Eye on KELOLAND: Businesses innovating during COVID-19 pandemic


Small businesses are used to being innovative. When the pandemic took over KELOLAND, several here in Sioux Falls partnered up to try and get through it.  Stensland Family Farms and Chef Jeni are two of those companies joining forces to provide new services for customers and new sources of revenue for themselves.

Life can be tricky for a catering business during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We don’t know for how long and I guess we’re all scared. I’m trying to keep my employees paid as long as I can,” Jeni Thomas, owner of Chef Joni & Company said.

Thomas says navigating through this is challenging but she’s finding the right ingredients for success.

“I hate to say it but it’s been good. I mean I feel guilty at times because we’re doing well. I feel like we’re providing a good service for people as well. It’s picking up all the time,” Thomas said.

Although catering weddings with 400 people isn’t happening right now, Jeni is seeing demand for individually packaged meals boil up thanks to some regular customers.

“Mothers. They’re out of ideas. I feel bad for them because they’ve got kids at home. They’ve got home school and keep everybody entertained. The least I can do is cook for people,” Thomas said.

Not only is she cooking for people, but she’s also preparing food for another small business like herself.

Mark Stensland with Stensland Family Farms says his family’s business is making more milk these days and dairy products for carry-out items. On top of Stensland’s own top sellers, it’s teaming up with Breadsmith, The Cake Lady and of course, Chef Jeni.

“So we’ll have these take-home meals all the time. Which is really, really exciting. It’s going to be in collaboration with some of her recipes and some of our family recipes. We’re going to be using all Stensland products in the recipes. That was one stipulation that we asked that she do,” Stensland said.

“When the catering business dried up a little bit, we had to change gears. They called me last week and said, ‘You know what? You already know how to do this. Let’s go forward.’ I said ok. So I use all their cheese and cream and as much dairy products of theirs that I can. It’s been great,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been an admirer of what Stensland puts on the table for a while.

“Oh goodness, gracious they are far and above anything you can get,” Thomas said. “They’re just good, quality products.”

The collaboration makes sense and is part of a mission for Stensland.

“One thing that we have to do is we need to make sure that we as local business owners, that we work together and support each other and promote each other. This is a perfect way to do it because her product is phenomenal,” Stensland said.

It’s something Stensland wouldn’t be able to do on its own.

“We couldn’t do a lot of them because of time constraints and people. We didn’t have the people to help,” Stensland said.

Scooping up new support and handing out different products during the pandemic.

“We’re always looking for those unique things that we can add to our palette of products and then run with it. I think that’s what the community and people are looking for,” Stensland said.

Unique items and an end to COVID-19. Thomas hopes life gets back to normal soon.

“For everyone to be safe. I just want to help people out the best I can. I guess that’s all any of us can ask for,” Thomas said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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