Fashion in the kitchen? You bet, as long as the cook’s wearing the Kitchen Boa, the creation of Laura Laiben, founder and owner of the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Located in Downtown Overland Park, the Culinary Center offers cooking classes, hosts team building events and private functions, and houses a retail shop that also offers grab-and-go meals.
Now Laiben’s creativity in the kitchen has literally spilled over into designing and making wearables for cooks and other kitchen items. Her first product is the Kitchen Boa.
The Kitchen Boa, which resembles a scarf, starts with a fashionable piece of material that hangs around the cook’s
neck and has dishtowels at both ends.
It currently retails for $18.95.
“The Kitchen Boa is a stylish reinvention of the tea towel,” Laiben said. “It was something that was designed because I grew up with my mom throwing her kitchen towel over her shoulder. I had seen something similar to it, but I took the concept and redesigned it.”
Laiben came up with the idea about
five years ago and started fabricating the Kitchen Boa locally. She tapped into local sewing talent—her boyfriend’s 84-year-
old mother—to make them.
“She’s a beautiful seamstress,” Laiben said.
The Culinary Center carries dozens of designs and makes them in styles for women, men and children.
The Kitchen Boa took a big step forward during the last 12 months when Demdaco, a national giftware and home décor company based in Leawood, Kan., made a deal with Laiben to license them.
Laiben said that Demdaco had been doing team building with the Culinary Center, and the relationship took off from there. “Their director of product development asked me where we sourced the Kitchen Boa, and one thing led to another,” Laiben said.
Demdaco has the licensing rights to 16 designs of the Kitchen Boa, and Laiben gets a royalty on sales. The deal takes the product into hundreds of stores across the country and Canada. Laiben retains the exclusive right to sell the Kitchen Boa in the metro, except for Kansas City Hallmark stores. The Kitchen Boas can be purchased at The Culinary Center or through kcculinary.com or at Kansas City area Hallmark stores.
The Kitchen Boa licensing deal with Demdaco includes a second product—hooks with magnets that can be used in the kitchen for hanging the Kitchen Boa—or, really, any number of items such as leashes, keys, jackets and towels. The hooks have the same stylish and fun feel as the Kitchen Boa. Presales started in September, and the first shipment went out to stores in mid-January. Laiben has several other concepts in the pipeline as well.
Laiben recently attended AmericasMart annual gift show in Atlanta as a guest artist for Demdaco.
“This has been an amazing experience for me. Taking an idea to international sales is amazing. It is a lesson in being open to things that come along and identifying opportunities and acting on them,” she said. “People don’t always have the confidence to do that. The experience
has spurred me to think of other things I can invent.”
And Laiben continues to build the Culinary Center’s core business—teaching others about the joys of cooking. The Center offers more than 600 classes each year and is adding new ones all the time in addition to 200-250 private events and culinary teambuildings. The Center is bringing back foodie field trips, Pop Up lunches and expanding its retail shop, especially its Dinners on Demand chef-prepared frozen dishes. The moves are all timed to coincide with redevelopment efforts going on in the Downtown Overland Park area that will bring hundreds of residential units into mixed-use projects.