The BBVA Compass Success Series highlights home-grown, innovative businesses in the North Texas region who are also BBVA Compass clients.
Innovation presents itself in many forms, from creating a product to improving an idea to evolving a concept. For Minute Menu, a Dallas-based business-to-business company that provides software for daycare centers, innovation is at its purest form.
“Our company has almost single-handedly introduced technology to our market. Early on we identified a niche market that was virtually untouched by technology and really ripe for automation. It is a very price-sensitive market, however, so truly the innovation came with developing affordable products for our market that were still able to deliver on quality and reliability,” says Natalie Clark, Minute Menu’s COO.
The company was founded in 1993 to streamline claims from daycare providers that subscribed to the USDA Child and Adult Care Food program, which ensures that children, seniors, and disabled people in designated facilities receive nutritious meals. Minute Menu automated attendance forms and menu checks, saving nonprofits untold hours in processing time and increasing information accuracy.
Today, Minute Menu is used by more than 100,000 organizations in 45 states, and continues to roll out tools for financial management and attendance to help childcare businesses. Besides preschools and daycare centers, clients include Head Start programs, outside-school-hours care programs, at-risk facilities, emergency shelters, and adult care centers.
“Our company is a relatively unique hybrid. We’re a for-profit business with a mission to support nonprofit child nutrition advocates and quality child care,” Clark says. “There is no blueprint for that model. We might actually be a bit crazy, but we’re committed.”
She said that nonprofits are generally underserved, and that everyone is better off when care providers can focus on kids, rather than paperwork. “Because we believe in the mission, we’re driven to innovate for our customers,” she says. The company’s software is also available on mobile devices such as iPads and other tablets, Kindles and phones so that clients can work from anywhere, under nearly any circumstance.
A new branch of the business, KidKare.com, which opens this year, expands offerings even more. Daycare center owners will have a suite of tools to help manage their businesses. Parents will be able to find child care openings, get updates on their children during the day, and research various child-care options. The site can help arrange automatic payments, hold children’s records in a photo based system, and make applying to and enrolling in a program easier.
“Grit and ingenuity are as Texan as pecan trees and oil wells,” Clark says. She says other notable advantages of the Dallas location for Minute Menu include the friendly business climate, the availability of IT infrastructure and IT workers, the ease of travel, plus “advantages of coastal IT cities without the high cost of living.”
Then there are the people. “Texans have a reputation for being straight-shooters, which never hurts when you are asking someone to let you help them with their business needs,” she says.