 2 hours of preparation, 90 minutes of class time, and 1-2 hours of clean-up. Everything must be carefully executed to enable the kids to get the hands-on experience and joy in the kitchen!