January is National Soup Month, and what better time of year is there to warm up with a bowl of your favourite liquid meal?
Unfortunately, we don’t all have a grandmother close by to cook us up a pot full of hearty soup on a cold winter’s day.
But you can always call Brian McKilligan. He’d be more than happy to send over a care package of fresh chicken noodle soup, rosemary garlic bread sticks, Baileys chocolate chunk cookies and even a cupcake in a jar to get you back on your feet.
“I certainly never thought I would end up owning a soup business when I was in school to become a police officer, but it’s been exciting.” —Brian McKilligan, founder, The Yummy Tummy Soup Company
McKilligan, who studied police foundations at Georgian College, started The Yummy Tummy Soup Company last year to help concerned mothers, caring co-workers and good friends send the ultimate comfort food to their loved ones, near or far.
When flowers or chocolates just aren’t right, Yummy Tummy will send a comforting package to anyone you are thinking of across Canada.
Q. How was the concept of The Yummy Tummy Soup Company born?
A. When I was a student, I remember my friends and I curled up on the couch eating Cup-A-Soup when we were sick. We’d get care packages from home, but it was mostly snacks and chocolate, and I remember my mom would always wish she could send me her homemade soup to make me feel better.
In the years after I graduated, I kept noticing this trend with parents who had children away at school. I starting thinking of the business potential of having a service that delivered homemade soup care packages. I did a lot of research and found there were two companies in the U.S. offering similar services, but nothing in Canada.
I began talking with many people to hear their thoughts on the idea, and set up forums on social media sites, like Facebook, to gauge interest. I began putting the business together in early 2010, and we were up and running at full force in the spring.
Q. Do you make the soup and all of the baked goods yourself?
A. I have 16 years of experience working in the restaurant industry, so at first I was doing all of the baking and cooking myself. Now, I have four experienced people on staff who work in the kitchen while I take care of the business component. We are currently an online business so we are renting a restaurant kitchen in Toronto where we prepare everything fresh daily. Our broth cooks for 10 hours and we add in vegetables and then bake cookies and breadsticks for our orders.
Q. Who does Yummy Tummy cater to?
A. Mothers have been our biggest clients. Parents and also young professionals enjoy using the service as a different way to show their love to someone they’re thinking of. We’ve had many orders from companies wanting to send a sick co-worker a package to cheer them up, and even nurses sending to patients after surgery to help their healing process. It’s a thoughtful gift to send when flowers or chocolate won’t work, and it’s hearty and homemade with very little salt and no MSG.
Q. You started Yummy Tummy without a background in business. How did you manage?
A. The logistics and administration components were a big obstacle for me in the beginning, especially trying to figure out the best methods for sending the packages across Canada. I realized you can’t be afraid to admit you don’t what you’re doing.
There are many outlets to answer all of your questions – no matter how stupid you think they might be. Talk with other business owners, government organizations, and get online to find out what you need help with.
Q. What’s a typical workday like?
A. I’m usually up at 6 a.m. making sure the kitchen preparations are going smooth. We get all of our ingredients fresh from farmer’s markets and grocery stores to make products daily. By 8 a.m., I’m putting in the orders to be ready to send out by noon.
After the packages have been sent out, the rest of the day is spent doing administrative work, promotions and marketing initiatives on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. We’ve done a Groupon deal and were recently featured on Rogers Daytime.
Q. Where do you hope to take Yummy Tummy in the future?
A. My main goal is to keep gaining recognition. I would like our service to be known province-wide within the next year and nationwide within two years. We have infinite options for our care packages, and we will keep making updates to the menu two or three times each year. Perhaps one day we will have Yummy Tummy branches across the country.
Q. What advice do you have for new grads looking to turn their ideas into a business?
A. I find that young people have a thousand ideas in their head, but don’t know what to do with them. We have the world in front of us, and all we need to do is take some time to sit and focus on what we want.
I would tell anyone who has an idea floating around to stop waiting around to act on it, because even if it doesn’t work out, you will have a valuable learning experience.
I certainly never thought I would end up owning a soup business when I was in school to become a police officer, but it’s been exciting. You will find that you will eventually steer towards the things you love in your career whether you start off on that path right away or not.