Smooth Meal Prep

Written by the Symplicity team

Maritime Resilience is a series of stories on how local organizations are adapting to COVID-19.

Smooth Meal Prep cooks up opportunity
North Preston company takes a personal approach, adds family meal plans during pandemic

North Preston entrepreneur Nevell Provo has always had a knack for recognizing opportunities. As a high school basketball player, he earned his way to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States and for Team Canada in Toronto.

When he returned to study business at Saint Mary’s University and play basketball for the Huskies, he had no time to cook nutritious food. Provo’s mother Karen Provo is an excellent cook and helped out by preparing healthy meals.

Provo recognized that his situation was quite common, and that other athletes could be facing similar challenges fuelling themselves properly. It was this opportunity that sparked the idea for Smooth Meal Prep.

Provo worked with his mother and brother Corvell Beals to establish Smooth Meal Prep in 2019. The team started in the kitchen at the North Preston community centre. By the end of its first year, Smooth Meal Prep had grown to 11 employees, hired from the community, and had prepared more than 10,000 meals for its growing client base. The team moved to a commercial kitchen space on Main Street in Dartmouth.

“We started Smooth Meal Prep with three main goals: to solve a problem for athletes and busy people who want nutritious delicious meals, to build opportunities in North Preston, and to create a business that would bring my family together to accomplish something great. I’d say we’ve done that and will continue to build on those goals.”
Smooth Meal Prep kicked off 2020 in growth mode but had to put aside ambitious business plans when COVID-19 forced the province into a state of emergency. Early on, North Preston was the location for a cluster of COVID-19 cases that affected the friends and family of many of Provo’s employees.

“We had to take our plans off the table and focus on our immediate challenges. The team was worried about their loved ones, so we took care of each other and decided to take it step-by-step,” he said.

Some of Smooth Meal Prep clients had to cancel their meal plans because they lost their jobs and needed to save their money for groceries to feed their entire families. Provo said the team reached out personally to every client to see what they needed and how Smooth Meal Prep could continue to supply meals.

“That’s how we came up with the Family Plan, a menu of pre-made meals for families. Clients could use their grocery budget to subscribe to a nutritious family-friendly meal plan and they didn’t have to risk going to the grocery store. It was an immediate hit.”
Smooth Meal Prep introduced a contactless delivery system and got to work cooking and preparing meals, then delivering to clients. Provo laughed that his mother Karen was thrilled to be able to make family-friendly foods kids would love, in addition to the usual menu with 45+ choices, inspired by Caribbean, Asian and Middle Eastern flavours.

“My mom makes an amazing lasagna, so that was introduced into the Family Plan meals. She was thrilled to be able to cook with cheese!” he laughed.

While food safety has always been a top priority, Smooth Meal Prep increased the intensity and frequency of its existing safety protocols in response to COVID-19, including disinfecting surfaces, doing regular temperature checks and making sure staff members follow public health recommendations in their home and work lives.

Because of quick response and hard work, Provo did not have to lay off any employees. He said Smooth Meal Prep has seen a 15 percent increase in revenue over this time last year. As the economy slowly reopens, he expects to see clients start focusing on their fitness goals again, which includes nutrition and meal planning.

“It’s like New Year’s all over again. People are excited to get back to the gym, to have more opportunities to get back into shape after three months in lockdown. I’m really looking forward to helping our clients achieve their health and nutrition goals.”

Provo added that the worldwide response to recent racial tensions in the US has potential to raise awareness of the need to support black-owned businesses. He said attitudes to race have evolved in Halifax over the years, and he hopes for a more open, accepting business climate.

“There’s a tendency for black business owners to favour working with each other, because they don’t feel as comfortable or safe venturing outside the community,” Provo said. “My hope is that people will emerge from this recent turmoil in a better space and more open minded. Now is the time for business owners to push outside their comfort zones and find ways to support and work with each other.”

Provo believes the time has never been better for small business owners. Geographic boundaries are no longer a restriction, technology tools are prevalent, and government is offering the right financial supports and conditions for small businesses to thrive.

“This is a good time for entrepreneurs to step up and pursue their dreams. The opportunities are all there, you just have to take a risk.”

Smooth Meal Prep is offering family meals within your grocery budget.

Visit their website or social media to order healthy, delicious food!

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