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FreshFry entrepreneurs say Louisville is the best place for their budding company

Team FreshFry: Jacob Huff and Jeremiah Chapman

FreshFry pod

FreshFry may be a company in its infancy with many things still to learn, but co-founders Jeremiah Chapman and Jacob Huff already know for sure that they never want to move their enterprise from Louisville.
 
The company, which was founded in 2014 and started delivering product to customers last year, was born from the mind of Chapman and incubated through many nights at the dinner table in the apartment he shared with Huff while the two were battling through the strenuous program at the University of Louisville’s JB Speed School of Engineering. It seems only fitting that a product designed to make food preparation more efficient saw its development over the dinner plate.
 
FreshFry’s innovation, a pod that helps to extend the life of frying oil by extracting impurities generated through the frying process, came from Chapman’s undergraduate interest in biodiesel and some allies in the campus dining halls.
 
“When I first started at the University of Louisville, I had a really big passion in biodiesel, more specifically, taking waste oil from restaurants and converting it into biodiesel. When I began to do that, there were a few restaurants on campus that were providing way more oil than what I could process and that’s when I realized that this must be a big problem,” says Chapman, a chemical engineer. “So I did some research and saw that it was a big problem and the very same things that I was coming up with to refine biodiesel could be applicable in the kitchen.”
 
In its first year, Chapman and Huff have seen great success with local customers reaching maximum production capacity in their shared-space in Uproar Labs in Germantown, which is only part of the way in which this city has embraced the duo. The company was honored with a Vogt Award in 2014, which provided mentors, training and seed capital, before, according to Chapman, they’d even begun production on their pod.
 
Supporting a Concept
The full-scale embrace from the community is the first, of many, reasons why Chapman and Huff say they will never leave Louisville.
 
“First, of course, loving the city because I am born and raised here so I want to do as much as possible for the city. But, Louisville is a food scene, so what better place to have a food product than in a city that really respects the art and the science behind eating? You have a lot of experience within the food world right here locally and it made sense for FreshFry,” says Chapman. “When I won the Vogt Award, all I had was a concept, and to be met with a community that said, ‘We love that concept, we like what you are doing, what do you need’, you don’t really get that in many places and I feel Louisville is a great place that really takes talent and tries to push it forward.”
 
Huff shares his co-founder’s perspective on Louisville’s assets to the fledgling company.
 
“Louisville is the best place for us, let alone the place where we learned all of our skills in engineering and business. It makes sense for us to stay here. The boom in entrepreneurial support that we’ve had so far, we would never want to leave,” says Huff.
 
Concession Stand Success
This is good news for the cache of local restaurants and foodservice providers that are already FreshFry customers and who have come to rely, not only on the product’s effectiveness, but the superior customer service that the co-founders provide.
 
The FreshFry pod, according to Chapman, should help customers see an “80 percent to 100 percent life extension, which means if you change every three days, with the usage of FreshFry, you’ll be changing every five to six days now.”
 
The product more than delivered on those promises for Martin Durbin, general manager of Centerplate, the company that manages all of the foodservice for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the 55,000-seat home field of the University of Louisville Cardinal Football Team.
 
Durbin used the FreshFry product in all of the concession stands for the 2015 football season, which saw the Cardinals host six home games and, according to Durbin, run a whole lot of “chicken tenders and fries.”
 
In previous seasons, the oil in the concession stand fryers was completely removed and the fryers cleaned after every second game. With the use of FreshFry, Durbin said they were able to use the same oil for the entire season.
 
“It worked very well for us,” says Durbin. “It more than paid for itself in the amount of oil and the amount of waste and pickups that I would have to do to have the oil removed from the property."
 
In addition to the success of the product, Durbin experienced a level of customer service that is unparalleled in most foodservice companies. “They made it very easy for us,” he says, commenting that often deliveries were made directly by Huff and several times Chapman visited himself to run tests on the fryers to ensure that they would make it another game.
 
This is exactly how Chapman and Huff want it. The pair of twenty-five-year olds are, still, the only two FreshFry employees, handling everything themselves with Chapman acting as CEO and Huff acting as Chief Technical Officer because of his background as a mechanical engineer with experience in manufacturing.
 
“It allows us to stay pretty close to the ground,” says Chapman of their arrangement.
 
“We didn’t want to add too many factors and too many people who weren’t doing some of the nitty gritty things that you need to know about that happens in a company. Now since we are at production capacity we need new equipment, and new equipment means higher volumes, which means more people,” he continues, hinting at 2016 plans for the company.
 
The success of Chapman’s idea has garnered him and the company some buzz, both locally and nationally. In addition to the Vogt Award, Chapman was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in 2015 and one of Business First’s 40 under 40.
 
Ready to Grow
The pair is not resting on these successes, however, with big plans for the upcoming year and even larger ones for the next five to ten years.  
 
These big plans, however, will require the community that has already nurtured the company to step up to the plate once again.
 
“We are fundraising,” he says. “We want feedback from investors and mentors. We are in a spot where we are ready to grow. Something that keeps me up at night is we have a lot of people who really want FreshFry, but we just don’t have the manufacturing ability to provide it for them. This money allows us to make that turn.”
 
The turn, according to Chapman, includes working to position the company to enter the quick-service market and adding people to their team, the last of which is considered the most important to the father of the company.
 
“That’s exciting,” says Chapman, “because that’s the point where we are creating jobs and making a difference on a large scale and we’re becoming a national company.”

Read more articles by Jamie Sears-Rawlings.

Jamie Sears-Rawlings is a full-time mom, a full-time communications professional and a full-time gatherer of knowledge on any topic. When she's not wiping a dirty toddler face, she loves writing about people and things that are making a difference in the world. And popsicles...she really loves those, too. 
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