Rainbow Chefs Academy – Founder Svetlana Elgart
Contact: [email protected]
Business Name and what it does:
- Rainbow Chefs Academy
- Rainbow Chefs Academy is a premier nutrition education portal for K-12 offering engaging sessions for developing nutritional eating habits.
Our program allows learners to personalize their profile for selecting healthy and nutritionist tested recipes with age-appropriate guidance.
Courses are formatted to fulfill accredited curriculum requirements to reinforce STEAM/STEM/CASEL/NGSS and core-competencies in everyday life.
We empower students through nutritional planning, the science and discovery of healthy food and interactive cooking exploration.
We are a purpose-driven business. Everything we do stems from our desire to empower and make a difference in as many children’s lives as possible by helping to offset obesity and diabetes through curriculum-based education with a hands-on component in every class.
Founder’s/Owner’s story and what motivated them to start the business
- Born in Ukraine, Svetlana Elgart immigrated to the United States when she was 10 years old. She was raised on healthy, non-processed meals exclusively, emphasizing fresh ingredients on a daily basis. These meals were prepared together as a family.
- Svetlana continued this tradition with her own children, making sure they were nourished with healthy food from the day they were born. Fresh baby food, homemade juices, and home-grown produce were defining household staples.
- “I’ve never bought a jar of baby food to this day… I’m even doing this now for my grandkids”, says Svetlana
- As her children were growing up and having their friends come over, she noticed something very interesting that sparked her curiosity about the lives of these children. Often, a half a dozen or more children would show up to her home for dinner.
- “Night after night, these children would come over and through this experience, I learned so much about the family dynamic in this country and… from my point of view, there was really something fundamental missing in their lives. Healthy home-cooked meals with the family all together at the table should be the norm… and sadly, this isn’t always the case for some children.”
- “My parents don’t cook”, “We like your chicken soup”, “My mom and dad are working late”, “We don’t have any food at home”, “My parents eat out all the time”, were common things she heard from these children.
- She also noticed many of these children were overweight, some even already had Type 2 diabetes … this sent Svetlana on an eye-opening investigative journey and led her to a life-changing decision. She knew she could contribute and actually do something about this dire situation.
- She began volunteering at the schools, creating various clubs/programs, and realized that healthy cooking and eating was a subject matter that, if she was not teaching her kids, they would never even know about it.
- “My children never ate school lunches… they refused to eat them. So not only would I prepare breakfast, I would also prepare lunch for them to take to school.”
- Cooking everything from scratch day in and day out for her children, her culinary skill and speed were finely honed. Over time, she developed countless recipes and saw an opportunity to fill the huge void in Health & Wellness education. Children lacked basic nutrition knowledge and were being deprived of the essential understanding of how to feed themselves properly.
- “After my oldest girl graduated and went off to college, I decided I wanted to change the world and was going to help offset obesity and diabetes. Maybe it was a middle-age crisis, but I really wanted to know… WHAT AM I HERE FOR? WHAT IS MY MISSION IN LIFE? If I could do anything… WHAT WOULD I DO?”
- “I said to myself ‘I am going to start a business and school of some sort to help educate all children, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, on how to lead a healthy lifestyle… I put together a program, developed a curriculum, worked on the recipes, got a business license, began hiring people, and started doing enrichment classes out of my home kitchen in San Mateo.”
- This was the origin of Rainbow Chefs Academy.
- “Every single day, I would have a full class two times a day, five times a week… I would have ten classes a week.”
- As the word got around, locals schools began contacting Svetlana about bringing Rainbow Chefs Academy into their curriculum as an enrichment course.
- “I said to myself ‘okay, Lana… you went to North Texas State University, you know how to run a business, you can do this… you need to train people, hire teachers, whatever it takes and get this program into these schools… this grew over the following six months, and in the six months after that, I had parents approach me about doing healthy cooking birthday parties. I also created camps.”
- “I guess it’s my entrepreneurial spirit and my giving nature, but I could never say no… whenever there was an opportunity, or people that wanted to buy my product, I said yes. Those first twelve months were extremely busy. And along the way, I really learned what people liked, and always did what I could to accommodate any and all requests that came along.”
- “The following year BACR (Bay Area Community Resources) approached me and said ‘hey, we want to give you fifteen schools.’ Things moved quickly.”
- “The kids loved it because they got to eat and cook and eat at every class.”
- “I figured out early on that I couldn’t use kitchens in the schools, so I created a whole set of No-Kitchen Recipes, along with cooking kits. The kits were inspired by the incredible demand I saw from parents who would often offer me money on the spot for my colorful bowl sets, utensils, cutting boards, knives, etc… Things just took shape over time. Eventually, and steadily, the company has started to scale all over California.”
The challenges the business/market is facing
- Scalability, hiring, and training are issues, as this business is very people-heavy… and of course equipment costs… these are some of the challenges we face.
- A big obstacle financially is that schools are always 60 days late with payments. With 40 or 50 schools, this becomes quite a ride. Staying alive and maintaining cash flow during these kinds of cycles is very difficult. Food, teachers, workers comp, general liability, etc… these are all factors that present a challenge.
- An additional challenge is entering into a competitive space and fighting for unique positioning, and consistently delivering something of high value that stands apart. Thankfully, our extremely high customer retention rate tells us we’re doing something right.
The opportunities the business/market is facing
- The problem of childhood obesity and diabetes we are trying to solve is MASSIVE and GLOBAL, so there is absolutely a huge opportunity for our business. Israel, Dubai, France, Italy, Germany, etc. have all contacted us about our business model. They want to know if they can buy our franchise… of course at this time we are not franchised. But it’s amazing to see the interest people have from all over the world.
- The market is gigantic… there are so many possibilities to reach children and parents with an array of practical products (backpacks, chef coats, utensils, etc), entertaining content (our YouTube Channel is growing rapidly), and educational material (books, online courses, etc). Not to mention parties and private events as well.
- Health and wellness continues to be an ever-growing space, and with these past few years going through the pandemic, obviously the issue of health has become a huge focal point in our society. Our children need our help… parents need our help. The education system desperately needs our help. And there is a vast educational gap that needs to be filled.
- We see huge potential moving forward for Rainbow Chefs Academy in both B2B and B2C markets.
Advice to others about business
- “You have to go ALL IN with your business and wear a variety of hats… being a CEO is only a title… in the beginning you have to be EVERYTHING… you’re the janitor, the garbage collector, the money collector, the CFO… it takes SO MUCH effort to build infrastructure and go through the inevitable hardships along the way and continue to go to the next level. You have to be able to wake up after a previous day of failures, rejections and whatever else you’re faced with and say ‘I’m going to DO THIS ANYWAY’. You cannot quit. You have to be a self-learner. Running a business is absolutely NOT GLAMOUROUS and a persistent mindset is everything.”
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