Jillian Tedesco photo courtesy of Andy Atchison for Fit-Flavors

What I Do: Jillian Tedesco of Fit-Flavors

Fit-Flavors founder Jillian Tedesco’s business was not born from entrepreneurial spirit (though she certainly has one). Rather, she turned to cooking as a coping mechanism after she closed a fitness studio. She started preparing food for clients, who began to rely on her for meal prep. Demand quickly outgrew supply. The first Fit-Flavors opened in Chesterfield in 2013, followed by one in Brentwood in 2015, and another in Creve Coeur in 2016. Online sales launched in 2017, and a St. Peters storefront opened this March. Here’s how Tedesco went from personal trainer to CEO of a flourishing brand.

“I didn’t graduate college; I never thought I would be a CEO. I figured a CEO would go to college and business school, but that wasn’t the case. School was challenging for me. I had these demons in my mind that wanted to hold me back, but I realized I could overcome that.  I just got nominated for the 40 Under 40 by the [St. Louis] Business Journal.”

“I spent a decade in the fitness industry, but my biggest passion was understanding how the human body could change through manipulation of nutrition. I spent a lot of time reading, researching and studying nutrition. Then I realized, ‘Well, shoot, I gotta learn how to cook.’ ... Within a couple months of cooking for my clients, I enlisted in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu.”

“I got up to cooking about 650 meals out of my home kitchen. I had one oven and nine refrigerators. I’d train clients all day, then I was in school all night and cooked all weekend. I was basically a personal chef for three years.”

“When I was in culinary school, I studied under my current executive chef, Chris Tucker. I almost couldn’t believe he took this job when I offered it.”

“Not only do I have to provide consistently perfect products, but I gotta keep the juju good. If front-of-house and back-of-house aren’t gelling, it can mess everything up. If they love where they work and feel valued, they’re the best. My employees are everything to me.”

“It’s been very hard physically, mentally and spiritually. I’ve had two children and raised a family through this. I have to be very dynamic and nimble. Training my team to take care of everything gives me the freedom to step back and steer the boat, you could say. I’ve just recently gotten myself out of the everyday tasks like deliveries and working in the store.”

“Most of the health issues skyrocketing today stem from bad eating habits and lack of physical activity, from diabetes to heart problems that have people on more medication than ever before. They need to start caring about their health. We want to teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle without giving anything up and still enjoying what they eat.”

Lauren Healey is associate editor at Sauce Magazine.

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