Kingston’s Meals by Mom helps parents plan ahead
Shelley Scott started Meals by Mom nearly a decade ago in Kingston with a simple vision: provide home-cooked meals, just like mom, for people that didn’t have a “mom” around. “So if a kid is off at school and mom is in Vancouver and they're starving students, people would order online and it would be delivered x number of days later,” says Scott.
It felt niche at the time, says the entrepreneur. Being in Kingston with close proximity to post-secondary schools was a plus, but ordering meals online hadn’t quite taken hold in the. “I was forward thinking using it like the Amazon model seven or eight years ago… put it in your cart and order it,” she says.
But things accelerated when COVID-19 hit. “Everybody wanted restaurant meals but they didn't want to go to restaurants,” says Scott. Traffic flooded to the site and customers evolved from parents to other people like those caring for someone recently home from the hospital or people with mobility issues. They were all looking for the same thing: ready-made meals that fit any dietary restriction they have. To Scott, that’s one of her differentiators. “I’m very dedicated to catering to what they want… they don't want green beans? We don't send green beans,” she says.
In March 2021, Scott opened a Meals by Mom cafe. “I needed my own physical space that was truly mine with a door for my customers,” says Scott. She’s been using shard spaces and ghost kitchens for the entirety of the business’s life and the expansion felt like a good way to test out dishes and also open a dialogue with potential customers who just came in the door for a meal. She’s also expanded to catering. But all this expansion means revisiting her current digital and e-commerce strategy.
Recently, Scott connected with the team at Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. She applied for the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant and training with the goal of using the funding to create a similar e-commerce structure for the cafe. “I want people to order a sandwich online and be able to use a pull-down tab to say they want multi-grain bread and buttermilk or mustard or whatever,” says Scott. “Then the next phase will be to do the exact same thing with the catering part of the business where they can order ahead.”
It makes sense. “The majority of the Meals by Mom orders come in at crazy hours and it tends to be people that are on the other side of the country and they're sitting down at their nine o'clock which is my midnight and they're getting meals organized for their kid here in town,” says Scott. “There's always that phone presence… I'm a mom, I answer the phone and I talk to my customers, but a lot of people are now digital so we’ve got it set up so that it works on your phone, it works on a laptop and they can call and text.”
In a lot of ways, people are catching up to Scott’s original vision. Naturally, Scott is already in the future. “As I look towards franchising and that kind of thing, we want systems in place so that when the order comes in, it's tied to our inventory and recipes,” says Scott. She hopes to use that data to generate shopping lists. “I want to automate it,” she adds. “That's certainly not part of the grant that we got now, because that's going to take more time but right now they have the ability to text me their order and I would say two, three years ago people still picked up the phone.”
Check out Meals by Mom here.
To learn more about how Digital Main Street can help your business, please visit here.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.