Le’Anna Miller’s daughter, London, wasn’t supposed to arrive until January 2015. But her baby surprised her and came a month early on December 1, 2014.
“Any time you have a premature baby, you have a heightened sense of protection. Because she was born a month early her health was the most important thing," says Miller. "We had to feed her with a syringe at first.”
Today, London is a happy, healthy two-year-old. But the experience of having a preemie awakened Miller’s entrepreneurial spirit and her views on nutrition.
On Saturday, January 14, Miller officially launched production of Baby Munch Organics in the Hildebrandt Provisions Company’s 2,000-square-foot Community Kitchen, 3619 Walton Ave., sharing the space with other tenants such as Rising Star Coffee Roasters Storehouse Tea and Annie’s Sweet Shop in the transformed creative hub.
The inspiration for Baby Munch came in June 2015 when London started eating solid food and Miller wasn’t satisfied with the selection she found on store shelves. “I didn’t like that the expiration dates were 365 days later, and I didn’t see any options,” she recalls. “So I got in the kitchen and started playing around with different recipes.”
Miller perfected her recipes, which are all certified organic and handmade in small batches using locally grown and sourced fruits and vegetables. “Even if it’s not grown here, the owner of the company has to be local,” explains Miller. “We want to keep the roots here.”
The small batches of baby food are immediately frozen, to lock in the key nutrients, Miller says.
London, now two, is Miller’s taste tester and kitchen assistant. “She spends a lot of time sitting in the kitchen with her bowl and her spoon,” Miller says, adding that London has a lot of experience with fresh produce. “I would take London to the Farmers Market every Saturday, and then on Sunday we’d make food.”
Now Miller herself is a vendor at the Shaker Square North Union Farmers Market. She opened her stand there for the first time two weeks ago, the same day she began production at the Hildebrandt.
Miller offers seven seven varieties of Munch. Her Stage 1 line, aimed at babies six months and older, has apples, carrots, sweet potatoes and pears. The four flavors in her Stage 2 line, for kids nine months and older, mixes things up a little.
“We’re starting to add different combinations of fruits vegetables and spices to continue palate training and keep babies curious about trying new foods,” she explains of Stage 2. “Like Appleini – apples, zucchini and cinnamon – Gimme a Beet – beets, mango and cinnamon – Itzy Bitzy – apples, bananas and blueberries – and Peas and Love – pears, peas and mint.”
Some of Miller’s recipes are seasonal, such as Pumpkin Patch – pumpkin puree with spices and a graham cracker crust. All of her recipes are designed to develop the palate and offer bold flavors with hints of fresh herbs and spices.
This spring Miller plans to introduce a line of toddler snacks.
“Our goal is to ignite food curiosity through the introduction of fresh fruits and vegetables,” Miller says of her recipes. “It’s made at the peak of freshness and our colors are fun. Baby food can be fun and it doesn’t have to be bland.”
The food comes in pouches that stay fresh in the fridge for two days or frozen for four weeks. One pouch costs $3.25, four-packs are $12. Miller offers a monthly subscription service for $35 and can ship out of state.
Miller, who graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a degree in finance, has some experience as an entrepreneur. In college, she participated in the 2011 Entrepreneur Immersion Week and Competition, where her team won first place for their custom nail polish business. Today she works full time as an auditing associate at a Big Four accounting firm downtown,
But Miller knew that she needed some training if she was going to create a business beyond her own kitchen. So she went through the Bad Girl Ventures eight-week entrepreneurial training program in 2015 and was one of the 10 finalists.
“It was great experience,” Miller says. “It provided support, networking and the business aspects.”
Then she participated in Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen’s food business incubator to learn about food safety, marketing and product labeling.
Although Miller is still perfecting her website, customers who are interested in ordering can email or call (216) 925-0818 for more information. When the Baby Munch website is complete, Miller will accept online orders for both delivery and pick up at the Farmers Market. For a limited time, she is offering free delivery within Northeast Ohio.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2017|