Intuit Awards $50K Grand Prize

By Lauren Simonds | Posted March 06, 2008

Ever wish that just once you could take your kids out for dinner and skip the obligatory glass of whine? Or the evil looks from childless restaurant patrons? You're not alone.

Alissa and Noah DeRouchie of Columbus, Ohio feel your pain and hope to build a restaurant that not only serves healthy foods for both kids and parents, but also offers a play area where kids can burn off energy while Mom and Dad get to enjoy their meal in relative peace. Their idea was so good that it won them $50,000 worth of cash, products and services in Intuit's Just Start contest.

The Just Start contest began back in October of 2007, as part of Intuit's IwillJustStart campaign to help and encourage nascent entrepreneurs to take their first steps toward starting their own business.

The DeRouchies both work – Alissa runs her baby-focused online business SproutSoup.com from home while Noah works in IT. Harried parents of two toddler sons, they know first-hand the difficulty of dining out.

"When we take our kids out to eat usually they're really hungry first," said Alissa. "Then we have to cut their food and get them fed. By the time we get a chance to eat, they're bouncing off the walls and running around the restaurant. So we wanted to create a place where it would be okay for kids to run around and play while mom and dad sat down to a nice, healthy meal."

After crunching the numbers, the couple faced a daunting prospect. While browsing online one evening, Alissa found the Just Start contest and decided to enter. "We found it like two days before the deadline, but it was a chance at getting some start-up cash. That night we videotaped the kids just being themselves at a local restaurant."

After submitting the video, Alissa said she forgot about the contest until she got a call the following January that they had been chosen as one of five finalists. "We were floored. Over the next few weeks we called everyone we knew, friends and family, to get them to vote for us once a day."

The DeRouchies didn't stop there. They hit the local malls to get out the vote. "We campaigned hard describing our idea and handing out flyers and organic snacks. It was a real marathon," she said.

Alissa described their reaction to winning as "ecstatic." As the grand-prize winners, the DeRouchies will receive $40,000 in cash plus $10,000 in product and services from Intuit or its third-party partners. "The money's going straight into the business," said Alissa. "We're not yet sure what all the products and services will be, but Intuit is setting us up on QuickBooks, which we knew about, but had never used."

The DeRouchies realize that $40,000 will not be enough cash to fully fund a restaurant, but they plan to start with a coffee, juice and snack bar. "Right now we're looking for locations, working on a budget and hoping to have a full café in a couple of years." she said.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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