Our Founder's Story: From Home Kitchen to Commercial Kitchen to National Expansion
Hi Square Baby Fam!
I want to take a moment to reflect on the incredible, wild ride it’s been so far – building Square Baby from a “crazy idea” to our recent national expansion. Most people have never heard these stories or seen these pictures, so I want to share them now in their unvarnished glory. The ups, downs, turns, hurdles, sucker punches, let-downs, and total triumphs. I want to show how far we’ve come and how darn thankful we are for all your support and encouragement over the years.
So here we go.
I’m Katie Thomson, a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Nutrition. Mama of 2 awesome boys (14 & 10 years old). Cofounder & CEO of Square Baby.
Launching Square Baby has been my dream since 2009. Back then I was introducing solids to my first born, Jackson. I was working full time as the first Nutritionist for Starbucks – a job I never thought I’d leave – and knew I needed to rely on the convenience of store-bought baby food. While I enjoyed occasionally making my own baby food, I had such limited time and wanted to spend it snuggling and playing with my baby – not a blender.
When I cruised the baby food aisle, I was fed up by what I found — many baby foods were unbalanced, lacking premium proteins and healthy fats, and misleadingly marketed. I saw a sea of uninspiring, shelf-stable, muted flavors. And rows and rows of unrecyclable pouches that don’t encourage the important motor development skill of spoon feeding.
I didn't want the next generation of babies growing up on So. Much. Applesauce.
By the way, did you know many baby food pouches have more grams of sugar than a bowl of LUCKY CHARMS? Mind. Blown.
Babies deserve better.
So I decided to leave Starbucks, determined to create the next gold standard in infant nutrition. A solution for parents that removed the guesswork and worry of feeding their baby complete, balanced nutrition. A brand parents could trust. One based in science, health, and sustainability. And a delicious, high-quality, “like homemade” meal that would offer the best nutrition and save them hours in the kitchen.
I spent years researching infant nutrition, nerding out on the science, and developing a customizable meal plan that offers 100% Daily Nutrition for babies at each age and stage of development. Meaning no more guesswork and babies can finally get the right amount of the right foods, at exactly the right time for their growth and development. I developed over 100 recipes and taste tested with local parents/babies. Including my own!
Pictured: Nolan eating what would become "Greenie Baby" - a Square Meal based on my favorite homemade green smoothie.
After thousands of phone calls - consulting with the AAP, WIC, FDA, and USDA, talking to countless dietitians, allergists, and pediatricians, having exploratory phone calls with numerous packaging designers, manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and farmer -- I started to validate my idea and business plan.
I talked to the National Peanut Board about early allergen introduction research and efficacious dosing and collaborated with like-minded founders on similar missions. And researched food safety guidelines, commercial kitchen operations, and became an FDA-approved food manufacturer. I asked questions, made valuable connections, and found incredible advisors and supporters.
In 2014, I moved to the Bay Area with my family. And that’s when everything changed. Because I met Kendall Glynn.
She was one of my first friends in the Bay Area. We both had kindergartners and had a passion for health, wellness, families, and fun. Together, we volunteered in our community to raise money for local children’s hospitals and organizations, started a nutrition education program at our elementary school, and revamped the School Lunch Program.
I quickly learned that Kendall was the perfect partner for me -- a leader in Health & Wellness and a solutions-based operator and executer. She’s insanely smart -- a Certified Genetic Counselor with a Masters in Biophysics & Molecular Genetics -- and an effective leader and self-starter. In fact, Kendall cofounded the first Private Perinatal Practice in the Bay Area, served as President of the Children's Health Guild, and is now President of the Board of George Mark Children's House. She motivates others naturally just by being her rockstar self and leading by example. Anyone around her will tell you that positive energy is infectious! She’s an incredible mother, community member, and friend. I could go on and on...
So in 2017, I asked if she would join me in launching Square Baby. To my surprise, she accepted!
Pictured: Katie & Kendall pre-Square Baby
We got to work reviewing and refining all of the research and business plans and developed our go-to-market strategy. We changed our business name to Square Foods (anticipating future growth and line extensions) and revamped the brand.
Through all of this our partnership grew stronger. Kendall was the Thelma to my Louise. We pushed each other outside our comfort zones, challenged each other to think differently, and encouraged each other when a curve ball was thrown our way. Our partnership is a blessing and it’s the reason Square Baby is not just a hope and a dream. And I’m so insanely grateful for her -- all that she is to me and to our company.
In July 2018, we raised a Friends & Family round of funding, and our little Square Baby was born.
Very quickly, we became an FDA-approved baby food manufacturer - no small feat. We designed recipes in our kitchen “benchtop lab”. Selected ingredient suppliers for over 50 ingredients. And found a great organic commercial kitchen we could lease.
We built a custom website and designed labels, marketing materials, swag, social content, digital ads, absolutely everything – including almost daily photoshoots in our home. Nights and weekends became our most creative time.
We designed and built a storefront in our community to have as many 1:1 conversations with parents as possible. And serve as our office space for 3 years.
We pitched on every stage that would have us. Proudly earning a spot as Expo West Pitch Slam Finalists as a 6 month old company.
Now, let me introduce you to our field marketing team. Spoiler alert: it was Kendall and I.
We attended every sampling event we could. Often several per week. We had booths at Farmers Markets, Local Festivals, Family Fun Runs, Parent & Baby Events, and any place we could sample our meals and share our story.
We garnered attention from press, retailers, and investors. We were recruited for the Target Takeoff Accelerator Program – learning everything about retail and making valuable connections at Target.
But still, we remained focused on building a capital-efficient business. We were determined to grow the right way. We obsessed over product quality and the customer experience.
We wanted to learn everything we could on a small scale first, so when we ramped up for world domination - we knew we could crush it.
Over the next 3 years, we’d get our fannies to the Commercial Kitchen before our kids were even awake. Oftentimes, Kendall would get up even earlier to make her kids banana bread BEFORE she left…see, rockstar status!
We made the first 100,000 meals made by hand. Yep, each day we’d haul in hundreds of pounds of fresh organic produce, dry whole grains, proteins, and herbs & spices. Washing, peeling, chopping, roasting, steaming, pureeing, portioning, filling, lidding, and labeling…ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND MEALS. Our backs didn’t thank us. But our customers sure did.
We stayed focused on ways we could lead and spearhead change across the industry.
We became founding members of Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Shaping Early Palates” Initiative, commissioned a white paper, and co-created the “Veggies Early & Often Campaign”.
We were guests on numerous podcasts – educating parents about Nutrition in the First 1000 Days, Introducing Solids, and Preventing Food Allergies through early allergen introduction.
We worked alongside the Clean Label Project as worked towards scaling recipes and selecting farmers and suppliers. We won the “Purity Award” – the highest standard in 3rd party lab testing for heavy metals, additives, and other contaminants.
We joined the ABC Coalition to collaborate with competitors, health experts, government agencies, and laboratory experts to help spearhead change – working towards reducing heavy metals across the industry.
We quickly outgrew our commercial kitchen and knew it was time to raise another round of funding to support our growth into a co-manufacturer. And boy, do we have some stories we could share…but we’ll save those for another day.
And finally, in February 2023, we saw our dream become a reality. We partnered with the best baby food producer in the country. Their commitment to quality, safety, and nutrition is unmatched. And the meals are even more delicious than when Kendall and I made them in the commercial kitchen. Win, win, delicious win!
That brings us to today. We’ve relaunched nationally and have been so excited to see families come back to feed their second and third babies!
Over the last 18 months, so many parents have reached out asking “When are you back? I want to feed Square Baby - and only Square Baby - to my little one.” It’s been so hard to wait for the commercialization process to be completed. But, we’re so excited to finally be back! And better than ever.
Up next – our new custom packaging! Even more eco-friendly and user-friendly. Here’s a sneak peak….
We cannot thank you enough for the support over the years. And we’re excited to continue to make you proud.
Over the next few years, we’re determined to establish Square Baby as the leader in infant nutrition -- the next gold standard in baby food and the go-to-resource that parents trust.
We’re doing this for you and for the next generation of babies. We’re doing this to disrupt the industry and create next-level nutrition for infants and beyond.
To make it easy to give your baby 100% - both on and off the plate. To help prevent food allergies with early allergen introduction. And to create healthy, adventurous, veggie-loving eaters for life.
~Katie and Kendall, Cofounders and Chief Mamas