A northern Iowa woman who runs a business selling home-cooked meals that are flash-frozen and shipped statewide is seeing exponential growth. Deb Davis, of Humboldt, is being named Iowa’s Small Business Person of the Year by the Iowa office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Davis opened Sister’s Homestyle Entrees four years ago after seeing that so many friends and family members were too busy to cook. “We make single meals and family entrees,” Davis says. “We do a menu of 20 different items and we change our menu every three months. We try to make sure they’re good, balanced meals. We cook them here, we package them here, we ship them out from our new facility and we do the whole state of Iowa.”
Davis had 25 years of experience in the food service industry and wanted to offer a service that would make family meals available to those who were short on time. She opened the business in early 2011 with several upright freezers in a rented space and one employee, her husband.
“The very first month when I did it, it was 200 meals and I was just thrilled, I was overjoyed,” Davis says. “Each month, it just kept going more and more and more and now, we do 42,000 meals a month.”
The business now employs 37 people and is shipping the meals out to all corners of Iowa. Davis’ business is expanding from two buildings totaling 4,800 square feet to a single 30,000 square foot facility which includes offices, a conference room and an employee gym, in addition to an expanded production area with individual departments for kitchen, packaging and shipping.
The 52-year-old Davis was asked what business practices helped chart her course for success. For starters, she sometimes works 15-hour days and adheres to a strong work ethic. “I always go by my gut feelings,” Davis says. “I stay true to God. I believe in my product and I make sure that my product is something that I would eat. We just have good standards here, we really do.”
The award for Iowa’s Small Business Person of the Year will be presented to Davis at the Iowa Smart Conference in Des Moines on May 7th. She will also represent Iowa at National Small Business Week in Washington D.C.