Minneapolis’ Minny Spoons combines food, female empowerment, and fitness

The one-woman cashew-butter-and-energy-bite-making machine

The one-woman cashew-butter-and-energy-bite-making machine Minny Spoons

It’s amazing what a little nut butter can do.

With weeks to spare, Ashley Prentice, the founder of Minneapolis-based cashew butter and energy bite company Minny Spoons, has already surpassed her $12,000 Kickstarter goal to fund the company’s expansion.

Twenty-five-year-old Prentice has always been into food blogs, recipe experimentation, and nutrition. As an exercise enthusiast known for her @hungry_girl_fitness Instagram, she used to make nut butter and energy bites at home as quick snacks and to keep her fueled during workouts.

It didn’t occur to her that she could build a business from those two edibles until last year, when she thanked supporters for funding a volunteer trip to the Dominican Republic by sending them mason jars of her homemade butters and bites. She says the thank-you gifts were “a huge hit,” inspiring her to try her hand at selling them. She recruited a graphic designer friend to make jar labels, initially dubbing the product Hungry Girl (a name she soon found out was trademarked). Minny Spoons was her next name choice—apropos, because she’s a lifelong Minneapolis resident and loves to eat nut butters directly from the jar with a soon. “I wanted something that was really meaningful for me but also relatable to others and have that emotional connection,” she says.

In May of 2017, after a late night whipping up cashew butter in her kitchen with a Vitamix, Prentice launched Minny Spoons at the Prior Lake Farmers Market.

Though she’d made a variety of nut butters in the past, Prentice chose cashews as Minny Spoons’ butter base because of their mild flavor. Whereas the taste of peanuts or almonds can be overpowering, cashews better showcase intense flavor profiles like vanilla bean, cinnamon date, super food, and mocha. As for her energy bites, they come in blueberry, lemon cake, and peanut butter.

Prentice’s products aren’t just good for you—no added sugars or artificial sweeteners—they do good for others by donating a portion of profits to The Her Initiative, an organization that empowers women by providing clean water and health and hygiene education to developing countries. Prentice first discovered the nonprofit at a charity fitness event in 2016. “Once I heard their story and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, I felt really compelled to get involved in some way,” she says.

By giving back, Prentice hopes to start a chain reaction of philanthropy and empowerment so more women can start a business, donate to charity, or volunteer. Prentice herself benefitted from encouragement, wisdom, and promotion from fellow female-owned local food business Whole Me.

The successful Minny Spoons Kickstarter campaign—which surpassed its goal in less than two weeks with 240 backers—will help Prentice move the operation into a commercial kitchen space and purchase the tools necessary to ship her products nationwide, something she can’t currently do under the cottage food licensing laws, which only allow her to sell locally.

For now, she’s going to be busy fulfilling those Kickstarter rewards, including hosting a private fitness class at North Loop Alchemy followed by a waffle and mimosa bar. The one-woman cashew-butter-energy-bite-making machine somehow holds down a full-time business analyst position at United Health Group, too.

“I would love for it to continue to evolve,” she says of her brand. Ideally, Minny Spoons will land a spot in a retail store like Whole Foods. Eventually, Prentice wants it become a lifestyle brand with a community that brings people together who want to live a healthy lifestyle.

New products will likely be added down the line, but Prentice isn’t thinking too far ahead. This self-described “accidental entrepreneur” is taking it one spoonful at a time.