New Innovators: Cookit Kids

Online cookery classes aim to help families bond and teach youngsters a vital life skill

Jill Stout: “Not being able to cook can lead to problems later, including a dependence on  fast food.”

Jill Stout: “Not being able to cook can lead to problems later, including a dependence on fast food.”

 

It can be difficult to drag today’s tech dependent children away from their tablets and video games, but that’s exactly what Jill Stout is aiming to do with Cookit Kids, a new food business designed to get youngsters off the couch and into the kitchen.

Stout initially set up a cookery school for children in 2014 and quickly noticed that students enjoyed bringing home something they had made themselves.

“I saw a gap in the market for a fun and educational way for families to cook together and this is how the Cookit Kids idea started,” she says.

“I felt the best way to do it was by providing step-by-step cooking lessons online as it uses the technology kids love and understand while they also get to spend quality time with the adults in their lives.”

To make the whole process as painless as possible for parents, Stout has developed ingredients kits and recipe cards that get delivered to customers’ homes. Once the child is ready to cook, they tune in to Stout’s child-friendly video tutorial and it takes them through the recipe. Parents can buy the kits individually (€25) or sign up for 12 months’ membership at €19 a month. The prices include delivery but not perishable ingredients.

World cuisine

The kits were launched in September and the first batch has a Round the World theme. Each month families explore a new country through its food, culture, history and geography. Dishes include curry from India and bread from Hawaii.

Stout’s target customers are parents, grandparents and relatives of children aged 4-12. She says the kits are also a handy resource for single parents when it’s their turn to have the children. There is a version for birthday parties, which includes ingredients, mixing bowls, take-home containers, party bags and party games for a group of 10 or more.

Jill Stout comes from a food industry background. She previously worked as operations manager for the Wright Group and has over 20 years of experience in setting up and running hospitality venues. It has cost her roughly €35,000 to develop and launch Cookit Kids and the venture has received support from Meath LEO.

In 2015, Stout took part in a business course for women entrepreneurs run by the Mill innovation hub in Drogheda and earlier this year participated in the High Flyers female entrepreneurship programme at the DCU Ryan Academy.

“Not being able to cook can lead to problems later, including a dependence on convenience and fast food,” says Stout. “There has been a decline in home cooking over the last two generations and, with obesity rates rising exponentially, one can only draw the conclusion that’s there’s a link. Secondly, I was seeing parents and grandparents desperate to connect with their children and grandchildren but struggling to find ways in this digital age. There are no recipe kits aimed specifically at Irish kids and I felt parents were missing out on a fun activity that also teaches an important life skill.”

Stout is currently running her e-commerce business alone, but she expects to start hiring help in 2017. Cookit Kids has only been up and running a little over a month, so it’s early days. However, Stout is expecting a sales boost over the next few weeks as her business has been selected by DIT as one of the companies the college’s final-year marketing students will work with to hone its digital strategy.

In an interesting twist on how to tap into a potential export market with a food product without incurring massive shipping costs, Cookit Kids has set up a kitchen in the US. It will be run by a family member with experience of the food industry and will replicate the Irish operation.

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