Libby Mehaffey always thought of herself as an entrepreneur.
In 2016, the Inver Grove Heights resident convinced several of her friends and neighbors to pay her to cook for them and their families for six weeks. After that, they were hooked.
"After the six weeks, people were like, 'Oh my gosh, what am I going to do without you?" Mehaffey said.
So began Weeknight Kitchen, started to give busy families the opportunity to sit down and eat a home-cooked meal together - without actually having to cook.
Beginning May 1, Weeknight Kitchen will serve customers in Chanhassen, Eagan, Edina, Farmington, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Minneapolis, Prior Lake, Rosemount, Savage, South St. Paul and Woodbury.
Though it started in Mehaffey's kitchen, the business has called several locations home: first a small commercial kitchen in St. Paul, then the former South St. Paul VFW building, which closed Oct. 31.
With the upcoming opening of a brand new 1,500-square-foot commercial kitchen space in South St. Paul, Weeknight Kitchen hopes to stay put for a while. Mehaffey expects the space will allow staff to prepare around 250 meals per week.
To increase convenience for customers, Mehaffey recruited women she knew to pick up fully-prepared meals from the commercial kitchen and take them back to their homes, where customers would be able to pick up their meals. She called these locations "Kitchenettes."
With the opening of the new South St. Paul kitchen, there will be 19 Kitchenettes across the metro, allowing customers to pick up meals, which they can order online, between 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The business also delivers to corporate offices and child care centers across the metro for clients and employees to pick up.
The women who run Kitchenettes receive a commission based on how many meals they sell each week, along with a meal for their own families.
"It's a woman-owned business, run by women, helping women," Mehaffey said. "Most of our clients are moms, most of the Kitchenettes are moms, people in the kitchen are moms."
Jill Taylor began running a Kitchenette out of her Inver Grove Heights home last summer.
"It just seemed like if you can make someone's life easier for one day - and there's usually enough for leftovers for the second day - that just seems like a win-win," she said.
Taylor, who works full-time and has two young children, said helping busy families attracted her to the business. After she tried the food, she was sold.
"We are just flying by the seat of our pants and it sounded like such a good option for a homemade meal," she said. "I don't have to do the cooking and it's just all ready."
Mehaffey said she differentiates her business from other trendy services like meal kits by catering to a specific crowd.
"Meal kits are wonderful for people who really want to cook, but most of our clients really just don't have the hour of time to do that," she said.
The menus include meals like chicken and dumplings, lasagna and salads - all with recipes created by co-owner Jen Drane and made from scratch by Mehaffey, Amanda Vick and Mehaffey's mother, Becky Mann.
Because they make so many meals at once, the business doesn't allow substitutions or special orders. Mehaffey said the women are health-conscious in creating the menu, but the main focus is on designing meals that both children and adults will enjoy.
"If you are eating fresh food and you are sitting down with your family, that is healthy eating," she said.