Ricky Kaua said they strive to create the healthiest food preparation in Calgary.
He, along with fellow co-founder Jasen Stein, offer Calgarians sustainable, ready-to-eat meals through their company Menu Mandala.
“We’re in the business of automating your health and well-being through specialty nutrition and delicious meals,” Cava said.
Kawa said they want to give their customers access to plant-based protein meals sourced mainly from local producers. Their meals are also wholesome and gluten-free.
Stein said they try to push the envelope with food preparation.
“We’re going to try to sneak in healthy ways to do everything in the food,” he said.
“There’s always something fermented in every dish because it’s healthy for the gut. We do not use white rice because it is processed and does not contain healthy carbohydrates. We make all our own sauces or try to source as much local produce as possible. We’re trying out as many Canadian companies and products as possible.”
Kawa’s years of kitchen experience in Calgary restaurants, plus his training in the nutrition program at SAIT, along with personal training helped them design the right kind of dishes.
Stein had experience as a chef when he was a teenager, but followed the path of many Calgarians and spent 10 years as a professional engineer. He then considered pursuing his MBA, but Covid-19 sidelined that as he didn’t want to do it virtually.
He and Kawa then started Menu Mandala.
“It was a crash course in MBA, I would say,” Stein said.
Food preparation service at its core
When you go to the Menu Mandala website, you place your food order. You can get one of two sizes: handy (one person) or shared (roughly equivalent to four handy servings.)
The dish is then prepared with local ingredients in a facility that does not handle gluten or animals. Made in a kitchen right here in Calgary.
Once ready, the meal is delivered (within Calgary) ready to eat. It’s essentially a meal prep service like others that have popped up in recent years.
“One thing that’s changed is the cost of food, the time to be able to go out, get that food, cook it at home and then take care of your life and all the things that happen outside of your life,” Cava said.
“Time is the greatest commodity and currency we have as humans, and the longer we go on in life and all these busy aspects keep coming, the less time we have.”
While you might think that all food preparation companies are cut from the same cloth, Kawa and Stein said they are committed to sustainable food preparation. This also means limiting waste.
Kawa said other suppliers, like Hello Fresh, get you extra packaging and cut all your own vegetables — creating more food waste.
“We went that extra mile to save all our leftover vegetables, turn them into a stock that we ventured into a soup,” Cava said.
They also have an opinion about the community. Last month, following the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, proceeds from selected meals went to humanitarian efforts.
Invaluable connections through the Velocity program
The first thing that comes to mind when asked about the impact of the Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program through Platform Calgary is connections.
“I would say the number one thing was the network and the connections — the people we met, and that was invaluable,” Cava said.
Stein said the program also forced them to think about areas of the business that are easy to overlook. Things like governance and corporate structure.
“It’s something we did very early on and haven’t touched since then because there’s so much else to do,” he said.
At the beginning of 2022, they were seeing growth of 30 percent every month. Then they reached a point where they had to take a step back and reassess future growth. There is only so much order in business.
Kawa called it his first entrepreneurial roller coaster.
“We have a new trajectory and a new projection of where we’re going to be, and we have a much better idea of how to forecast and plan accordingly and navigate,” he said.
“It forced us to get really creative and realize that we had different paths to take. So it was a blessing and a curse.
They are looking to prepare meals for local grocery chains. There is also the option of private catering for larger events.
“It was really unique to see where we could go,” Cava said.
“There are four different doors. The question is which door we want to choose to go through.”