Writing for Owners Mag, I get to hear from many entrepreneurs. Learning about their successes is always very intriguing. No two stories are alike. Sometimes, I hear stories that make me think, ‘man if only I came up with that idea!’ or ‘this guy is a genius.’ But my favorite stories don’t go that way at all.
Take Andrew Simmons’ story, for example. He founded OrangeCrate, a service that specializes in delivering food in rural communities. It’s not a game-changing app or a flashy new product. It’s a service – a simple enough service – that owes its success to Andrew’s entrepreneurial spirit. He identified a problem and came up with a solution.
You may have never thought much about your food’s journey from the restaurant to your doorstep. Or maybe you’ve come to expect poor quality when you order delivery. But thanks to Andrew Simmons, OrangeCrate is looking to change all of that.
Tell me about OrangeCrate.
ANDREW: We built OrangCrate under the premise that rural communities needed to have restaurant deliveries as well. When we started (in Ramona, CA), the larger players were not in our space at all. We’re like a tier 3, tier 4 city. DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates were all in the tier 1 cities. It was just low-hanging fruit.
We launched about 6 years ago to a bunch of restaurants that said it was the dumbest idea they’d ever heard. They thought no one would actually pay to have food delivered, even though places like dominoes have been doing it for years. In our market, we only had Domino’s Pizza and maybe Pizza Hut. There were about 44 restaurants that had no delivery whatsoever, so that was our first foray into it. We did one or two orders per day for a couple of weeks, and that started to slowly build more volume from word of mouth.
Now you have franchises set up in different towns?
ANDREW: I wouldn’t call them franchises. It’s more like a licensing agreement. When we were running Ramona, we were making ‘ok money,’ but we knew that we could use our whole back-end operations to power other locations. Our second location was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We had two drivers work for us in Ramona. They got married and wanted to be closer to family. So, they moved back home and started the second OrangeCrate. We used that experience to learn how to open up more locations. We look for people who have the hustle but don’t have the money to open up their own franchise or get a license. Then, we teach them what we know about working with restaurants and drivers, and then we completely fund everything they need.
If you can hustle, we completely cover the cost to start up that business share the profits at 50/50. And at a pretty high level. It’s gross food sales minus cost, and we split it 50/50 from there. We cover everything they needed from payroll to marketing. At the end of the month, we make about 8% from every city, and they make about 49%.
What were some hurdles you guys faced in the first couple of years that you weren’t expecting?
ANDREW: The insurance was a huge hurdle for us. We were able to work a deal with an insurance company that we paid on a per order basis rather than overall. Usually, insurance is like 75k a year per city, but we were able to come to an agreement with a company where it worked out to something like 40 cents an order. That made it more favorable for us to grow and expand.
Although we did start in a rural market and we’ve expanded into rural markets, over the years, we’ve bought other restaurant delivery services, which is why we’re in bigger places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Pensacola, Florida.
Was the goal always to start rural and then go into more populated towns?
ANDREW: No. There were so many rural communities out there, and we felt that we could be in those communities and not be touched by DoorDash or UberEATS. Since then, DoorDash and those larger companies have tried to make inroads into the rural communities, but they then run into trouble finding drivers. You can find plenty of drivers in large metropolitan areas – I should take that back. You could find lots of drivers before the stimulus payments. Nowadays, it’s a hustle within itself to find drivers. You make more money staying home.
The side hustle has been undercut by these stimulus checks.
How were you guys able to have an edge in the rural communities over DoorDash and GrubHub?
ANDREW: With OrangeCrate, we teach all of our drives how to deliver food properly. We use a certain health standard bag. It maintains the temperature you have to keep the food at – both cold and hot.
It’s the whole customer service with the consumer and how you dress to make that food delivery. We’re building a standard called Deliver Safe that teaches other drivers how to do the same thing in other markets.
One of the things with DoorDash and UberEATS is the driver grabs the food in the bag from the restaurant, they toss it in the front seat of the car, drive to wherever, and hand it off to the consumer. But if it was hot food when it left the restaurant, it’s lukewarm by the time it gets to the consumer – or worse. There’s no care in extending the restaurant’s brand once the driver leaves the restaurant. With our smaller services, we have this hands-on approach with the restaurants. It’s all local: local delivery, local service, local people. That tends to resonate better than national delivery companies that don’t seem to care other than to collect money from the restaurant.
Most people don’t put much thought into the distance between a restaurant and their home, but that plays a huge part. I know many restaurants are apprehensive about delivery because they can plate up the food and have it be served just right in their restaurant. But, there’s an X factor with the delivery driver where they don’t know what it will look like on the other end.
ANDREW: Exactly. From our experience, we’ve seen all sorts of drivers from the other services. Even within our community, DoorDash has tried to move into Ramona. They have one driver up here, and we see him using those flimsy bags that aren’t keeping anything hot or cold.
For Las Cruces, New Mexico, we deliver to White Sands Air Force Base, which I think is 25 miles away. We’re able to keep food at that approximate temperature for up to 60 minutes by the time we get it to the consumer. They can still have hot food from Joe’s BBQ shack, whereas the same food coming from DoorDash, assuming they would even go that far – they usually limit their distance to 7 miles, they lose a lot of the warmth factor of their food. Not to mention how it’s handled.
What was an ‘I made it’ moment for OrangeCrate?
ANDREW: I don’t know if this was exactly an ‘I made it’ moment but, we started in 2016 with about $5k to start up the company. We now do revenue in excess of 6 million a year. This past year we paid off almost $300,000 in debt to come into 2021 completely debt-free.
I don’t know if there’s one moment but knowing how we do what we do – it works for us. As such, it’s allowed me to do things for myself. I volunteer at the RMDA (Restaurant Marketing and Delivery Association). It’s about 700 independent companies like myself. I’m able to take time out of my day and help them – mentor them on how to grow in their markets. Many of them are smaller than me, some of them are bigger.
How was COVID for OrangeCrate?
ANDREW: COVID was actually pretty good for OrangeCrate. Pretty good for most delivery services. It wasn’t great for restaurants. I also own a restaurant. We bought it a month before COVID became a thing. It was this 40-year-old Italian restaurant in Ramona. It was a treasure. Everyone was sad that it was leaving, but it was struggling to survive before COVID.
We bought it because we knew delivery, so we figured that’s how we would turn things around. (Due to COVID) we ended up essentially breaking even for the year even though we upped the delivery. We couldn’t do any dine-in whatsoever for a long time. Now that’s all starting to come back, so we think it will be a good investment for us, but that’s a whole other aspect to what we do that was new to learn. We ended up losing something like $10,000/month on the restaurant end, but we made up for it on the OrangeCrate end.
Before the pandemic, restaurants viewed delivery services as not as critical to their existence as dine-in. As soon as COVID hit, and they could no longer do dine-in, we had to help so many restaurants pivot to delivery. And if a restaurant wasn’t known for doing delivery, it was an uphill battle for marketing to get food in front of the consumer. But we did it. In Ramona, we didn’t lose a single restaurant that I know of within our own community.
Sounds like that’s in large part because of you.
Do you have a ballpark percentage on how much your deliveries went up last year?
ANDREW: I’d say probably about 130% year over year but I’d have to look at the numbers to be certain.
There’s a spectrum of entrepreneurs. On one end, there’s that person who says, ‘I want to be in business for myself. How do I do that?’ Then there’s that other person who ends up going into business for themselves because they have a product or a service that was a great idea, and they had to see it through. Where do you see yourself in that spectrum?
ANDREW: I’m the first one. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 14 years old. My first job was working at a fruit stand in Colorado where I literally rode by on my bike, and they screamed ‘Hey, boy!’ for me to come over and help them. I ended up running the fruit stand for them. Pops and Edith: they were older than dirt. I started moving produce from the bins to the truck to running my own location for them.
At some point, the Mac 128 came out. I opened up a graphic design business. A couple of years after that, I ended up owning a digital print shop.
It’s actually kind of funny. I bought my first digital press from Xerox in ‘96. It’s a million-dollar press and, you know I have no money. So, I fill out the documentation and everything. And Xerox calls my bank, and my bank says, ‘he has low 3 figures in his bank account,’ and Xerox thinks they misheard, and they said low 6 figures, and they delivered me this million-dollar press. It was awesome. It was a mistake on their part that helped me grow my business significantly. And after that, I bought a second digital press, and we did great.
I ended up selling the company and doing sales for a number of years. Then about 15 years ago, my wife and I adopted 6 kids together all at once. We had to decide which one of our jobs was more stable because one of us would have to quit to help take care of them. I ended up quitting. I knew I could always find a way to make money. Years later, I started OrangeCrate.
Last thing: any words of wisdom for entrepreneurs trying to get their idea off the ground?
ANDREW: Just keep at it. There’s plan A and if that doesn’t work, there’s 25 remaining letters in the alphabet.
Olympic Medalist Dotsie Bausch Wants You To Switch4Good
Have you ever wondered why milk is required in public school lunches? The United States is the only country in the world that requires children to drink cow’s milk.
“Holy crap, what are we doing? Why are we feeding – especially to children, of which 70 percent of them cannot digest – Why are we making them drink this fluid?”
It’s a little weird, no?
Maybe it wasn’t so weird in the 1940s… 1840s… or 840s…
Today, however, we’ve learned a thing or two about how cow’s milk affects our bodies.
“Upwards of 70 percent of the world’s population cannot digest cow’s milk, and it makes you quite sick – this lactose intolerance. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty awful.
“Wheezing, stuffy nose, coughing. And then big-time gut distress: constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping.
“It’s pretty gnarly.”
It may take some time for us to shake the familiarity of cow’s milk in our diets. We’ve been inundated with cow’s milk (or just “milk,” for the layperson) from ads, culture, government requirements, lobbyist pressure, and dairy farmers.
Here’s The Truth About Milk…
Milk is meant for the babies of the mammals producing it. Cow’s milk is for calves. Human milk is for babies. Cat’s milk is for kittens. You get it.
Mammalian milk contains the necessary fats and vitamins for us to grow into strong healthy grown mammals. We, and every other infant mammal, contain an enzyme that allows us to digest that milk. That enzyme disappears once breastfeeding has concluded.
Northern European farmers were among the first to go “You know what? I want to try that cow’s milk. I mean… why not, right?” roughly 6000 years ago. Or so the theory states. Over time, they developed a genetic mutation to the enzyme that allows us to digest milk. These humans evolved to digest cow’s milk for as long as they were alive.
This familiarity with cow’s milk extended into the business world when it came time to make money off of that sweet, sweet utter juice. Milk was everywhere: delivered to our door by the milkman, in our schools, in our breakfast cereals.
Imagine getting made fun of for not putting milk in your cereal as a kid. Guess who’s the weirdo now, Stacy?!
Soon enough, “Got Milk?” entered the zeitgeist. Along with it, the idea that to be a successful athlete, you needed to drink milk. If Cal Ripken can play more consecutive games than any other baseball player, it must be the milk, right?
Speaking of athletes. Did you know that milk is the official sponsor of Team USA?
PED – Performance Enhancing Dairy
“New Zealand and the United States are the only countries in the world whose Olympic Committees are not government funded. They have to go out and get private funding.”
Enter the dairy industry to save the day! With “Got Milk?” featuring every famous athlete under the sun, it makes total sense that they would sponsor the Olympics. Since the government can’t be bothered, apparently.
“I have been exposed to and definitely pressured upon throughout that journey that milk – the mammalian secretions of the cow – are the only real way for athletes to recover from hard workouts, the only real way to build muscle and muscle tissue, and to repair and recover.
“I started to peel back all of the layers on everything that I had been taught and learned and really recognized that it was truly coming from a marketing perspective, not from an evidence-based perspective.”
It was at that moment, during the 2012 London Games (after winning the Silver in cycling), that inspired Dotsie Bausch to start Switch4Good.
“I had this idea to put on a commercial on the closing ceremonies of what then was the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on NBC that basically has seven of us, all Olympic athletes from four different countries.
“We’re standing up and saying, ‘Hey, guess what? We don’t need cows’ milk to recover. This isn’t the truth. It’s not a thing. And there are thousands of athletes that are finding a new way forward.’
“The dairy industry got it kicked off after it aired three times.”
Angering The Milk Masters
That move only served to fire Dotsie Bausch and her fellow athletes up. After being silenced by the dairy lobby, Switch4Good only got deeper and more motivated. The best way to crush your adversary is to silence them, right?
Smooth move, milk hawkers. You couldn’t just let it be. You just had to keep making your milk money.
Thanks to Big Milk’s fear and power, Switch4Good got strategizing.
“We work in two ways: behavior and culture change, but we also work on systemic change. We do quite a bit of work right now specifically to change the laws in the United States: that children have to be fed cow’s milk in schools. And if they don’t want one, they have to have a milk note from their parents.
“So, we’re working with members of Congress. It’s actually a regulatory change, not a statutory change. So it doesn’t have to be voted on.”
They even had a win.
“One of our big wins from last year was getting the dietary guidelines of America to put soy milk in as nutritionally equivalent so that here is a choice.
“Now we have to implement the choice into schools.”
Soy milk?! In public schools?! How… reasonable.
Some of you may consider soy milk in public schools to be hippie nonsense. But you’d be wrong. What is nonsense is drinking mammalian secretions from a mammal that is not at all related to humans.
Frankly, gorilla milk would make more sense.
Switch4Good and its mission to convert all dairy consumers into non-dairy consumers is an uphill battle. There isn’t just resistance from the powerful dairy industry. There’s personal resistance from smaller communities.
It wouldn’t be America without someone yelling, “You can’t tell me what to do!” Right?
Dotsie Bausch understands this better than you think.
“I grew up for thirty-five years of my life eating animals and the products of animals . . . loving animals, but mistreating them via I was a competitive horseback rider. So, it’s a journey and it’s painful to unpack 100 percent.”
“If you believe that we’re all equal – and I mean all – whether you have four legs or two, whether you have hair all over your body or just on your head – that [humans and animals] should have a relationship of mutuality and respect, not extraction.
“And that is how we treat so many animals – especially our food – as a product to extract from.
“That’s not equality, and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Convincing The Milk Drinkers
When it comes to convincing people to Switch4Good (see what I did there?) the strategies vary. What often gets people in the door is their own health. Say you want to cut dairy out and you start by drinking your coffee black. The idea of keeping yourself healthy is enough to check out Switch4Good and what they have to offer.
That, as Dotsie Basuch has pointed out, isn’t the “stickiest” of strategies. People give up on themselves for a variety of reasons.
If Dotsie Bausch and company want people to Switch4Good (look, I did it again!) they need to consider all strategies. One of the “stickiest,” according to market research, is the ethics side to this debate.
How Does Bessie Feel?
Imagine, just for a moment, that you’re a cow. You’re just trying to live your life, eating your cud, enjoying the sun, lying down when it’s about to rain. It’s kinda nice, no?
All is well when – suddenly – your perfectly nice day is interrupted by forcible impregnation.
You carry your calf to term, about nine months or so. Then you give birth (hopefully with the help of a ranchhand in the midst of their own coming-of-age story).
THEN, if forced impregnation wasn’t enough, you have your beautiful baby calf taken away from you.
Now, the milk you have produced to make your calf big and strong is now being harvested and extracted for some other entitled mammal to consume from a tiny paper carton in between math and gym.
Not only that, but sometimes it’s wasted through the nose of some snotty child, or mixed with chocolate like some kind of dessert! It’s even been used to ruin perfectly delicious coffee.
So, you’re forced to have a calf, it’s taken from you, and so is the milk you produce. All for the glorious pleasure of wealthy industry tycoons. Then, next year, it happens all over again.
Not so fun being the cow, is it?
Taking On Big Milk
Dotsie Bausch and Switch4Good have their work cut out for them. They’re fighting an uphill battle against industry, government, culture, and the stubborn.
“We’re still at the beginning. So quite honestly, I feel proud of the team that goes out every day – no matter how many doors are slammed in our face – because the door slams multiple times a day. It’s not like we’re getting water to children in sub-Saharan Africa. Everybody on planet Earth is like, ‘Yup, that’s a good idea!’ We are still seeding the idea that [consuming dairy] is not a good idea.
“We’re not doing something that’s popular. We’re doing something that’s straight up against the grain . . . eye-to-eye with the status quo. And it’s hard to get up every day with hope because it’s not wildly popular what we’re doing – nor do many people want to lean into it – it’s very hard to get attention and recognition.
“It’s the fierceness and the grit of the team to wake up every day and get creative and keep fighting.”
If anyone can get everyone in the world to Switch4Good (last time, I swear) it’s Dotsie Bausch and company.
Will you Switch4Good?
Sustainability in PR – How Alyson Roy of AMP3 Approaches Social Responsibility
Public relations are the one aspect of startup life that entrepreneurs either care too little about or care too much about. Alyson Roy, cofounder of AMP3 PR, stands out among a crowded field.
“The way PR has evolved over the last decade and a half. It’s not what it was. I think start ups and entrepreneurs need to know what PR is today in 2021.”
Alyson Roy has a full understanding of what companies need and want from a PR agency. Having run AMP3 for 17 years now, if anyone has her finger on the public relations pulse, it’s Alyson Roy.
What Is AMP3?
AMP3 “amplifies” its clients in three areas: traditional PR and media outreach, social media and influencer marketing, and special experiential events. This multilateral approach is combined in a unique boutique experience that sets AMP3 apart from other PR agencies.
“It’s a level of service where we become an extension of our clients internal marketing team. we’re one in the same. It’s not the client-brand relationship. [We are] on the front line helping them grow as a company.”
In the past ten to fifteen years, public relations has evolved tremendously. Since social media’s dominance, PR has had to slowly peel away from traditional press conferences and releases and figure a whole new strategy to consider.
Of course, with Facebook being in big trouble lately, Alyson Roy and company have had to consider new strategies yet again.
Taking Responsibility For The Community
“Everyone is aware of the damage that social media can do. Just for mental health and mental health awareness that’s been a conversation.”
So, AMP3 launched Impact. A social responsibility division of AMP3 that encourages and celebrates a company’s ability to give back to the community.
“We were seeing a need for brands to really start putting their core values and social responsibility at the virtual forefront.”
“We’re big believers [that] it’s not an option – it’s a requirement – for brands to be doing something. Not every brand can do all the things but every brand can do something.”
AMP3’s mission to encourage – and require – the brands they represent is a noble and different strategy. It’s almost certain that Alyson Roy and AMP3 recognize the larger picture of what consumers want and like in a company.
Why Companies Need To Care
With news stories like Facebook putting “company over country,” (as Zuckerberg is reported to have ended his staff meetings with; fist pump in the air included), it’s the smart move for companies to, you know, care.
Companies may not necessarily know what they can offer. But that’s why you collaborate with a company like AMP3. They take the time and energy to find out what your company has to offer the world. When we have the means to uplift our community, we should. AMP3 requiring that trait in companies they represent shows an initiative not often seen.
By 2022, Alyson Roy wants 100% of AMP3’s clients to be a part of this Impact division. As public relations evolve, and media writ large with it, you can expect to see Alyson Roy and AMP3 at the forefront of that evolution.
“We are growing at a rapid pace. I think PR is going to continue to evolve, I think again, it’s not going to be that traditional relationship based service. It’s going to be this strategic group of tools together with metrics. I think PR is going to be where communications and branding overlap to drive impact in measurable results.”
AMP3 is a fashion and lifestyle public relations agency located in New York. Their finely tuned and innovative, boutique approach to PR is one that stands out.
Tinker, Tailor, Tech One – Interview with Matt Mincer
While other kids were out playing sports or studying for the big test, Matt Mincer, founder of Tech One Biomedical, was fixing things.
“I was one of those kids that took everything apart and put it back together.”
Tinkering and tooling around as often as he could, you might think that Mincer was born with tools in his hands. Mincer went to a local trade school to follow this passion. He graduated and landed a job at a local biomedical repair company in Memphis.
Repairing medical equipment, specifically pathology equipment, was new to Mincer but a natural fit. Pathology equipment is anything used in a lab to study disease. Centrifuges, tissue processors, slide stainers, etc. If you can picture a lab technician using equipment, it’s probably something Mincer can fix.
Birth of Tech One Biomedical
Over the years, this local biomedical repair company was sold from one company to another, creating a corporate atmosphere that didn’t exactly jive with Mincer.
“I didn’t want to be part of a corporation. I was 28 years old living in an apartment with just me and my cat.”
In this downtown Chicago apartment, Mincer had an idea. He would start his own company. Tech One Biomedical, a biomedical tech company much like the one he started his professional career in. Using the knowledge he had accumulated plus his natural talent and passion, Mincer gathered a team of highly experienced folks.
“I’ve got very good, very experienced guys. About 100 years of experience.”
Making The Big Boys Jealous
Tech One repairs histopathology equipment. That in and of itself may not sound terribly disruptive. However, when you realize how dominated the market is by large manufacturers, Siemens for example, Tech One stands apart from the crowd.
“Some of the larger companies — there’s a whole lot of consolidation — service is a big money maker for them. The fact that people would rather call us than the big guys makes us a little disruptive.”
When lab equipment needs repair, often due to user error, they often have no choice but to turn to the manufacturer. Think of it as taking your car to the dealer for repairs instead of a local mechanic. Tech One would be your local mechanic.
As a result, people turn to Tech One over the larger manufacturers, much to their irritation. Of course, that’s the way business is supposed to go, isn’t it? Competition in the marketplace seems to be highly encouraged by proud capitalists. Yet, many of those same cheerleaders are more than happy to sit back and watch a monopoly grow.
Tech One is a disruptive company not because it’s necessarily innovative but because it gives consumers the option that they deserve. Tech One shouldn’t be disruptive simply because it does exactly what the market needs. Tech One is a success because of that.
Can Matt Fix It? He Can’t Help It
A major part of Mincer’s success is his passion for his work.
“I love what I do. I genuinely do. I’ve been asked if you could do anything other than what you’re doing what would you do? I would do exactly what I’m doing. I always have to be fixing something. I like to fix guitars and vintage audio equipment. When I get home I like to go to the basement and work on [repairs].
“That’s my passion — my passion is fixing.”
Tech One Biomedical is located in Franklin Park, just outside of Chicago and south of O’Hare International Airport. They’ve been in business since 1997 and are humming along nicely. Matt Mincer spends his free time with his wife, daughter, and cat. When he’s not fixing something he’s either cooking or brewing beer.