Is starting a business during a pandemic the craziest idea ever? Some people don't think so. Business innovation is soaring across the country despite a recovering economy. Here is one story of COVID innovation in Acadiana: 

Kelsey Sanders put this down on her Vision 2020 board back in December: Start a meal prep service.

If only it was that easy.

But you have to start somewhere, right? That was when she was commuting to her job with Sprint in Lake Charles as a phone technician. So her first step was to establish the business, Eat Fuel Fleurish, and she started with only four regular clients each week.

But then COVID-19 hit.

Her hours got reduced. When she was working, it wasn’t even a full shift. So she started cooking lunches on Fridays, her day off. That’s when things started happening once restaurants had to close their dining areas. In March she made 100 meals, but that blossomed into 100 meals in one weekend in April.

But the job hits kept coming. T-Mobile bought Sprint during the summer, and she was offered a sales rep position, which, she admitted, "I had absolutely no desire in doing.”

Sanders left that job Aug. 8. She’s been working her meal prep business full time since.

“I think COVID hitting was a blessing for me,” Sanders said. “The reason I didn’t start my business sooner was I always had things planned. Traveling is what I like to do, but that was also taking time away from me to devote to my business. Having things shut down forced me to work on my business plans.”

Sanders, also working toward a MBA at UL, does the cooking in her Carencro home. She sells health-conscious meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner, including air fryer chicken and waffles, shrimp tacos, turkey meatloaf and burrito bowls.

The menu items, you should know, are personal. Her father was diabetic with poor eating habits who died during her senior year in high school. She wants her menu to prevent someone from a similar fate.

“For me, honestly, I watched him kill himself,” she said. “He didn’t have the proper guidance. I just wish somebody was there to help him. I just want to be that person that helps somebody know they can change their life and not go down that path.”

What's next? A commercial kitchen, for starters. She may need to hire an employee or two soon.

Oh, she graduates Dec. 9.

“Taking on this project was already a challenge,” Sanders said. “I’ve learned so much stuff. I’m constantly learning how to be more efficient in my business. My goal is to have a distribution center. That’s where I want to take this business.”

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