Franchesca Gonzales left a successful career in commercial banking after 10 years because she’d lost her passion for the industry. “I took a leap and burned the boats and tried something different,” she says. Growing up in New Mexico, she watched the Food Network and always enjoyed cooking for her friends. So, Gonzales researched new career options and then launched Fuel to Fit, a nutritional packaged meal company that serves individuals and families as well as hospital and health care facilities in the Valley. Fuel to Fit offers healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snack packs and sides. The menus change weekly and customers can choose their own meals or go with the pre-planned menu. Here’s what Gonzales had to say about her local, woman-owned business.
Q: How did you get started?
I would make (food) and then take it to large buildings in Downtown Phoenix and go from bottom to top, hand out meals, give out my card and tell my story about how I was starting this meal prep company. At the time I was renting a kitchen by the hour and doing all the work myself, cooking, delivering and purchasing. The business grew and then I was finally able to hire my first employee. After that, we just sort of took off. I have nine employees now.
Q: Do you work with dieticians when devising meal plans?
We do, because we have health care facilities that require certain guidelines. But, when you start teaching people what a normal plate size should look, it’s not about a diet. It’s just knowing that 4 ounces of protein is about 25 grams of protein and ½ cup of rice is about 30 grams of carbs. So just knowing those things when you go out to a restaurant, you can identify portions.
Q: What are some of the meal plan options?
We can do no beef, no fish, no shellfish or no dairy. We do a low carb option that drastically brings down the carbs and calorie count so people who are doing the Keto diet can do our low carb plan and then add in healthy fats. The low carb diet is also good for diabetics. All of our meals are naturally low sodium because we make our sauces and seasonings in house. We’re not a gluten-free kitchen, but most of our items are naturally gluten-free because we don’t use refined flour and sugar. If we have any items with flour, we try to substitute almond or coconut flour.
Q: What other services do you offer?
We have a couple of different avenues. One of them is our Tasty Pet line. We upcycle all of our unused food to make human grade, healthy dog food. … Also, we opened up our retail market (online) where you can get a ton of different groceries and snack items delivered to your house. They’re very unique items that you won’t even find at Sprouts and Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. The items are from small businesses around the US. A lot of them are Shark Tank businesses because I love Shark Tank.
Q: There’s a fair amount of competition out there. What sets you apart?
We are one of the largest meal prep companies in the Valley and we’re one of the only woman-owned companies. One thing that differentiates us is that we’re not going for all these fad diets. We’re trying to focus on educating people how to have a healthy lifestyle and still be able to enjoy good food. We come up with creative recipes and teach people how to use spices and seasonings at home in order to add flavor. It’s OK to have that splurge day, but it’s all about portion control and keeping an overall long-term lifestyle. We want to build long-term relationships with our customers.
For more information, visit fueltofit.com.