As her interview with Columbus Underground shows, we can expect to see more of Little Eater and Cara Mangini across Columbus. Her vegetable-based, prepared foods offer a healthy alternative to the typical grab-and-go fair. Columbus’ many local farmers offer a seasonal pipeline of produce to help keep her offerings fresh and interesting.
We recently asked Mangini what it’s like launching a business in Columbus and what she sees for the Future of Little Eater.
Q: What got you interested in becoming an entrepreneur and launching your own business?
A: I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I think I have always been on a path to owning my own business. I also experienced a good amount of success in the corporate world and always felt like I’d like to create these outcomes for my own company. Ultimately, my mission to create convenient, vegetable-based foods drove me to actually launching my business.
Q: What sort of unique opportunities have you found in launching in Columbus?
A: I realize I am a new kid here, but it does seem that this is a really exciting time to be in Columbus. The food market isn’t yet overly saturated, and there is a supportive community that is open and willing to try new things. For my business specifically, I have been able to partner with local farmers and food producers, and offer them a platform and place to sell their products. You can’t find those perfect matches ready to be made in other cities. It’s a great moment in Columbus to make them.
Q: Do you think there are challenges or drawbacks to operating a food-based business in Columbus?
A: The benefits far outweigh the costs, and for me the challenge is one I am excited to take on. There are a ton of incredible local farms in the area, but there isn’t a sustainable distribution system in place to get all of their produce out to restaurants and food producers in a more convenient way. I am doing a lot of running around town to pick up cucumbers from this farmer and kale from another one. Some day I hope to make one call , like you would now with a big conventional produce distributor, and have all my local and organic produce from a range of farms in the area delivered right to my kitchen. We have to create a system though that works well for the farmer, so that he or she can rely on orders that utilize their production and can get a fair price for their food.
Q: Are there resources, mentors or programs you’ve utilized in getting up and running?
A: The Hills Markets have been extremely supportive in not only hosting my pop-up restaurant last year and again this year, but also for believing in my product enough to give it prominent space in their stores. They are making a real investment in food artisans in this community.
Q: Any other exciting new business development that you have in the works for the near future?
A: We just launched with Green Bean Delivery, so anyone in the Columbus area can get Little Eater Salads delivered straight to their door. I am writing a cookbook about vegetables that will be published by Workman Publishing. I am also looking for a more permanent retail space for Little Eatery.
For more information, visit www.littleeater.com.
Photos by Erin Bloodgood.