October 1, 2018
Next 2018

Next 2018: Maddie Purcell creates social experiences through cooking at Fyood Kitchen

PHOTo / Tim Greenway
PHOTo / Tim Greenway
Maddie Purcell, founder of Fyood Kitchen in Portland, recently won the national SCORE "Outstanding Young Entrepreneur Small Business" for her two-year-old cooking competition and social connection business.

Maddie Purcell

Founder, Fyood Kitchen, Portland

Fyood Kitchen

72 Parris St., Portland

Founded: 2016

What the organization does: Cooking competition business for people searching for a social experience

Contact: 207-837-5480

Maddie Purcell started Fyood Kitchen in Portland in 2016. A cooking competition and social connection business, participants use mystery and pantry ingredients to cook dishes, eat and decide on winners. Purcell, a Maine native and Colby College graduate, recently won a national SCORE award, "Outstanding Young Entrepreneur Small Business." Her business was popular from its start in 2016 and is expected to triple in size in 2019.

Mainebiz: How did you get started?

Maddie Purcell: I'm a fan of [Food Network's] 'Chopped' and watched it with my roommate. We'd say, 'What would you make with those ingredients?' Eventually, we bought each other mystery ingredients and played in our kitchen. We told friends and they started playing. The driving force of my life is bringing people together, creating moments and atmosphere that make people happy. I've organized events before, like a road race fundraiser for environmental education. So I understood logistics and event management. I got excited about Fyood because it's my favorite way to socialize, where there's an activity at the center and a little bit of competition.

MB: How did you transition from fun to start-up?

MP: I started hosting competitions in my apartment, just friends, as a test. I didn't have any business experience and wasn't sure what the path would look like. Fork Food Lab opened around the same time, so I moved there. It's been a perfect facility with a perfect vibe.

MB: What did you do for financing?

MP: We started with a Kickstarter campaign in February 2017 and raised $16,500. We knew what the format would be; we just needed equipment to run high-quality events.

MB: What's the scope of your business now?

MP: We mostly host events at Fork, and we've done popup events and experimented with taking it on the road. Earlier this year, we were doing two events per month. Now we're doing five per month. The average group size is nine to 16 people. We've done events for 150, but not everyone plays. The biggest group of competitors so far has been 25 to 30. We pivoted this summer to more private parties — focusing on birthdays, wedding parties, bachelorette parties, team-building events — because there's a lot of demand for that. We recently hosted teams from IDEXX and UNUM for team-building events.

MB: What are your plans for the future?

MP: We're looking to do three Fyoods per week by next summer, so we're essentially tripling over the next three quarters. We're a team of three now, and we're hiring in the near future. And we're looking at back-end efficiencies and supply.

MB: To what do you attribute your success?

MP: Portland is a food city. There are a lot of adventurous people here, willing to trying new things. And there's a trend now toward experience — finding new ways to spend quality time with folks.

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