We had the good fortune of connecting with Hayley Von Frank and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hayley, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Every business starts with a great idea, and mine was inspired by my son. When he was starting to learn to feed himself, he would eat those little freeze dried yogurt dots by the BAGFUL. They didn’t come cheap, so I started researching how to make them at home. Surely I could make them at home!
I could not make them at home. Well, not without a residential freeze dryer. I was fascinated by the freeze drying process and became more and more curious the more I researched about the benefits of freeze drying and how it transformed food. I read all that I could about the actual process, joined online groups to see what everyone out there was deciding to freeze dry, and started becoming very serious about starting something with a freeze dryer. I just didn’t know where the journey would take me.
My husband works offshore in the oil business, and I had wanted to start something that could possibly be a side gig. The biggest investment was in the machine itself, so after many talks about the details and logistics, and my consistent jabber about freeze drying, we bought one. When it was set up and I was comfortable with how to go through a whole cycle, I started to document all my findings. It felt like a science experiment: what texture would the green beans come out with? Which candy would react and expand 5x its size? I would share my latest batch results on my social media and so many of my friends would message me inquiring about freeze drying, giving suggestions, and wanting to buy it straight off the tray! When the comments and messages started to come in, I knew that I had a great idea. That confirmation from people I know and the fact that there was a very unsaturated market gave me the confidence to take the next step. And off I went, all because my son loves yogurt.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Space City Snacks is unique in what it is: a freeze dried snack business. You may have heard of freeze dried food when visiting Space Center Houston since that is how they store and prepare astronaut food. You may have been eyeing the emergency meal kits in buckets at Costco after that crazy freeze in February. You may have never heard of it. Freeze drying is the process of removing all moisture from an item to preserve it for long term storage, If packaged properly, most freeze dried food can last up to 25 years! But Space City Snacks isn’t interested in long term storage.
I love playing with textures. It’s a huge factor in someone liking a certain food. With removing all the moisture, the freeze drying process leaves you with a completely different texture, usually a crispier or crunchier version. I had found a way to reintroduce fruits, veggies, snacks, treats, etc. that we all know and love (or despise) in a completely new way. I started slowly with fruits and veggies, then got wild with pizza rolls, cookie dough, and tater tots. If we ate it at home, a portion of it went straight in to the machine to see what would happen. I didn’t want people to way years to try the snacks I was creating. So our business was born, and our way of snacking started to blow people’s minds. Once I gained confidence, my creative side was able to shine, and I think that is what sets me apart from others.
My menu is constantly changing, and I always try to adapt to the seasons as well. There is always something new to try, but to keep it from getting overwhelming, they have short runs. I have my bestseller menu that can be relied on every month, but most things are limited quantities. It keeps it fresh and exciting, and my customers are definitely the curious kind!
We are still in our first year of business, but we have learned SO MUCH along the way. When you are the business, you don’t realize how capable you are. You can create your own logo. You can network easily even being an introvert. You CAN do math (most of the time). Don’t get me wrong, it is exhausting. I haven’t figured out that thing called work-life balance yet (if you have, please drop some wisdom my way). The self-discovery along the way though? That has been such a sweet, unexpected piece that I had been unknowingly looking for.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a tough question! I’m a born and raised Houstonian so it’s hard to narrow it down! The best spot for brunch or breakfast is Baby Barnaby’s off Fairview. We would have to visit the Zoo because it is such a great one, and the Arboretum is such a hidden gem that no one talks about. Honestly, I just recently went there for the first time myself and was blown away! The inner nerd in me brings all out of town guests to The Hobbit Cafe because it is such a special spot for me personally and delicious sandwiches.
Of course I should mention Space Center Houston because it is SO cool and great for all ages (but my freeze dried ice cream is better)! Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market is my all time favorite place on a Saturday morning, but get there early! No Label Brewery is a great spot to hang out and have a few craft beers with friends.
I would introduce them to Pie Night, which is a ritual my friends and I have every few months, at Marini’s Empanada House and Proud Pie in Katy (they are right next to each other!) We would also definitely have dinner and drinks at Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen in Richmond. Houston is so rich in culture and is just so damn big, but that sounds like a busy week for my guest!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shout from the rooftops all the thanks and gratitude to my family and friends who have supported me from day one; I would not be here today without y’all’s help and love for my little business! Thank you to my husband for putting up with all of the late nights, washing all my dishes, nagging about expense reports (in a good way), and sharing the endless responsibilities of parenthood with young kids. So much love to my mom, who continually lifts me up and supports me no matter what. This business would not have been possible without you! To my customers, old and new, you keep me going (literally). I love introducing you to the world of freeze drying and it brings me such joy when you are as excited as I am! To The Katy Mom’s Network for getting my name out there and sharing me with their community. To the Heart To Market ladies for giving me a chance at my first market. And for this magazine for seeing my business and giving it a spotlight, I am truly grateful.
Facebook: Space City Snacks