Spending $25K wisely

The Ballantyne chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce recently named Beverly McLaughlin, owner and operator of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods, as the Ballantyne-area winner of the Power Up Challenge.

(Above) Beverly McLaughlin, owner and operator of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods. McLaughlin is up for a $25,000 grant.

(Above) Beverly McLaughlin, owner and operator of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods. McLaughlin is up for a $25,000 grant.

The Power Up Challenge is a competition that identifies startups and small businesses in each chamber chapter and gives them cash and other prizes. McLaughlin already won $1,000 plus free services from various agencies, such as legal accounting, business coaching and strategic planning. She’s now in the running for the Power Up Challenge’s grand prize – $25,000 from Duke Energy.

“A lot of really great perks came out of winning Ballantyne,” McLaughlin said, adding the services she won really came in handy. The $25,000 wouldn’t be too bad, either.

Beverly’s Gourmet Foods is a vegetarian- and vegan-prepared food service business. McLaughlin said she has products in 14 locations, including The Meat House, Whole Foods Market and Mecklenburg County Market – the 87-year-old market she considers her home base.

When McLaughlin was 21, she became a vegetarian for health reasons and animal rights. Two years later, at the age of 23, she started her own business before taking a break for about 10 years. Eventually, she came back to what she loves and continued her passion, becoming the fourth generation in her family to sell food at the Mecklenburg County Market.

McLaughlin has more than 250 meatless options available, and all of her food can be made gluten-free. She makes a variety of things, including quiches, tomato pies, lasagnas, chilies, appetizers, various entrees and desserts.

McLaughlin currently has 11 employees and, even though she is growing, wants to stay in Whole Foods and health food markets.

Competitors who entered the Power Up Challenge were asked to present the story of their business to chapter members, identifying challenges they faced in growing their business. After the presentations, chapter members voted on the winners.

McLaughlin said her presentation consisted of talking about how she started her business and the benefits Charlotte would see if she won.

“I talked about how much me winning (the $25,000) could impact Charlotte’s local economy, how many people I could hire,” she said, adding she also talked about sustainability and how her business recycles and composts to cut down on waste.

McLaughlin said, if she wins, she is going to buy a blast chiller and develop a frozen food line of products. Vegan and vegetarian meals produce water, which turns into ice crystals when they are put in a regular freezer. A blast chiller would freeze the meals before ice crystals have a chance to form, making them more aesthetically appealing because they will look like they do when fresh.

McLaughlin said Whole Foods Market has already agreed to carry her frozen line. “It’s not hypothetical. It can happen, I just need the money to make it happen,” she said.

In addition to her prepared foods line, McLaughlin also caters and teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes. She said her classes, which teach people how to cook five dishes, hold 18 people and last an hour and a half. At the end of the class, participants get to eat what McLaughlin prepared in the class.

Find more information on Beverly’s Gourmet Foods and sign up for her weekly email at www.beverlys gourmetfoods.com, or call 704-533-0073.

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