It was in his position as funeral director where Storke came up with an idea for a comfort food startup. Being in the funeral business he was well aware that friends and loved ones like to console those with a loss in the family with food and meals. Outside of flowers and donations, preparing food for those who’ve suffered a loss, is something that’s easy to do and typically needed during trying times.
So in 2007 Storke created Sympathy Food. Sympathy Food takes the hassle out of preparing a meal for someone going through a hardship and grief. The company creates delicious, chef prepared meals to feed 4-6 or 8-12. The meals are prepared in a USDA approved kitchen and then shipped anywhere in the continental United States.
After introducing the Sympathy Food concept the company grew in popularity and Storke came up with other occasions where prepared meals would be appropriate. In April of 2012 he added Get Well Meals for illness and The Meal Stork to congratulate parents of a newborn. While both themes are perfect gift giving occasions they are also times when people could use a hand with cooking and preparing meals.
Now for the cost of a flower arrangement anyone can send the gift of food. Meal gifts arrive within 1-3 days of ordering. The meals are flash frozen and put into styrofoam coolers with dry ice to preserve freshness. The only day they don’t deliver is Sunday. TLC Kitchen uses FedEx for delivery,
With Storkes background as a funeral director, Mayor and now startup founder, we couldn’t wait for the chance to interview him. Check out our interview below.
What is The TLC Kitchen?
The TLC Kitchen is an online company that prepares and delivers high-quality meal gifts oriented around birth, illness, and bereavement. All of our meals are chef-prepared in our USDA-approved kitchen and we ship everywhere in the continental United States.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Visit our homepage at www.theTLCkitchen.com and select your gift occasion. If you are sending the gift of food to someone who just had a baby, select The Meal Stork. If the meal gift is for someone who is ill or injured, select Get Well Meal and if the meal is for someone who is grieving or experiencing a hardship, select Sympathy Food. You will then be directed to the products page where you can choose your meal gift. We have 4 different package categories. The first 3 categories serve 4-6 and the last package category serves 8-12. In the checkout, you have the opportunity to write your thoughtful words which we will include on a card to be sent with your thoughtful gift. You then have the option of selecting an exact delivery date or you can select the option for our customer service team to call your recipient, notify them of their gift, read the card and set up a convenient delivery date to ensure they are not traveling when the meal arrives. Our meals are chef-prepared, flash frozen and shipped on dry ice to your recipient with instructions on how to warm the meal. If the meal arrives and the recipient is not ready to enjoy the meal that night, they can place it in the refrigerator or freezer to enjoy at a later date.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
I am the founder of The TLC Kitchen. I have been in the funeral business for over 25 years and own the local funeral home in Bowling Green, VA. I am also the Mayor of Bowling Green. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind and saw an opportunity within my own industry which is how Sympathy Food, the first subsidiary of The TLC Kitchen, was created.
Where are you Located?
The TLC Kitchen is located in Bowling Green, VA but we ship our meal gifts all over the continental United States.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
There really isn’t much of a start up scene. Bowling Green is a small town in Virginia. I am the local Funeral Director and also the Mayor of Bowling Green, VA.
How did you come up with the idea for The TLC Kitchen?
I have been a funeral director for over 25 years and always felt frustrated with the lack of sympathy gift options. Flowers are typically sent as a sympathy gift because of the few available options so I created SympathyFood.com as “a comforting alternative to flowers”. In April 2012, I expanded the gift occasions to include Get Well Meal for illness and The Meal Stork to congratulate the parents of a newborn. I also created The TLC Kitchen as a parent company for all of our gift occasions.
How did you come up with the name?
At The TLC Kitchen, we provide meal gifts to show someone you care. The name needed to convey that we provided food that is sent because someone cares, so I thought of every combination of words around care and food to come up with the name The TLC Kitchen.
What problem does The TLC Kitchen solve?
The TLC Kitchen is a new take on the tradition of bringing food to your neighbor during a life occasion. Our lives are much more hectic these days and people move more frequently so you are still able to show someone you care by providing them with a meal gift that will make their day a little easier.
What’s your goto market strategy?
Our go-to marketing strategy is partnering with affiliates that are relevant to our gift occasions. We have a subsidiary for each of our gift occasions so we can market the individual subsidiary within it’s own niche industry. We also have scenarios where an affiliate has site visitors that would benefit from all 3 of our gift occasions and we can have a link to our parent company, The TLC Kitchen.
What’s your secret sauce?
The personalization of our meal gifts is our secret sauce. When someone places an order, if they do not choose a date of delivery in the checkout, we will call the recipient, inform them of their gift, read the card and schedule a convenient delivery date. This way, the gift is immediate and the recipient will know of their gift even though the package takes a couple of days to arrive.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We are a bootstrapped company.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
As a bootstrapped company, the challenge is finding creative ways to market our business with a limited budget. We use social media, email marketing, affiliate marketing and we take advantage of editorial opportunities.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Jeff Taylor from Monster.com, Eons.com and Tributes.com is a business role model. I went to see Jeff speak in Charleston, South Carolina and had the opportunity to meet him at the event. I have the utmost respect for Jeff and the way he has reinvented the conventional way of finding a job or an obituary through a newspaper.
What’s next for The TLC Kitchen?
We are looking to add more specialized foods to the menu. We will soon have gluten free, dietary, and low sodium options to add to our current menu. As we grow, we are also looking to add more distribution centers around the continental United States for faster deliveries in each area.