After a successful sports broadcasting career, Kelly Parthen traded in her camera for cuddles, but the mother of two noticed a problem when her family went out to eat.

“Kids and healthy eating wasn’t a trend,” Parthen said.

So back in 2007, she took a leap of faith, co-founding Bean Sprouts.

“It’s hard to take that risk and open the very first one and take out loans,” Parthen said. “We did a small business loan and put in our own money. It was very, very scary.”

When the fear dissipated, excitement took its place. They nailed it.

“We have something and we know there’s a need in the market,” Parthen said.

Her excitement is still evident 11 years later, as she gave FOX21 a tour of the kitchen.

“You’re already familiar with the grilled cheese, but let’s use healthier cheese and healthier bread and let’s put a couple veggies as eyes and cut it really fun,” Parthen said. “Then they’re eating the veggies without even thinking about it.” 

Each restaurant has a little counter where kids can order for themselves, by pointing to dishes like the Crocamole, a hummus and avocado dish made to look like a crocodile.

“I really think that kids get excited about eating things that are fun,” Parthen said.

Rather than taking the “If you build it, they will come” approach, Kelly strategically put restaurants in places where families were already gathered, including zoos, children’s museums, and amusement parks.

Earlier this year, they opened a cafe at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center in Colorado Springs. Her hip and healthy cafe has been ranked among the top 100 movers and shakers in the restaurant industry three times.

The Do-Re-For-Me sandwich, a spin on a PB&J with sunflower butter, organic jam and whole wheat bread made to look like a piano, was voted the best kids meal in the country.

Their mission, getting a boost by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, brought them all the way to the White House.

Bean Sprouts is now 14 locations strong and projected to bring in about $5 million in revenue this year.

Parthen has involved her kids, who’ve served as her taste testers, in the whole process. They’ve been there for the big moments, the grand openings and the book launches, but also for the tough times. She wanted to show them perseverance, with a side of playfulness, pays off.

“There has been so many times when we could’ve given up, but we believed what we were doing,” Parthen said. “It wasn’t always an easy road, and for my kids to see that perseverance is really important.”