Getting into the food delivery business can be tough - especially when you don’t know how to cook. But as NHPR’s Sean Hurley tells us, Kasia Lojko and Sonia Farris of All Real Meal in Derry say not knowing what they’re doing has been a key to their success.
In 2012, when Kasia Lojko started All Real Meal – her dream business of delivering gluten free, paleo-friendly meals to people who didn’t have time to cook - she had no idea what she was doing.
“I never had any like culinary background really,” Lojko says, “so I was still literally learning how to like cut, you know, and not cut your fingers off.”
Lojko also found herself struggling outside the kitchen when her home was foreclosed and she couldn’t pay for anything but supplies. “Everything I've done was an exchange for food like website, pictures, accounting, everything,” she says. “I would either give people food or watch their kids.”
It was during one of these early exchanges - when Lojko was trading food for help with her Facebook page - that she met Sonia Farris. “And then I came into the kitchen a couple times to take photographs so I would have content for social streams,” Farris recalls, “and one day we just started cooking together.”
Two weeks later Farris was still in the kitchen - and a co-owner of All Real Meal. “You know the partner relationship becomes like a marriage almost” Farris says. “Like you're just together all the time and we're really really lucky because we just love the heck out of each other.”
All Real Meal took their first orders by email. “And it was just word of mouth,” Lojko says, “and I made a couple posts and then a few friends of friends started ordering and then they told some friends and then they told some friends.”
They learned how to cook from the chef at the Goldenrod Restaurant. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if we would be here,” Lojko says.
“Developing all the skills we've gotten,” Farris adds, “which have basically been just by going to people who know how to do it and being like ‘We want to learn how to do this.’ So we've had all these mentors that have just stepped up.”
Both women now support themselves from the business and still personally deliver hundreds of fully cooked meals each week. “People would see us on our website and then we'd be at their door delivering their food,” Farris says laughing, “and they'd be like ‘Wow you guys really do do everything for this.’"
Because they’ve been so supported, Lojko and Farris began to look for a way to give back. Six months ago, they started working with the NH Food Bank. “Our commitment,” Farris says, “is to give back one meal for every meal we sell. So at the end of the week we add up how many meals went out and then we make a donation that will provide that same amount of meals.”
“That seems like a lot of money,” I say.
“It depends on how you look at it,” Farris says. “We feel like that's the best thing we've ever done with this whole business. When we made the first donation we both were like sobbing because we were like ‘Wow this is something.’ Like we're able to use this little start up to really help people.”
Because of that, the two women found their business model shifting. “And then we were like ‘This feels great,’” Farris says, “we're going to do this bigger. So then we came up with the crust because we were like you know, how can we expand outside of the state and how can we even give back in a bigger way?”
The “crust” is a pre-cooked pizza crust that Lojko and Farris are hoping to sell nationally in the next year. “It's like a local cauliflower, chia flax and almond flour basically,” Lojko explains.
Profits from “One Crust” will be donated to Women Empowered, an organization that Lojko says helps “women start their own businesses everywhere in the world.”
“Cause we've just built ourselves up from word of mouth,” Farris adds. “We've never had any funding. Neither of us have any culinary experience. Neither of us have any experience running a business. Basically we just had this idea and we figured everything out along the way.”
Feeding those who don’t have time to cook but can afford to pay while feeding those in need, Kasia Lojko and Sonia Farris say they aren’t strictly in the food delivery business anymore.
“We're not to like out to make money and then sit on the beach and drink pina coladas,” Lojko says. “We might do that here and there but most of the time we're thinking what else can we do, for who?”