2011 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Majors: Journalism and Mass Communication (both)
Ages: 38 (both) | Colorado Springs, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin
Co-owners of Bean Sprouts Café
Here's some food for thought: where else can adults go out to eat with their kids, yet feel like they're still at the trendiest place in town? For those living in and around the Madison area (and around the Los Angeles area in 2011) the answer is easy: Bean Sprouts — the unique restaurant concept developed by Kelly Parthen and Shannon Seip, two Badgers who really know how to use the old bean.
But being trendy isn't really what's drawing families into Bean Sprouts again and again. Being healthy is.
In a joint statement, the proud Badgers said, "It's rewarding to see families embrace the Bean Sprouts concept of yummy, good-for-you food."
With the opening of their first café in Madison's western suburb of Middleton in 2007, the business partners were trying to get people to think about childhood nutrition in a fun way that promoted family bonding.
They designed a chic space that appealed to adults and a menu that removed any guilt about going out to eat and feeding their kids the kinds of fried and/or fatty items found on most children's menus.
"UW Health nutritionists were generous in offering us their input for our initial menu, making sure that the dishes and baby foods offered were in line with our mission," said Seip.
The café also delights families by offering cooking classes that give toddlers and grade-school kids a chance to have fun with food and explore new ingredients they might not normally be exposed to. It's a great way, Seip says, of reminding kids that they don't have to like everything they eat, but they should at least give different foods a try unless they are allergic to them.
Beyond operating a growing café, Parthen and Seip have written a book, with help from their executive chef, titled Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food. Published in 2010, it is just one more way these entrepreunerial Badgers have been able to spread their message of healthy eating and family togetherness.
"With the launch of our book, Bean Appetit, we've used the support from former UW professors (thanks, James Hoyt!) to help land us features on Good Morning America and Martha Stewart Living Radio, and in the Los Angeles Times and Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine," said Seip.
Much like the ever-expanding empire of Rachael Ray, these tenacious Badgers aren't stopping with cafes and books. They're now pitching a syndicated kids' cooking television show that would ideally fit in with Saturday morning cartoon programs.
"With true red-and-white spirit, we used the knowledge gained at UW to strive to make a difference in the lives — and tummies — of young children," says Parthen.
In their own words
What was your favorite class?
Comm Law. It's where I met Shannon!
What is your proudest UW achievement?
What advice would you offer to graduating seniors?
Follow your passion, not the money.
What is the greatest benefit of a UW degree?
Alumni connections. We've used them many times for Bean Sprouts!
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
You're never "just" anything.
What's next for you and your company? What do you see happening or hope will happen in the next five years?
We are relocating our cafe to West Los Angeles, and hope to sell our television show within the next six months. We're also developing our second Bean Sprouts book (this would be my seventh book), and plan to open in one or two children's museums next year. We are also finishing raising $1 million in investment capital. In five to six years we hope to get acquired ... and then I'm taking a big nap.
What five items would you take to a desert island?
Outside of my family and Kelly, I would take peanut butter, a banjo (I've always wanted to learn and figure time on an island would provide the opportunity), my free weights, Yahtzee and my baby blanket.