Rising StarRising Stars: Dustin and Darcy Kochis Offer Healthy Bites for Your Little Handful

A baby eating solid foods can be quite the little handful.  During any given meal, a fraction of the baby’s lovingly pureed food actually makes it into his or her mouth—usually shoved in by a frustrated parent whose own meal is going cold—and the rest ends up on the face or floor.

What if there were a pre-made option that was not only healthy but also encouraged self-feeding and expanded your baby’s taste palate? Enter Little Handfuls Organic. Co-founders Dustin and Darcy Kochis tell us more:

Little Handfuls Organic

What was the spark that inspired the birth of your concept?

Our son Jude was our biggest inspiration. In addition to that, desperation for something easy! As first-time parents, our main goal when starting Jude on solid foods was to provide him with wholesome ingredients and a variety of ingredients from the start, avoiding the plethora of foods that are full of sugar and salt. We found we could do that by making everything at home, but as busy working parents, cooking from scratch wasn’t always possible. We needed convenience we could feel good about. We spent many Sundays mixing batches of healthy ingredients, plopping them in mini muffin tins to bake, and then freezing them for later. Our idea soon sprouted into Little Handfuls Organic.

What problem does it solve?

We are providing busy parents options that simplify mealtimes and snack times while keeping it wholesome and nutritious for the little ones. Our products also allow the little ones to feed themselves, letting parents enjoy mealtimes too!

How did you come up with the name?

Lots and lots of brainstorming. We had to go back to the drawing board quite a lot, since many names we liked were already taken. That was always disappointing because we were like, “That’s perfect,” and then it was unavailable.  Finally, one evening after a tough night of putting Jude to bed, we said to ourselves, “He is quite the little handful,” and that’s when the bells went off and we knew we had a winner. It not only aligned perfectly with our target market, it also helped highlight the fact that our products are meant for little ones to pick up and feed themselves.

How are you better/different than your competition?

We are creating a new segment within the baby and toddler food category and offering something different than what is currently available. There are more than enough purees, pouches, puffs, and pizza bites on the shelves. We felt that if we didn’t want those options, other parents out there must feel the same way. Our goal from day one was to provide something different.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

It’s like having a child. We often joke that we have three kids: Jude, Scarlet, and Little Handfuls. The parallels are very similar if you think about it: 1)You invest everything you have into them, 2) They keep you up at night, and 3) There is no better feeling than having a hand in their growth. The one difference, at least, is that Little Handfuls doesn’t need diaper changes!

What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?

We were pleased and surprised at our success within OEN’s 2016 Angel Oregon Program. As an entry level participant, we decided to do it to simply work on our pitch and network. As we kept making it through each round, we got more surprised and excited. It was also a big confidence booster. You always hear from friends and family, “Oh, what a great idea,” but that is not always easy to decipher, so it was nice to get validation from people we didn’t know.

Your biggest success?

We launched in April of this year beginning at farmer’s markets and a local co-op. Just recently, in September, we launched in our first retailer, New Seasons Market. We are starting in four stores with the goal of expanding into more soon.

What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?

“Be happy, but never content.” (Mike Repole- co-owner of Pirate’s Booty)

What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?

Seek out support. We discovered there are an amazing number of free or low-cost resources available out there that can help save you a lot of time and money (two things every entrepreneur needs!). The support won’t come to you though, so put yourself out there and ask for help. You will be pleasantly surprised by how many people are there to help you.

What is the #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur?

As a foodpreneur, a fun and easy read is “Cooking up a Business” by Rachel Hofstetter. It features stories from foodpreneurs and their journeys from humble beginnings to running wildly successful food businesses.

What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?

“No Sleep Till Brooklyn”- Beastie Boys.

We may be starting small and taking baby steps as we begin to build our company here locally, but our ambitions are high, and our plan is to see Little Handfuls in retailers from the west to east coast.

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