The Traveling Kitchen
Passionate Educator and Mum of Three takes her Travelling Kitchen to Kids Near and Far. If you have a little idea, test it out, pilot it and see where it can fly to.
Karen Koutsodontis, is the passionate founder and visionary for The Travelling Kitchen. A mother of three and a trained and practising secondary school Food Technology teacher, Karen and her team of qualified teachers, educators, chefs, nutritionists and dieticians passionately take their hands-on cooking classes and healthy eating education to Victorian children. Reaching almost 9,000 children in 2015, they estimate reaching 10,000 children in 2016.
Tackling child obesity head on, this interactive and highly engaging program empowers children from an early age to look after their health and their bodies. Educating pre-school and primary school aged children about healthy eating, the program provides them with the necessary skills to prepare, cook and enjoy fresh, healthy meals with a huge focus on eating locally, seasonally and sustainably produced food.
What drove you to start up/make a major change to your business/business life?
A rejection to a part time application from a previous employer and a random request from my sons kindergarten teacher, led to the birth of The Travelling Kitchen. I noticed how many kids were never exposed to cooking at school/kinder and how many also don’t witness this happening at home, with parents working long hours away from home. I believe every child needs to have a positive cooking experience during their childhood that they remember for a lifetime and that is our role to provide it, as a food education service.
What’s been your proudest moment in business?
There have been many proud moments, from a thank you from parents, children giving us hugs, writing about The Travelling Kitchen, thank you pictures and notes from children, media coverage, being short listed for the Telstra Women’s business awards, all of these have provided such satisfaction.
What mistake have you learned most from?
Being a friendly, genuinely caring person, sometimes it’s hard to be the firm boss I need to be.
Dealing with a range of staffing issues when managing a team of fourteen staff, there needs to be a distinctive line and time for friendship and professionalism.
I have learnt that as an employer I need to ensure the line between boss and friend is not blurred and always remain a positive leader.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
The fun we can deliver to the children we work with is infectious. The joy you can see on kid’s faces whilst cooking is a clear testament that we are doing it right. We deliver a tailored, personal service that is highly engaging.
Employing great staff that are clearly passionate in working with kids and teaching them healthy habits, who constantly receive glowing reviews, ensures our clients rebook our services and positive word of mouth messages are being filtered through communities about the work we do.
What have you learned about yourself?
That I can wear many hats. I am an educator, leader, mentor, book keeper, social media expert, web designer, with a multitude of skills including marketing, public relations, budgeting, public speaking, coaching, grant writing etc. Running your own business means initially you have to be across all facets of the business. I have learnt I can work more hours than I thought possible on less sleep than I thought possible.
What has been your biggest sacrifice for the business?
Having young children, I find my most productive hours to be late at night, working whilst they are asleep. I guess the biggest sacrifice is my down time is now usually dedicated to work.
Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
I would have started the business with more systems in place, and have trained more staff to begin with.
Who would you most like to employ in your business – famous or otherwise?
Jaimie Oliver of course.
Best piece of advice to other business owners?
If you have a little idea, test it out, pilot it and see where it can fly to. I never imagined when I began that I would be touching the lives of 10,000 children giving them a cooking experience to remember.