In Conversation with Heidi Finley of Maven Meals
Describe your business in a few words?
Maven Meals prepares handcrafted meals using the highest-quality fresh & natural ingredients, delivered to your doorstep!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was really uninspired looking through all the job postings & wanted to be in control over my destiny. I’m one of those people who likes to do my own thing & innovate on the fly, so I threw caution to the wind & dove in the deep end!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Prior to starting Maven, I studied Hotel & Restaurant Management at Cornell University and worked in the food & beverage industry in a few capacities starting with an entry level management position with Trader Joes to managing a few cafe & bakery concepts. After about 5 years, I decided I wanted to start a food truck and (thankfully) that never made it past the planning stage! Following that attempt, I went back to school to earn a MBA in Sustainable business to learn how to actually start a business. It was through the work I did while in grad school, as a Household Manager & Private Chef, that I came up with the idea for Maven Meals.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I did! Growing up, my dad was an entrepreneur & I always admired him & loved listening to the innovative ideas he was coming up with. I didn’t have a clear plan of what that business would be, but I always knew that running my own show was what I desired!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I had piloted the Maven Meals concept for nine months as a side hustle with about 8 families prior to launching. In the beginning, I relied heavily on word of mouth referrals from my original clients and to this day, that is still our most successful & primary marketing tool.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I can remember a time when we had a major quality issue with a specific product that was a potential food safety risk. While this is never a situation you want to be in, we faced it head on with full disclosure to our customers. We turned, what could have been a really bad situation, into one that created a lot of goodwill amongst our customers for being so transparent.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I think the thing I am most proud of is building a brand and a product that enriches people’s lives when they need it most. I love hearing how Maven Meals has helped all kinds of people, from cancer patients who don’t have the energy to cook to new parents who don’t have time to cook to grown kids who want to send meals to their aging parents. Second to that, is experiencing the growth & professional development of our Maven Family (staff). Most of the team came to Maven early in their working lives, very green, and now they are running the daily operations of a multi-million dollar company with competence & confidence!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I love to ask people to describe their favorite meal so I can get a sense of how they think & talk about food. My biggest tip is to trust your gut when you’re hiring, because it’s almost always right!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
As a meal delivery company, we had a tremendous opportunity to play a key role in helping people stay home and stay healthy by avoiding the grocery store during the pandemic. It was so inspiring to see our whole team rise to the challenge of maintaining operations with consistent quality as business doubled nearly overnight. Once we found our footing with the increased business, we looked outward to the community to see how we could put our infrastructure to work for the frontline workers & other businesses who were struggling. From mid-March through the first of June, we produced and delivered over 8,100 meals to healthcare workers, as well as partnered with local businesses who lost their distribution channels due to the pandemic helping them weather the storm.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I’m really excited to share our big, exciting news here first! Starting in 2021, we will be franchising Maven Meals! For years, people across the country have been asking when we were coming to their area, and now it’s happening!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I think the biggest thing I learned this year is that we all have the capacity to handle so much more than we think I can if we’re willing to just dig in & commit!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
When I was first starting business, I wish I would have known what I do now about accessing our business data. The original website that was built for me did not have ANY reporting capabilities & I was literally running the business on intuition – for the first 7 years!! Now that I have access to all the information & kitchen/recipe data it’s amazing to me that we were half as successful as we have been. I can only imagine where we’d be today if that was different from the beginning. Better late, than never! 😂
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I’ve always been a really optimistic person, and this year, I’m finding I need to be a bit more intentional about it with all the craziness going on. I try to go on a walk most days and let my mind wander & think about all the things I’m grateful for.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Probably lots of things! I’m an avid equestrian & train for eventing 5 days a week with my horse Pippa. I live on an island & drive a bright orange meter-maid car. I love to travel & have a goal of visiting 100 countries in my lifetime (38 & counting!) Due to the pandemic, our wedding was cancelled, so my husband & I got married in our dining room with 4 friends!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Figure out what your most productive time of the day is & create your schedule around it – for me, it’s early in the morning, so I’m always up & working before 6!
2. Make a list of what needs to get done that day – it feels so good to make it to the end!
3. Set boundaries, decide what time you are finishing & stick to it!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means having the opportunity & privilege to make a difference in peoples’ lives through the meals we offer as well as inspire & mentor the next generation of Entreprenistas!