A ‘funky fresh’ idea is taking off in Milwaukee with the support of grant money from FedEx.
Funky Fresh Spring Rolls was started in 2013 by Trueman McGee, a former construction worker who, at 300 pounds, realized he needed a healthy shift in his life. He had been working in sheet metal for years before that, but wasn’t getting the satisfaction he wanted.
“Five years ago, I was tired of where I was at,” he told WisBusiness.com. “I was tired — mentally, physically, and emotionally. I needed a drastic change.”
He started to get things in order in 2012, when he became certified as a personal trainer and began eating healthier and working out, losing 70 pounds in the process. He had been providing some food services alongside his fitness training, but came to realize people were just contacting him about the food more often not.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, this might be interesting,’” he said.
In 2013, he had sold over 5,000 spring rolls out of his house, which were “an instant hit with family and friends.” In 2016, he was able to sell over 30,000 spring rolls through farmers markets, festivals and catering jobs.
The company is active at the Brown Deer farmers market and the Shorewood farmers market, among others. At the Waukesha market in particular, he said “we did really phenomenal.”
The spring rolls, which are grilled and feature locally sourced ingredients, are made by McGee and his four employees.
McGee, 32, says his previous work, though very different, gave him some skills that he uses to this day.
“There’s lots of similarities — everything needs to be accurate, with the right measurements,” he said. “Food is the same way. It takes hard work and planning; construction helped me more than you would think.”
Funky Fresh will be receiving $7,500 from FedEx through its Small Business Grant Contest, as well as $1,000 in product development which McGee says will be used to further his goal of getting his spring rolls into mainstream grocery stores.
“Trueman McGee really inspired us with the story of how he changed his health and his life with his gourmet grilled spring rolls,” said Becky Huling, vice president of customer engagement marketing at FedEx. “We applaud his passion and enthusiasm and look forward to helping him take his business to the next level.”
His plan is to start with places like Whole Foods and other “natural grocers,” and eventually work his way into the mainstream with Pick & Save, Kroger and Sam’s Club.
As founder and CEO of a Milwaukee startup, McGee says the city has been a great jumping-off point for the business.
“Definitely a good place to start up; lots of resources here,” he said. “It’s a good entrepreneurial network — if you have the passion, drive and will to go get it.”
–By Alex Moe