Sometimes the best things in life come from unlikely sources. This is at least what longtime Colorado resident and practicing lawyer, Elizabeth “Biz” McDermott, has taught us about her Denver-based food truck, Keenwah, Co.

The University of Denver law graduate and self-proclaimed health and fitness enthusiast realized she wasn’t in love with her career path and decided to change course.

Noticing a lack of healthy fast food options, Biz and her now husband, Nick Crofoot, came up with an idea to create a quick-service food truck, using quinoa (phonetically pronounced KEEN-wah, get it?) – a grain-like seed rich with vitamins and minerals – as the main ingredient.

In fall 2013, she bought a used Hostess delivery van that was used to deliver Twinkies – and tapped veteran food truck fabricator, Chuck Courter, to outfit the truck. She also hired a holistic cooking chef to create a quinoa-based menu, drawing on global flavors and a cuisine that would appeal to the masses.

Not long after Keenwah, Co. hit the road, rumblings of the food truck’s yummy dishes caught the attention of the Westword, 5280 and FOX 31, and most recently, USA Today. The success has allowed them to hire three more employees, including chefs and managing operators, to keep up with the high volume of hungry customers.

We chatted with Biz, who still operates the truck and jokes that she’ll sometimes dispense free legal advice to return customers, to find out how Keenwah, Co. became the model business it is today.

What was the most intimidating thing about starting a business?

The hardest part for me was I had zero experience in the food industry. It was like the blind leading the blind. I had no idea what equipment or appliances were needed, so I really had to do my research and work with people who had experience in the industry. I hired Chuck Courter of Team 20, LLC, who had lots of experience fabricating food trucks, and was immensely helpful in getting our truck up and running After the menu and ingredients were solidified, I hired chefs with extensive culinary experience to run the day-to-day operations.

Why quinoa? And why a food truck?

I’ve done lots of research on healthy and beneficial foods. Quinoa is considered a superfood since it’s high in protein, minerals and vitamins. It’s also touted as one of the best foods to eat. So we thought this was a great way to introduce a healthy, delicious food to the public.

We opted for a food truck to test our concept first and see if people actually liked it. If it worked well, the plan was to eventually open a brick and mortar location.

Why do you think Keenwah, Co. is so popular?

Keenwah Co dish

Denver’s a very health conscience place. So when folks see a healthier option, they usually gravitate towards it. People come back because our food is healthy and tastes really good. It’s not only health food fanatics, but people who just appreciate delicious food. To appeal to a wide range of customers, we make quinoa mac and cheese, quinoa and black bean sliders, quinoa falafel, quinoa quesadillas and quinoa almond butter blondies. You can always add chicken, steak, tofu, or salmon to any dish, so there’s really something in it for everyone.

When did you realize your concept was going to take off?

That first summer of operation. I was surprised by how well we did. Within the first couple weeks, 5280 and Westword published an article on us. That press coverage was encouraging and the volume of customers we received, totally surpassed our expectations.

What advice do you have for those starting a business?

Do your homework, especially if your idea isn’t in an industry you’re familiar with. Talk to experts and learn as much as you can. I think the most important thing is to not let fear and uncertainty takeover and limit you. Instead, turn into perseverance and the desire to succeed. Otherwise, you won’t last.

FirstBank’s mission is to help businesses get big. It’s one of the reasons we advertise customers on billboards and feature them on our blog. In the spirit of our Food Truck Friday customer appreciation program, where every Friday until August 5, customers can get free a lunch, we’re highlighting FirstBank customer and Food Truck Friday participant Keenwah, Co.

Are you a customer? Come try their food at our 6th and Speer location on Friday, August 5th.

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