Written by: Diana Wallenberg
The children are playing in the backyard after finishing their homework. Dad’s car pulls into the driveway, and as he opens the front door he asks, “What is that delicious smell?” It’s mother, of course, cooking dinner in the kitchen for all to share. Father sets the table for the family, and the kids gather around the table. As everyone comes together at the end of a long day of work and learning, each person enjoys the meal prepared lovingly by mom.
Yeah. Right. In today’s world, full of busy parents there often isn’t enough time for anyone to cook an evening meal from scratch. But even when someone at home does do most of the meal preparation for their family, there’s no guarantee that picky little ones will eat it. So, the age-old worry about kids getting enough of what’s good for them continues.
Not for long though, if Jill Litwin, creator of “Peas of Mind,” has anything to do with it. For eight years Litwin has lovingly grown her line of tasty and sneakily vegetable packed foods so kids can eat well and busy parents can stress less.
Take Unexpected Detours
Litwin never expected her life to take a turn toward entrepreneurship. She went to college for mathematics, excelled in her studies, and ended up working in the snowboarding industry in Vermont nine years ago. She enjoyed her job and working for other people never bothered her. “My only problem was I felt like I was in a box…and I always wanted to go outside my box,” Jill recalls. “I wanted to do it all, not just my job title.”
An unexpected opportunity came in the form of a three-year-old boy. One of Litwin’s coworkers was worried that her son wasn’t getting enough veggies in his diet, and was at a loss for what to do. Without a second thought, Litwin said, “Let me cook for him.” So, she did.
Let Inspiration Find You
When people ask, Litwin tells them, “My business found me, and I was open to it.” Jill didn’t realize it at the time, but in that one decision “Peas of Mind” was born. Litwin had a love of cooking that began all the way back in her childhood, spending time in the kitchen with her mother, whipping up delicious, wholesome meals together. Jill drew from her history and advice from her mom in creating her first kid-friendly nutritious all in one frozen meal, called a puffet.
Once she made the first few puffets for her friend’s little boy, Jill was hooked. And a good thing too because new orders from different moms and dads were coming in all the time. Little by little, accepting payment in the form of feedback from the busy families who requested Litwin’s food, she developed meals children loved to eat, and parents felt great about feeding to them.
Go as Far as It Takes
Even though Jill’s new venture was gaining momentum, it wasn’t until she hosted a “Name storming” session that Litwin knew she needed to commit to this business one hundred percent. It was at this meeting, fueled by chocolate and libation, that the name “Peas of Mind” was originally suggested. Afterward, with little more than her company name and the support of family, Jill made the cross-country move to San Francisco to chase after her growing dream.
Once there Litwin was inspired by the superior network and support system offered to budding entrepreneurs. She enrolled in business classes at The Renaissance Center of San Francisco and won an award for her “Peas of Mind” business plan, it was voted best in class.
Success Takes Time
After her experience at Renaissance, Jill states, “Doors just kept opening.” One such door was at the newly finished not for profit commercial kitchen La Cocina. It was here that “Peas of Mind” began to grow, and where Jill took on each new role of entrepreneurship during different stages of her business’ growth. Jill made the conscious choice to learn each position in her growing company. She opines that in business, “You have two paths: time or money, for me it was about taking time. I chose that path because it’s about the journey, I wanted to know how to do everything before I farmed out everything to somebody else.”
With the time Litwin invested in perfecting her product it wasn’t long before she had a place in the freezer section at a local grocery. Jill was content with her success, but after an opportune NBC Nightline feature on La Cocina, in which her product picked up some unexpected media attention, “Peas of Mind” took off, securing a place in the freezer section of a large grocery chain. Litwin was able to hire many of her old positions out and focus on her real passion, “It’s really business and closing deals that I love.”
Commitment to Goodness
But Litwin’s success comes second to the primary reason behind “Peas of Mind.” From the beginning, Jill’s commitment to creating nutritious meals that children love to eat has been the driving force behind her ambition. “Peas of Mind” first commercial product was the original frozen puffet in four flavors: Carrot Risotto, Eat Your Greens, Black Bean Polenta, and Nana’s Bananas. While these initial offerings have since been retired, Litwin continues to create innovative veggie dense frozen foods, that taste so good children don’t even know they’re eating something good for them.
Jill’s desire for creating goodness has only intensified in recent years, because she now has a family, including a little girl. Litwin’s daughter is a picky eater, and Jill is thankful to have “Peas of Mind” when she feeds her daughter products from her line.
Giving People “Peas of Mind”
Although it has fueled her success, Jill’s goal for “Peas of Mind” is not just to get good stuff into the bellies of kids. For Litwin a lot of her inspiration is helping busy parents feel confident about feeding their children. She states, “The business is here so moms don’t stress out.” Litwin encourages parents to take a more holistic view of their child’s eating habits, bearing in mind not just one meal or one day, but what they’ve eaten over the course of a week as an indicator of healthy nutrition. And finally, Jill reminds all worried parents, “When children are hungry, they will eat.”
You Can Do Anything
After having their little girl, Jill and her husband decided to relocate to the Minneapolis area because anytime they visited, “It just felt like coming home.” Litwin’s move was prompted by the desire for a better life and new opportunities to grow. Despite unfamiliar surroundings and having little network or support system, Litwin doesn’t fear remotely managing “Peas of Mind.” Jill’s confidence is best summed up in her words, “I always say the freezer section in a grocery store is a lot like New York City, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere; so, I really believe we can make it here, too.”
Litwin plans to encourage others in following their dreams, as well. Living in San Francisco Jill volunteered as a mentor to budding entrepreneurs and chefs at both The Renaissance Center and La Cocina. Now that her family resides in Minnesota, Jill has wasted no time in finding a way to give back to her community. Through “Peas of Mind” Litwin continues to donate food to the Feeding America program and in her personal time she mentors entrants in the Minnesota Cup, an annual competition offering a $450,000 award to one promising startup that stands out from the rest.
Get Some “Peas of Mind”
Maybe your life is a little overbooked and stressful. It’s possible a home cooked meal will only happen occasionally. Fortunately, Jill Litwin has us all covered, so at the end of the day we can still sit down together and enjoy a nutritious meal with the ones we love most. If you struggle to feed your children healthy vegetables you know they need, get “Peas of Mind.” It’s the fun way for children to eat vegetables that puts a smile on your face.