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Jan Pinnington used to be a harried mother wrapped up in the nonstop demands of raising a family. Often, family meals were pre-packaged or from a drive-thru. One day, Pinnington had the realization that her 11-year old daughter couldn’t cook. The girl had never even learned to crack an egg!

Jan suddenly understood that not only she had denied her daughter basic cooking skills, but also the special gift of time spent together. Jan invited her daughter and several of her school friends to learn how to prepare healthy meals and snacks.

Her work with these kids was so successful that Pinnington wondered if there was a way to turn her idea into a money-making venture from her home in Irmo, South Carolina. She felt sure she could train other stay-at-home moms to do what she had done. Pinnington started Healthy Hands Cooking, a training course where mothers can supplement their family’s income while helping kids learn about nutrition and cooking.

She even had a slogan, “Healthy Habits for Kids, Income for You.” What she didn’t have was a business plan for her dreams of expansion. Pinnington sought assistance from the Columbia Area Small Business Development Center in November of 2011 where she bounced ideas off business consultant Bob Pettit.

“She needed to write her instructor’s manual and the student’s manual,” Pettit said. “Then she needed to source the tools and equipment she was going to provide or endorse.”

Pinnington created, which has an eight-hour interactive course on how to teach kids from five to 13 the basics of healthy cooking such as how to read food labels. The site also features a video, recipes, success stories and products. Since May 2012, Pinnington’s program has helped more than 30 certified instructors start their own businesses in 18 states (and one in the Middle East).

Instructors are encouraged to expand into their communities, taking Healthy Hands Cooking on the road to schools, parks, gyms, churches, community centers, sports centers and dance studios. There are even ideas for summer camp programs and birthday parties.

Running a socially responsible business is important to Pinnington. She was moved by statistics from the Center for Disease Control stating that 12.5 million children ages 2-19 are now clinically obese. She also cites the health of our economy as a motivating factor that keeps her on track with her business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of Dec 2011, the national unemployment rate was 8.5%. Healthy Hands Cooking contributes in a meaningful way to easing the impact of both of these social problems.

“I’ve started to make a difference in my own community,” Pinnington said. “If we can train just 500 certified cooking instructors in 2012, the impact to our nation is 40,000 children learning a critical life skill and 500 people with extra income for their families. Our nation is clearly hurting. As a group, I believe we can make a monumental difference.”

After nine months and more than 40 counseling sessions with Pettit, Pinnington’s business continues to grow.

“The Columbia Area SBDC, especially Bob Pettit and his team, were instrumental in helping launch Healthy Hands Cooking,” Pinnington said. “We now have helped start more than 30 additional healthy cooking businesses and each one of these new business owners is personally connected with an SBDC counselor in their town ensuring a better opportunity for success. As HHC continues to grow, so will our need for SBDC services throughout the nation. The SBDC is a blessing to the small business entrepreneur.”

“Working with Jan has been a wonderful process,” Pettit said. “Jan is a motivated and organized person, truly the type of long term clients we love. Any business consultant would agree Healthy Hands Cooking is a great success story.”


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