(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of two articles in a series spotlighting a couple of the teams participating in the 2020 edition of the “AgLaunch Bootcamp.” The program, which concludes August 6, was hosted by the Memphis-based AgLaunch organization in conjunction with the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, The Biz Foundry in Cookeville, and Sync Space in Kingsport).
Alane Boyd and her husband decided that living long-term in San Diego was not in their future, so they started looking at websites for a new hometown and picked Cookeville, TN in 2013.
Today, both are entrenched in the community, running their own businesses. In her case, it is a start-up named BurgerFit. The name clearly describes the product – burgers, which almost everyone loves, but with one or more healthier ingredients added – vegetables, to be exact.
“I struggled for years with being overweight,” Boyd told us in a recent interview. “I decided I had to get my life under control.” That involved healthier eating that helped her lose 40 pounds, and Boyd has maintained that weight for a decade.
As described on her start-up’s webpage, she incorporated more vegetables into her diet and removed heavily processed carbohydrates. But the changes in Boyd’s diet did not align with the preferences of her children and her extended family, particularly those who visited from her native Louisiana.
“I thought that I would cook them burgers,” she said. “Everyone loves them.” The burgers were a hit even though were made with vegetables mixed with the meat. She frequently offered her vegetable-infused burgers at special events in Cookeville and even published a cookbook with 20 of her recipes that included a variety of vegetables such as peas, cabbage, carrots, and broccoli. More recently, a YouTube channel named “Cooking with My Friends” has been added.
“People kept asking where they could buy the burgers,” Boyd says, and that question help propel her into the “AgLaunch Bootcamp” where she’s working to launch her business with big plans to scale it. “My husband and I had sold our software business in 2018. That helped me decide to do it (start BurgerFit) now.”
At the outset, Boyd will focus on grocery stores in Northern Louisiana and Eastern Texas plus online sales via her website. The burgers will be frozen and shipped. At the outset, there will be four options – all with ground meat and a specific vegetable and combination. Three of the four have been decided. They are spinach and mushroom, four peppers, and broccoli. The fourth is still being evaluated.
You are no doubt wondering, “Why will grocery store sales occur in Northern Louisiana and Eastern Texas and not in Putnam County?” The answer involves some insight into the industry and how to enter the market.
“I wanted to go with a co-packer, but there are not many of them, and they need more volume than we can commit to at the start,” Boyd explained. Fortunately, she found what she calls a “meat to market” provider in Louisiana that will work with her based on the expected initial and short-term business volume.
“I expect to be selling around Labor Day,” Boyd says.
She is very positive about the Bootcamp. “It’s going really well,” Boyd told us during the interview that occurred ahead of the program’s completion on August 6. “We’re starting to dig deeper into where my business is. The hardest part is putting all of these things together.”
Boyd also plans to start raising outside capital to help hire a food industry executive and launch a sales team. Those hires should help her grow to a size where a co-packer will be interested in her business.
“I don’t want this to take years and years,” she says. With her tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, one suspects it will not.