How Drexel Food Lab helped a small business owner nourish postpartum moms

Mia Ormes works around the clock making nutritious meals for the customer on-the-go

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — When she was preparing to have her first child, Mia Ormes had everything ready: the doula, the bassinet, the car seat, the baby bag. What she was missing was food for herself.

“Nobody ever talked to me about, like, ‘Oh, what are you going to eat afterward?’” Ormes said. “I don’t remember that conversation happening at all.”

So she did what any busy person would: She ordered takeout. By day four, she felt awful.

With her second child, she made sure her freezer was stocked with food, leaving her feeling better and more prepared that time around.

The experience inspired Ormes to launch Tribu in 2019. The soup, stew and healthy food brand is meant to provide new mothers with proper prenatal and postpartum nutrition, but the food is also great for anyone who wants a quick, nutritious meal.

Mia Ormes in her home in Germantown.
Mia Ormes in her home in Germantown. Photo credit Sabrina Boyd-Surka/KYW Newsradio

Ormes started Tribu by herself, making each recipe out of her own kitchen. She now uses the kitchen at the Energy Healing Center in Germantown but personally delivers each order, often running on a 24-hour clock.

“What holds me accountable more than anything else are my customers,” Ormes said. “I’m accountable to them. If they depend on the food, it has to come, even if it comes at midnight.”

But Ormes realized that she can’t be in three places at once, and if she wants the business to grow in the future, she needs to hire help.

“It’s like, I want to offer the world, but I can’t,” she said. “People ask you for more — can you make so many meals per week and deliver? — and it’s like, I can, but I actually can’t.”

Ormes is still figuring out the work-life balance of running a small business, but she did get some help this past summer from the Drexel Food Lab’s Good Food Accelerator pilot program, which helped small businesses bring their products to market.

Students working in the Drexel Food Lab.
Students working in the Drexel Food Lab. Photo credit Sabrina Boyd-Surka/KYW Newsradio

“We wanted to even the playing field,” said Rachel Sherman, the Food Lab’s project manager and research chef. “[We] really wanted to focus on building our local economy by supporting local businesses, because they really get pushed out of the game.”

In the Food Lab, Drexel Culinary Arts and Nutrition Sciences students make and test recipes for businesses at all levels, from startups like Tribu to big names like Aramark and McCormick. They help develop new flavors, standardize recipes and balance nutrition in new food products.

“We always say that while a Michelin-star chef may be able to execute better than a student, you can’t beat the energy and creativity of 20 students in a room together that are passionate about a project,” Sherman added.

“It really helped me stay accountable to myself,” Ormes said of the program. “It gets your business to market. … I wasn’t sure about packaging, I wasn’t sure about standardizing my recipes. They meet you where you’re at. You go into the kitchen and you cook. Nutrition students can be there, helping you with your labeling, getting your nutrition facts, getting ready, basically to start pitching to stores.”

Rachel Sherman at Drexel Food Lab’s restaurant
Rachel Sherman at Drexel Food Lab’s restaurant Photo credit Sabrina Boyd-Surka/KYW Newsradio

After completing the pilot program, Ormes is ready to sell her products. She’ll be at the Clark Park Farmers Market early next month — Nov. 5 and 19 — as well as Dec. 3 and 17.

Hear more about Tribu, the trials of starting a food business, and what else the Drexel Food Lab does on The Jawncast in the player below:

Produced by Sabrina Boyd-Surka, written by Bibiana Correa

Featured Image Photo Credit: Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio