By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times
Kendra Haigler’s fitness journey has made such a difference in her life that she wants to share her story with others. The owner of Klearly Kooks, founded in 2018, prepares nutritious meals “for any fitness or weight-loss goals”—and she knows why her business is important right now.
“We’ve been in quarantine for a while, so a lot of people have food options right at their fingertips,” she said. “You don’t have to go out and shop for your food. Having healthy meals available to you kind of alleviates the thought process of going out and buying groceries.”
Oftentimes, however, people choose unhealthy options. “There aren’t many alternatives to fast food that aren’t unhealthy, so I’m trying to create better options for people,” Haigler said.
By serving up fresh and healthy foods, such as grilled salmon on a bed of brown rice along with fresh vegetables, Haigler hopes to inspire people across Birmingham to turn to better options in a world of fast food.
Haigler practically stumbled into her business. In 2018, she started working for a nonprofit organization and pursuing her personal fitness goals.
“A coworker of mine was very active in fitness, and we talked about it. I decided to give it a try and fell in love with it immediately,” she said. “It was such a relief for me, being able to work out and see the changes in my own body. Of course, I had to incorporate healthy eating habits because eating right [contributes] to achieving health and fitness goals.”
Haigler started planning healthy meals for herself throughout the week. When her coworkers noticed the great food she was making, they suggested that she start planning meals for them, as well.
“They were encouraging me to make it a business venture,” she said—and Klearly Kooks was born.
The name is a play on “clearly, she can cook,” as well as her name because she wanted to make it social media friendly. Haigler runs her business out of her home in Hoover, Alabama, through Facebook and Instagram. Customers can order five meals with several different options, and Haigler will deliver the food to their homes. The meals include healthy and lean options, such as chicken, salmon, or shrimp served with brown rice and fresh vegetables.
Lessons from a Great Cook
Cooking was part of Haigler’s childhood, growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, with her grandmother and two brothers.
“Back then, we cooked a lot of soul food—collard greens, macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings. [My grandmother] was a great cook, but I don’t use the same recipes,” Haigler said. “I’m catering to a healthier lifestyle, so I use other greens, such as broccoli and asparagus.”
Haigler, 33, is the oldest of her siblings, and cooking was one of her responsibilities.
“I was basically a second parent to my siblings, and cooking was a part of growing up for me,” she said.
After completing high school, Haigler went to Alabama State University, where she majored in criminal justice, and later attended Auburn University to pursue a master’s degree in judicial studies. Her first criminal justice job out of college, was at “… a center for federal inmates [in Alabama],” where she taught classes about rehabilitation, she said.
“[I learned that] there are so many people who have been incarcerated and have mental issues or have not been diagnosed,” said Haigler, who searched for ways to help people find resources to improve their conditions.
Haigler worked for several years in both the criminal justice field and as a paralegal before taking a position at the nonprofit organization that inspired her to embark on her health and business journeys.
More Than Just Meals
Klearly Kooks had been operating for a year and a half before it hit a bump earlier this year.
“[Business] kind of stagnated at the beginning of the year, especially with people dealing with the uncertainty [surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic],” she said. “As things have progressed, however, business has picked up a lot. People have been out walking and exercising, so they’re looking into healthier food options.”
Haigler said she wants to go beyond meal planning.
“Currently, I just cook the meals, but I want to get into making YouTube videos about how to make the meals, as well,” she said. “People from different cities and states are interested in my food, but I don’t ship meals, so making videos on how to cook and how to plan might be an option for them.”
She added that she’s also considering a food truck where “I can actually go out into the community and serve food. Right now, I’m saving and building my clientele, … but I really want to expand my business. I would love for this to be a full-time career.”
Haigler’s long-term goal is to expand into other cities, and not just the big ones.
“Of course, I want to reach larger metropolitan areas, but there are a lot of neighborhoods, just like several in Birmingham, that are food deserts, [urban areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food],” she said. “People should have access to high-quality, healthy food.”
On top of providing healthier food options, Haigler is in the process of starting a nonprofit gym for underserved women.
“I believe economic growth comes from a healthier society, … and a lot of women are unable to afford gyms, whether it’s due to a lack of access to transportation to get to the gym or because there are no fitness alternatives available,” she said.
She’s also had conversations with several other women who are concerned about the lack of a safe space in the gym.
“Fitness can be intimidating for women who feel out of place or unnerved by people who know what they’re doing, so I want to create a safe space where they can feel comfortable in their bodies,” she said. “I’m hoping I can get that idea off the ground next year.”
To learn more about Klearly Kooks, call 205-880-2455; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to P.O. Box 360623, Hoover, AL 35236. You also can shop online via Facebook and Instagram at Klearly Kooks.