The first time Deephaven resident Jillian McGary realized she had a successful business idea, she was at the park with her two young children.
As dinnertime approached, everybody started leaving to go home and prepare a meal. “I was talking to a mom there about dinner and she said, ‘I don’t know, we might just do a frozen pizza,’ ” McGary says. “She was sort of apologizing for cooking a frozen pizza and having to leave the park. We stayed at the park for another hour, because I knew I had a frozen enchilada I could pop in the oven and have ready in under an hour.”
That was 2014. Earlier that year, when her sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, McGary began prepping and delivering easy-to-cook meals to the family. One beautiful day, as she was tripling a lasagna recipe (one for her sister-in-law, one for dinner and one for the freezer), McGary realized she was spending hours in the kitchen, chopping veggies, while her family enjoyed the weather. “It occurred to me that you couldn’t really buy anything that lets you skip that long, hard process and still make a dinner that you feel good about cooking and serving,” she says.
After that eureka moment, McGary started experimenting, freezing fillings for lasagna and other dishes and giving them to friends and neighbors for feedback. Then she started researching how she could get her product made on a larger scale. “I didn’t have the knowledge of food production and manufacturing to even know the names of things I should be looking up,” she says.
“It was a fast learning immersion.”
Over the next two years, McGary continued her full-time work in digital advertising as she developed her idea. She established the Mostly Made business officially in July 2015, and when she lost her job a year later, she decided to focus her energy on her nascent company.
At the beginning of 2017, McGary launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for Mostly Made, with a goal to raise $19,000. She raised $20,306 with 144 backers in just 35 days. The bulk of her supporters live in Minnesota, but some are as far-flung as South Korea.
Kickstarter backer Laura Egan first sampled the recipes at a play date at McGary’s house. “They were delicious,” Egan says. “When I realized how many different ways these fillings could be used to create wholesome, fast and delicious kid-friendly meals for my family, I was instantly sold.”
Mostly Made’s two prepared and frozen fillings (lasagna and enchilada) have a unique niche, McGary says. Other popular meal services, like Blue Apron, require lots of prep work—just the sort of thing that kept her inside on that beautiful day. A customized take-and-bake pizza tends to be less healthy than her fillings, and doesn’t allow the cook any involvement. “Mostly Made allows you to get creative in the kitchen and come up with your own recipes if you want to,” McGary says.
Consumers select and buy the other ingredients to finish the meal on their own. For the lasagna filling, they purchase sauce, noodles and cheese separately, allowing for plenty of creativity and customization. Noodles can be gluten-free, white or whole wheat—or the cook can skip the noodles altogether and use the filling in other ways, like in stuffed bell peppers. “I think people value the customization of it even more than the convenience,” McGary says.
Kickstarter backer Sara Vandenberg is a busy nurse. “All I have to do is choose one of the recipes, pick up an ingredient or two...and most of the recipes are completely assembled in five minutes or less,” she says.
“I think you just feel good about cooking a dinner in your own pan and having it come out of your own oven,” McGary says. Mostly Made fillings are available locally at Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, and online at mostly-made.com.