Movers & Shakers: Darcy Olson, Let's Dish

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 15, 2013 - 2:48 PM

A look at the people behind the numbers in area business.

Darcy Olson, Let’s Dish

Title: Co-founder

Age: 46

 

Darcy Olson is celebrating a decade of helping busy families put dinner on the table as co-founder of Let’s Dish, the retail meal-preparation company with five Twin Cities suburban locations.

Olson said her 15 years of corporate experience, including management positions at General Mills and Pillsbury Co., helped inspire her to launch Let’s Dish with a friend in October 2003.

“It gave me the opportunity to see many aspects of the company,” said Olson, whose last role at General Mills involved managing training and development. “But I also felt like I really wanted to get my hands into a business again. I was excited to leave the corporate world, join with a friend and try creating something from scratch.”

Let’s Dish offers customers the opportunity to make meals with fresh ingredients to eat at home or freeze for later, at its stores in Eden Prairie, Apple Valley, Blaine, Maple Grove and Woodbury.

Customers also can order meals online and pick them up after employees have assembled the ingredients. Stores also have ready-made meals available. Menus offering 18 options change monthly, with meals priced at less than $4 a serving.

“Our taste profiles have evolved so much,” said Olson, who has a degree in marketing from Iowa State University. “When we introduced recipes with couscous, people asked what’s [that]? We have chicken pad thai now; it’s the No. 1 most popular item.’’

Other popular items, Olson said, include cheesy chipotle chicken enchiladas, linguine shrimp scampi, Asian barbecue pork wraps and steak tips with various sauces.

 

Q: How did your corporate career help you as an entrepreneur?

A: At both Pillsbury and General Mills, building brands was a huge part of the business. When we developed Let’s Dish as a brand, I had lots of real-life examples to look back to. We put a lot of work into building the brand in everything we did, from choosing the logo and tag lines to the colors.

Q: What’s been the key to staying in business for 10 years?

A: Keeping it real and keeping it fun. From the beginning, we wanted to create a great place to be, whether that’s in our stores or at home when people are making our meals — and a great place where our employees like to work.

Q: What’s your strategy for next year?

A: Our goal is to grow our business within our stores, but then also we’re looking at ways we can grow outside of our stores with different services. I don’t see us opening an additional store in the next year. We want to test some things to see what makes the most sense for the next 10 years … ways we can be innovative both in our stores and beyond our stores.

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