From Legos to Business Plans
Meet Stephanie Allen. Stephanie has been appropriately named "the grandmother" of fix-and- freeze businesses by TIME magazine. As a working mother, Stephanie didn't always have time to prepare a freshly made meal each night. Instead of giving in to the temptations of the drive thru, she began assembling and freezing her dinners once a month so her family could always eat a home cooked meal. Allen continued to do this for seven years and became known by other mothers for her premade dinners. Women began to ask Allen for help with recipes but she never really considered her process to be a business concept.
Allen recalls having an "aha moment" when people she didn't know were asking about her pre-assembled and frozen dinners. It was then that she thought, "hmmm, maybe there is a business here."
After refining the process and developing a collection of recipes, Allen had taken pre-cooked meals as we knew them and made them taste better. She was quickly "showered with requests to share her secret method for timesaving meal preparation". With help of her long-time friend, Tina Kuna, the first Dream Dinners store was born in June 2002.
Since then, Dream Dinners has attracted national attention which led the partners to expand their business and establish a national franchise in 2003. Upon expanding, Allen received nearly 7,000 applications and signed 35 new stores within the first six months. In less than three years, Stephanie's time saving idea evolved into a thriving national brand.
Before she was a successful business woman, Stephanie always knew she was a leader but hadn't always wanted to be a business woman, however, she did always know she wanted to be a mother. Now the mother of four adult children and a grandmother to four wonderful grandchildren, Allen recalls what it was like balancing motherhood and a business, "I was busy running my catering company and had the desire to feed my children a healthy home-cooked dinner" but like most working moms know, time doesn't always allow for a home cooked meal every night. Refusing to let the ease of the drive-thru tempt her, Allen began preparing and freezing her meals ahead of time.
Allen recalls the tragedy that struck American families on September 11th and recognized that making the time to have dinner together became a priority for a lot of moms. It's important that no matter how busy we are in our day, we make a strong effort to find time to spend with our families. For Allen, that was at the dinner table.
After receiving a ton of requests on how she finds time to have a homemade meal for her family each night, Allen realized that she wanted to help other busy moms unite their families around the dinner table.
Similarly to the first woman in this series of posts, Becky Torrez of BrightStar, Allen recognizes that as women, we need to support one another. Through her business, Allen was able to offer her support to other working women by sharing her secrets on how she has a homemade meal prepared for her family each night. "Knowing you are truly changing lives is the most rewarding part of owning this business", says Torrez. Looking back she recalls really wanting to "help my friends, family and community to enjoy dinner time at home so they could impact their families and raise great kids. I had no idea we would begin an entire new industry. I am grateful that others followed".
Allen, is one of many women who took the plunge and decided to be a full-time mom and full-time business owner. Had she been afraid to take the plunge, she might have not become the successful business owner she is now. Through her courage to be both a mom and a business woman, she not only built a legacy for both herself and her family, but she also had the opportunity to "work with amazing people filled with passion to serve and nurture others", said Allen.
If you missed the first installment of this three part series, you can check it out here.