Nonprofit Business Models – Apples to Zucchini Cooking School

Apples to Zucchini Cooking School was co-founded by Nancy Martz and Terra Hillyer in the fall of 2015 and began offering classes in the spring  of 2016 with Chef Michele Malony. Students have been learning dicing, mincing, stirring, blending, chopping, tasting and community food sharing ever since.

What service do you provide?

We offer cooking classes in the Santa Barbara area. Most of our classes are part of after-school programs. A session lasts eight weeks, and is taught by a professional chef. We occasionally teach classes to adults, and conduct food demonstrations in partnership with other non-profits. We charge a market-rate fee for our classes. Fees range from $105 – $175, depending on the school demographic (as advised by the principal) and whether the school charges a fee for us to run the class. After-school classes last 90 minutes. Students learn how to cook a full meal, set the table, eat together, and clean up the kitchen. Often they are given produce from Farmer’s Market to take home.

What is your revenue model?

The class fees cover the costs to run the class: wages to the chef, groceries, laundry, insurance, fingerprinting, web signup, etc. The classes actually make money.

What are your challenges?

If we only had to pay our chefs, we would be doing great! But to get the chefs and volunteers recruited, the schools on board, the web signups in place, and all of the other things it takes to run a cooking school, we need staff. The profit from the classes is not enough to cover professional salaries. The more classes we run, the more money we make. But there will be tipping points – the more classes we run, the more staff we will need to oversee the administration of the programs. So our salaries have to be raised from philanthropic donors.

Another challenge we have had is finding great volunteers. One our staff members is generally at the classes at the beginning of each term to make sure everything runs smoothly. She does not need to attend the class of our long-time chef volunteer pair; they know where to be and what to do. But each time we have a new volunteer, it takes time (therefore money) to bring them up to speed.

What are your opportunities?

Oh, our opportunities are endless! The food and hospitality industry is massive and far-reaching. The food distribution and farming industries are also very large and influential. We currently have a great relationship with the Santa Barbara Farmers Market Association. They provide produce for our all of our classes. If the chef does not use that particular produce, it is sent home with the students to share with their families.

We have taken food field trips to Gelson’s Market, Something Good Organics farm, the Foodbank (where the kids LOVED volunteering), Rory’s ice cream, and C’est Cheese. We have just scratched the surface of food-related field trips – other markets, other restaurants, other farms, and so much more awaits!

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