Startup snapshot: Canton couple squeezes a business plan out of baby food
Some people refer to Jordan Takas as “crunchy,” and he’s okay with that.
The Canton resident and his wife, Alexis Takas, shop at local farmers’ markets. They gave up their coveted city parking pad to create a backyard garden.
So naturally, they wanted to feed their two-year-old daughter, Barrett, the same unprocessed, wholesome foods that they were eating. Though she liked the convenience of disposable, plastic packets pre-filled with pureed food, Alexis Takas wanted a more environmentally friendly option.
The couple came up with EZ Squeezees
, a dishwasher- and freezer-safe reusable pouches for purees of fruits, veggies, and other foods like those that they make for Barrett. The patent-pending pouches are free of the potentially toxic chemical, BPA, and can be filled with purchased or homemade mixes. The EZ Squeezees' website offers a variety of recipes
like chicken with sweet potatoes and applesauce, which are combined in a food processor or blender before pouring into the pouches.
EZ Squeezees e-commerce site officially launched in December. The initial $60,000 investment for the patent-pending EZ Squeezees came directly from the Takas’ own savings and a settlement that Jordan Takas received after a car accident. The business owners anticipate making up their investment by the end of this year.
The Takas are spending their money on product creation, patents, and marketing at tradeshows around the country to get in front of potential consumers and retail partners. “It’s funny,” Jordan says, “we were recently at a tradeshow and people would come up to us and say, ‘I hate you; I had this same idea.’ They wanted to create it—but they didn’t.” They also promote their business via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
The first baby steps
Alexis, a CrossFit instructor, and Jordan, a medical sales rep, got the idea by playing with the squeezable pouches. They would cut them up and move pieces around to make mock pouches that could hold purees. What they thought was the perfect product, wasn’t. They had had everything in place, but no gussets, or expanding sides. After adding those, they knew that it was what set them apart and what made EZ Squeezees better. It’s a feature unique to EZ Squeezees and allows for a larger spout and hands-free set up. There are currently four patents pending for the design.
The couple contacted seven manufacturers, but no one wanted to help. But Jordan Takas says he has an engine that doesn’t quit.
One of the manufacturers who turned Jordan and Alexis down had a college intern who was interested in working with EZ Squeezees. The company worked through what the pouches would look like and the intern helped them understand the mechanics and how it would be easier to create. That intern has since been hired on full time as an international sales development coordinator.
Mike Brenner, co-founder of Federal Hill incubator Betamore
, helped out the new entrepreneurs. They all sat down, had a few beers, and hashed through ideas. Brenner helped them realize ways to launch the company in less time and for less money.
The EZ Squeezees' team hopes to hire at least two employees by the end of the year and are eyeing local warehouse and retail space in the neighborhood.
The pouches are sold at Fleet Street Market in Fells Point. Whole Foods in Harbor East just gave the green light and the business owners are in talks with Wegmans. They have been approached by a TV shopping channel.
The company is also looking at other audiences and industries. Friends of the couple who are professional chefs have discussed using the pouches for barbeque and other sauces. The pouches can have uses in the healthcare industry or among seniors.
Says Jordan, "It's been a pretty incredible ride and we're holding on tight as this thing takes off."
Renee Libby Beck is a freelance writer and public relations manager for Medifast Inc. Renee is the Baltimore Food Examiner for Examiner.com and writes for other local and national blogs and publications.
All photographs by STEVE RUARK.
Click photos to read captions.