As a single mother of three with an innate passion for cooking, Michelle Muller had long since taken on the role of short-order chef for her children. But it wasn’t until Muller’s third child started eating solid foods that she was struck with an entrepreneurial idea.
“I personally made all the food for my kids, and it was very stressful,” she says. “I lost a lot of sleep over it, but I had a moment of clarity when I thought, ‘If I’m having this struggle, then surely other parents are, too.’”
She continued: “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re living in this amazing, modern society filled with incredible technology at our fingertips” and yet there are relatively few modern solutions “when it comes to feeding your child.”
Excited to provide parents with another baby food option, Muller gathered Ben Lewis, CEO, Angela Vranich, chief product officer, and Lisa Barnett, CMO, and together they set out to disrupt the baby food industry. Launched in 2017, Little Spoon, her New York City-based upstart, describes its mission as enhancing the overall health of the general public by starting in the formative babyhood years.
“Our country and our children are the unhealthiest they’ve ever been,” Muller says. “Little Spoon is combatting that by giving parents an affordable, easy option to expose their children to as much fresh, organic ingredients and flavors as possible.”
She added: “I feel like this is such a simple step you can take from day one to set your child up for success that will genuinely carry their eating habits all the way through adulthood.”
Caring for a Business in Infancy
Getting a food business off the ground can be a huge undertaking. For the Little Spoon team, one of the most notable early challenges was ensuring the highest levels of safety and cleanliness, since they were dealing with baby food. The team spent about a year making sure that they could provide families with a high-quality product.
“It was very time consuming, but at the end of the day our team was determined to do it the right way and not shortcut,” Muller says.
Now, Little Spoon is USDA Organic Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, and has its own kitchen in Southern California. The company has also created partnerships with farms and producers to supply fresh ingredients year-round.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this baby food company different.
“We create customized nutrition plans for the child,” Muller says. “It’s not just creating the spectacular recipes that taste good and have all these awesome, exotic superfoods packed in. [We help expose] babies to these ingredients, and that helps set them up for a beautifully expanded palette, which makes them much more accepting of different ingredients down the road.”
To benefit from the nutrition plan, which the company calls Blueprint, parents have to provide several different details about their child. As children grow and hit different developmental milestones, their customized plan changes so they continue to receive the right macro and micro nutrients and vitamins. The team collaborates with a nutrition council on all recipes to ensure that each Little Spoon product is packed with the right ingredients to optimize children for successful development.
Right now, Little Spoon is 100% e-commerce-based and sends packages directly to customers, allowing Muller and her team to change flavors every week and test new products while making real-time adjustments based on customer feedback.
The ability to be nimble in production and the types of relationships fostered with customers are sources of pride for Muller—and so is the Little Spoon packaging.
“From the box to the insulation that keeps the food cold to the containers themselves to the materials that help explain how the process works, every single thing that comes to your house is 100% curbside recyclable,” she says. “We are really conscious about our impact on the environment.”
For Moms, by Moms
As Co-Founder and Chief Mom at Little Spoon, Michelle is on the clock 24/7, her laptop constantly open by her side. She takes 20-25 calls from customers every week, eager to help the families who rely on her product have the best experience possible.
Thankfully, Muller started Little Spoon off on the right foot—by having a small but driven team of partners to help her create a solid foundation for the business. Currently, the company has five full-time employees and nine part-time employees—and Muller is eager to continue growing.
“You cannot do this alone,” she says. “It’s too much. In the second breath of saying ‘Find a partner,’ I would also say ‘Find a partner who has a different skill set from you.’ I think it’s really important to find that balance with a partner or partners who compliment your skill set so you can build off of each other.”
Now, Muller and her team have their eyes set on the future, with a focus on educating parents and expanding the company’s line of products. And for its founder, Little Spoon isn’t just about offering babies with the best nutritional diets—it’s also about supporting parents in and out of the workplace.
“The fact is that we’re offering parents the ability to take one thing off their list,” she says. “That, I would assume, helps out with the stress level and gives parents back several hours every week that they don’t have to spend cooking or cleaning.”
She brings that mindset of helping parents into the Little Spoon office, fostering a culture of positivity, support, and balance. Her dedication to creating that culture manifests in her hiring choices.
“Our whole customer care team is made up of moms that are working part-time,” she says. “I’m just super proud that we’re able to help moms who can’t necessarily dedicate a full-time schedule to working but they know that they want to have some source of balance in their life.”