Funky Fresh Spring Rolls founder Trueman McGee fills his unusual spring rolls with ingredients like Sweet Potato and Black Bean, Buffalo Chicken and Kale, Chicken Club, and many more. Then he grills them in extra-virgin olive oil for a nutritious alternative to deep-frying. “I realized people needed healthier food to eat, and I loved cooking,” Trueman said of the “aha moment” that led him to start Funky Fresh Spring Rolls.
Layoffs from construction work had left Trueman under-employed, over-weight, and craving change. With the help of a tractor tire for workouts and recipe makeovers for more healthful eating, he saw rapid fitness gains and weight loss. In 2012 he started Getting Tired Fitness, to help others achieve similar results. “I made a lot of different meals for my clients, but people said they wanted the spring rolls,” he said. “I added more flavors, and people began asking for bigger quantities.”
By 2015, Trueman turned what had been “not even a real business” into Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, using a local commercial kitchen. With help from family and friends, he sold 20,000 spring rolls that year, and 35,000 in 2016, retailing at farmers’ markets and festivals. He added frozen spring rolls with cooking instructions, and began catering and delivering as well.
Time to grow—but how?
As 2016 came to a close, Trueman knew his ultimate goal: Funky Fresh Spring Rolls widely available, bringing a healthier option to the freezer aisle in grocery stores across the USA. But how to get there? He evaluated starting his own food truck or restaurant, contacting the Food Finance Institute (a program of the UW Extension) for advice. That led him to Cheryl Mitchell, a counselor with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Milwaukee.
“On my way to meet Cheryl, I was having my worst day ever,” Trueman said. “I was about to give up, but something told me to go and see what the SBDC had to offer.” Cheryl counseled Trueman on the demands of the restaurant business. “Our conversations focused on what supports and what undermines his progress toward that grocery store goal,” she recalled. Trueman decided to focus solely on that goal. “She literally changed the scope of my business, because she had so much information and knowledge about the food business,” he said.
Through 1:1 counseling, Cheryl helped Trueman gain the discipline to delegate. He was relieved to take delivery, purchasing, and kitchen prep off his plate. “I’m definitely becoming more organized, working ON the business, not just in the business,” said Trueman. Cheryl also encouraged Trueman to enter a national small business competition offered by FedEx . Funky Fresh Spring Rolls placed in the Top 10, winning a Bronze Prize worth $7500 cash and $1000 in FedEx services. The prize allowed Trueman to invest in marketing materials, production equipment and supplies, and legal/accounting fees.
Accomplishments with the SBDC of UW-Milwaukee
- Food industry expertise
- Bronze Prize in Fedex competition
Next step: scaling up
Trueman’s next step is increasing his sales. Cheryl counseled him on the road to scale, including finding co-packers and raising investment capital. “Trueman knew his numbers, but he needed to think about how many spring rolls he sold per hour, how many hours he was at farmer’s markets, what his food costs were,” she said. Cheryl helped Trueman realize the next steps he needed to take, including key staffing changes to help him reach his sales goals. “Cheryl was phenomenal. She was the person I needed at that moment,” Trueman said.