Jake Killeen was all gratitude in 2013, when the defensive end for the Tri-Cities’ Fever arena football franchise signed a futures contract with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
The contract was a dream come true for Killeen, a football standout from Reno, Nev. Although he was cut during camp without ever playing, he called his four months with the Colts a fantastic experience.
Killeen hung up his cleats in 2014 and returned to the Tri-Cities, where he’d met and married his wife. He put down roots and is now launching Whats4Dinner, a meal delivery business specializing in healthy meals made easy.
Killeen said he developed an interest in business when he first returned to the Mid-Columbia and worked for Spotted Fox. He promoted the digital coupon service to area businesses, spending his days interacting with small business owners, learning about the challenges and joys of creating a business from scratch.
“There’s a lot of smart people out there,” he thought. “If they can do it, I can do it.”
He saved money and eventually left Spotted Fox.
Late last year, fueled by personal savings, he began working with a partner to develop a business catering to customers who want to eat healthy but aren’t sure how to do it or lack the time or interest in cooking for themselves.
His early partner stepped out but a supporter joined Whats4Dinner as a silent investor in exchange for a small equity stake.
Whats4Dinner operates out of the Pasco Specialty Kitchen. The Downtown Pasco Development Authority created the kitchen to nurture food businesses by making it affordable to lease space in a certified commercial kitchen.
“It was time for me to leave the nest and take a risk to start my own business,” he said.
In the five weeks or so since Whats4Dinner formally began production, business has nearly doubled, and Killeen is preparing to hire three high school students from the Pasco School District’s cooking program to help keep up with orders.
Killeen said Whats4 Dinner unites his twin interests in cooking and eating healthy, which he attributes to his athletic career.
“I’ve been cooking my entire life. I’ve always had a passion for cooking,” he said.
He prepares meals at the commercial kitchen on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Sundays, then stores them in the kitchen’s freezers. On Mondays and Thursdays, he delivers to customers homes and businesses. He plans to create a network of temperature-controlled drop-off spots around the Tri-Cities as the business builds.
Customers order online at whats4dinnertricities.com and select how many meals they want to order for a particular week, four, six or 10. The meals have a one-week shelf life and are ready to microwave. They cost about about $10 apiece, depending on which plan the customer picks.
To start, there are nine menu choices. As he picks up customers, he plans to create a rotating menu of eight options that would change on a three-week cycle.
He’s marketing the new service through social media, including Facebook. And of course, he’s on Spotted Fox.
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