Ancient Grain Feeds Growth at Genevieve’s Kitchen

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO – Baking with an ancient grain may not top the list for entrepreneurs looking for startup ideas, but for Genevieve Bodnar and her restaurant, Genevieve’s Kitchen, it has turned a dietary need into a successful business.

Bodnar was honored Tuesday at Youngstown Chapter of Score annual Success to Small Business lunch.

The Southington baker incorporates spelt, a type of wheat that was a staple during the Bronze Age and is seeing a resurgence as a health food, into her menu. After being diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica in 2011, Bodnar’s doctor told her that changing her diet could lessen the severity of the disease. As she researched new dietary options, she learned about foods she’d never had consumed, including the ancient cereal grain.

“I got started because I was ill and taking a lot of medicine and not getting any better. I went to a naturopathic doctor and learned that I couldn’t eat wheat, corn or dairy,” she said. “So I began to search for something that would taste good and ended up baking with spelt flour.”

After surveying her customers, she found the top reason they buy her products is because they taste good. Even though her food is considered healthful, it still has a taste that her customers love, she said.

Bodnar said Score has been very helpful in educating and guiding her through the process.

“I am thrilled and honored to be the honoree today. My mentors have been absolutely wonderful. Whenever I ran into a snag, they always had an idea of something I could do and always gave me good information and things to try,” she said.

Bodnar began her business two years ago and has grown significantly.

“I have people now who call to order. They are regular customers and they depend on me,” she said.

Genevieve’s Kitchen operates in a storefront on Parkman Road in Southington, and sells its products as well at farmers markets.

“I would like to have a Youngstown presence. That’s my next goal,” Bodnar said.

Janet Moy, chairwoman of Youngstown Score, said Bodnar was chosen as the honoree because of her business’ growth over the past year.

“Genevieve represents what a good entrepreneur should be doing,” Moy said. “She connected well with our mentors and she followed through with all of their suggestions, from writing the business plan, coming back and having it reviewed, meeting with them at least once a month. She also talked with our mentors about social media.”

This year, Youngstown Score has seen a steady stream of clients – 151 of them – a number the organization would like to surpass in 2019, Moy said. Score plans to bring on more young adult volunteers, as well as focusing on technology and social media marketing.

“Many of our clients come from the [Common Wealth Inc.] Kitchen Incubator and from the food industry. We had a grant several years ago which permitted us to create an app for the vendors at the farmers markets, which is how I met Genevieve,” Moy said.

The hardest part of launching a business, she continued, is the creation of a proper business plan and generating enough cash flow to make a profit. It’s in these early stages that Score can provide some crucial assistance to startups.

“We can help them with that, with making an assessment, rejections, reviews and how they can grow their business,” she said.

Some of the most crucial skills for entrepreneurs to develop, Bodnar said, are the abilities to ask questions and listen.

“Don’t be afraid to go to the experts for help. I’ve never been afraid to say that I need guidance. That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “I had a teaching degree and a master’s, but I needed specific skills for this, so I had to ask for help.”

The guest speaker at the luncheon was Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration at Youngstown State University. She presented an overview of YSU’s role in the mentorship organization and in developing young business leaders.

Licata said the college’s enrollment has been stable this past year, while three new faculty members were added. YSU business students took part in 113 projects for local business in 2018, she reported.

Pictured: Youngstown Score chairwoman Janet Moy, Genevieve’s Kitchen owner Genevieve Bodnar and Score counselor Frank Bordonaro.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.