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Interview Series

Josh Hoffman CEO of Game Plan

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Special thanks to Josh Hoffman for coming onto our 0-100 Series show. Josh Hoffman is the CEO of an up and coming startup in Philly call Game Plan. Game Plan aims to solve the issue of booking at a restaurant for a large group. Game Plan lets you and your entire group plan out an entire evening or event together and making sure you don't forget that one poor vegan friend (everyone forgets that one vegan friend...).  The App is currently only available in Philadelphia and will be expanding soon. You can download the App for iOS here.Below is a text transcript of the video interview in case you're at work watching this and can't afford your boss finding out.

What made you took the leap into entrepreneurship?

Josh Hoffman: I always say it was the start of sophomore year of college when I think you just kind of become your own person. I kind of identified the quickest way to be successful was being an entrepreneur and starting your own company and not doing the whole step-up-to-that-point. I would say the other thing is also just...learning to completely trust yourself as opposed to trusting others. Whether personal stories or not personal stories. You learn about people losing their jobs or whatever the reason is. Or just not liking your boss or whatever.  And there's one way around that and that's being your own boss.

What were the biggest initial hurdles when building your business and how did you overcome them?

Josh Hoffman: The first thing I thought of is definitely finding a co-founder or finding a team that is internally motivated. I would say it's finding the right team. In hindsight I wish I had started coding and I spent so many years looking for a coder and if I actually spent time learning how to code that would've moved the product forward. I'd say that was the biggest difficulty. It's getting people to join on your dream.

What do you look for in a business partner?

Josh Hoffman: The number one thing I definitely look for in a co-founder is just diversity in thought so they don't think like me. Which causes argument...usually.

What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

Josh Hoffman: The biggest mistake I think we've gone through is not pushing the product out fast enough, at any capacity, or at any rate. The second we pushed the product out and we did this launch thing...it took us 2 weeks to realize we didn't have enough tangible value in the product.

What do you do to recharge when you're feeling drained?

Josh Hoffman: When I'm drained? (Josh laughs hysterically) Well it's not illegal anymore in most states.  (Continues laughing) Music. Honestly just closing your eyes and appreciating where you are. Inside you can be hurting a lot and I understand that's like...that's very hard. My grandparents were in the holocaust and they were at my age living under floorboards. And they didn't have a Bar Mitzvah because they were literally hiding from Nazis. Putting perspectives in your situation and realizing although it can be very bad...and it probably is. There are a lot of situations that are worse.

What advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs just starting out?

Josh Hoffman: Surround yourself with positive people. Network like no other. When you're younger almost everyone will say yes to giving you advice, getting coffee, or whatever. So take it every time, every single time. It's crazy for you to get this really important person right in front of you and you have the ability and correct time to get their number or email. And do something with them and follow up. But maybe that's just my sales training that got me to do that but not enough people do that.Special thanks to Josh Hoffman from Game Plan for being featured on 0-100 series. To see what he's up to visit http://getgameplan.com.  
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Business

Q&A With Wen-Jay Ying: Founder Of Local Roots NYC

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I met Wen-Jay a couple months back after stumbling into a Sustainability Commerce Popup Conference in Williamsburg.  She was among an eclectic panel of speakers that day who's company missions were not only vivid with green priority, but also deeply rooted into the fabric of their local communities. Her company, Local Roots NYC provides New Yorkers with a access to goods and produce from a network of local farmers (local meaning that their supplier's operations happen within a 250 mile radius).  It's a subscription based membership where you can sign up for different seasons, each having a variety of different seasonal foods.  Throughout the city are different "markets" where your allotted order is ready for pickup.  What's awesome about Local Roots is that their markets don't just happen anywhere, they happen at your favorite cafe or dive bar right in the heart of your local New York community.Local Roots NYC has been in operation for six years, with over 25 market sites, and over 750 members.  When meeting up with Wen-Jay at one of her market locations set up outside of a cute Brooklyn cafe, I got an overwhelmingly inclusive community vibe.  Toddlers were running around, and Local Roots members came to grab their goods while also inviting me to their yoga class later that day... I felt right at home! Here's some things we talked about that day:

How'd you come up with the idea for Local Roots?

I wanted to find a better, more social way to connect people and their communities to local farmers.  Creating Local Roots was my solution to the gap between farm to table.  Not only does it support local farmers but also the local businesses that we symbiotically partner with for our markets.

What makes this different than meal kits or other food delivery systems?

Having markets not only encourages the social aspect to shopping with us, but also greatly reduces waste.  When you order a food kit or have groceries delivered they tend to come with an excessive amount of packaging.  At are local market locations you can bring your own reusables and stop it at your favorite bar for a drink all at the same time.

How does your company take sustainability into account?

Each of our farmers practice different levels of sustainability.  Kindness to animals and to the land are extremely important to us.  Our vegetables are either Certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program, or USDA Certified Organic . While the standards and the labels are the same – organic – the USDA Organic Program favors medium to big-sized farmers, and the Certified Naturally Grown program is better suited for small farmers. The Certified Naturally Grown label was created in 2002 in response to the USDA labeling, which is expensive in terms of time (paperwork per crop) and application fees. The Certified Naturally Grown program has farmers review fellow CNG farmers and prioritizes the exchange of feedback and ideas for growth.  More info on each of our famers can be found on our Farm page if you want to check it out.

So far what has been your favorite part of starting this company?

We've been running for over six years now.  In this time I've had customers become friends.  I've seen them get married and have babies, and I've seen those babies grow up on Local Roots produce.  Now these kids are almost three and they know so much more about their farmers and where their food comes from.  Not many other three year old kids are that connected to their food and how it grows! This makes me extremely happy and proud.
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Influencers

Irie to Aurora: Van Life with Two Roaming Nomads

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I met Noami and Dustin one hot New Orleans day while moving a piano from one house to another.  Dustin was a project manager for a construction company and Noami was an environmental scientist studying the coastal systems in Louisiana.  They seemed like your average couple, but what I discovered throughout our friendship was that they were anything but average.  Like myself, they also suffered from a particularly strong and itching wanderlust.  For this, they found and created a pretty fascinating solution: why not get a van, hit the road, work remotely, and explore?Thus was born their adventure, which they interestingly named "Irie to Aurora".  Their time on the road is now nearing its first year of completion.  Along the way, they've amassed over 8,400 followers on Instagram.  Here's a sneak peak into their #vanlife journey.Who's idea was this?  How did you come up with it?I think the idea to buy a van and live on the road was both ours. When Dustin and I met it was one of the first things we talked about, and throughout our relationship, we fantasized about the idea until we finally took the leap. Best idea ever.
We both love to travel. We’ve taken road trips together as often as we could since before we were even dating. As our relationship grew, these trips became more frequent and for extended periods. We also followed other people on social media who were doing the same thing, living on the road. This inspired us to do what we had always dreamt of and talked about.How long has this journey been and how long do you plan to continue?It has been eleven months on the road and we would like to sustain this lifestyle for as long as we can. How did you come up with the name "Irie to Aurora"?Noami is from Trinidad, and the word Irie is slang meaning “powerful and pleasing; a state of feeling great.” Initially, when we planned the trip, our destination was Alaska to see the aurora borealis, hence Irie to Aurora. What has been your greatest challenge to date?Dustin works remotely so this requires us to stay on the grid most of the time and often hunt for wifi. His schedule is fluid, so finding a routine has been challenging.What do you guys do for work while on the road?Dustin currently works remotely as a construction estimator.  On the road Noami works odd jobs and freelance gigs online.What have you been the most homesick for?Overall, I don't think we’ve been particularly homesick. There have been moments where we reminisce about New Orleans and miss the little things, like the food, and the music, and the people.In what ways has this trip changed you individually and as a couple?Living on the road and sharing 80 square feet has come with its fair share of challenges. But I think it has brought us closer together. We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses in ways we never thought we could. Living in such close quarters 24/7 has forced us to be more mindful of our attitudes and how we impact each other’s “space” because tempers do flare. We’re more compassionate with each other and with ourselves. We have created a space where simplicity can flourish, a lifestyle we have both come to value. Learning to let go and let be, keeping an open heart and mind is the everyday lesson and this attitude has led to so many new friendships and experiences. Overall, life on the road has been deeply transformative, it has brought us closer to ourselves and to each other. Dustin and I are better people because of this decision and we are so grateful for each other and our life together. Plans for another road trip in the future?I think the journey we’re on is perpetual. There will be a few pit stops along the way but that’s all part of it. However, we do have plans for Canada and maybe Central and South America, after Alaska of course.What was your favorite place along the way?Hmm… Choosing a favorite place is tough because each place is so unique with its own beauty, but we love Baja, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon. Van life might not be for everyone, but their journey is enough to make you want to buy a one way ticket to a random spot on the globe.  In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to be fluid with your roots was once an impossibility that the internet is now making possible.  Perhaps this is a leap we should all consider, at least once in our lives.  Just like Tolkien said, not all those who wander are lost.
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Interview Series

Mexican Grill Franchise Chronic Tacos Has “Nothing To Hide”

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tacos california
tacos californiaThis Mexican franchise is promoting a transparent menu and a commitment to quality. With 35 locations across the country and anticipating 14 more openings in the first quarter of 2017 in California, Alabama, Colorado, Canada, North Carolina, Florida, and Washington,
Chronic Tacos is taking over with their fast casual franchise. The Mohammed brothers, Michael, Dave, Dan and Joey, lead the franchise towards growth across North America. Chronic Tacos started a campaign called “Nothing to Hide” to highlight traceability, all-natural proteins, and eco-friendly products in all their locations. You can find customizable burritos, tacos, tostada bowls, and much more with the following quality commitments:  ·      All natural proteins with no artificial ingredients, hormones. ·      Non-GMO tortilla options ·      Eco-friendly paper products that are compostable and biodegradable ·      Full traceability in the supply chain for all produceSpeaking to Michael Mohammed, we were able to get an in-depth look into their “Taco Life” including company culture and The Annual Taco Eating Contest. 

What is your favorite thing to order at Chronic Tacos?

I almost always order a Carne Asada Bowl-rito with added shrimp: half cabbage, half lettuce, Spanish rice, Pinto beans, with guac and Roja hot sauce on the side.

What differentiates Chronic Tacos from competitors?

chronic tacos california What makes Chronic Tacos unique is how we’re celebrating the individuality of our guests through our completely customizable menu. All of our ingredients are laid out in front of the guests, allowing them freedom and creativity with their meals.While we grow as a brand, we continue to remain true to our roots and our third-generation recipes. Our celebration of authenticity is seen through our high-quality ingredients. Our Pico de Gallo, guacamole, and hot sauces are made from scratch, and you can really taste the difference. Our dedication to the quality of our food separates us from other Fast Casual chains.We remain unparalleled in that we’re not just a Fast Casual chain, we’re a lifestyle brand. From the custom artwork on our walls, the music playing in our restaurants, and our involvement with action sports– the Taco Life embodies authenticity, activity, and individuality.

Describe the company culture.

Our culture encompasses open mindedness without the fear of change. Our everyday environment tends to be pretty easy going; we believe in working hard and having fun. Humor is a big part of who we are, as we try not to take ourselves too seriously, but despite our laid-back environment, we are very results driven.

What are your backgrounds?

I come from a very entrepreneurial family, and I have a background in finance and sales. I was a financial analyst at Boeing, then worked for the family business in sales. After working for the family business, my brothers and I partnered in some real estate developments and private investing, which eventually lead us to Chronic Tacos.

What inspires you to continue to grow the Chronic Tacos franchise?

We love what we do. I love working with my family to build something that we believe in, it’s very fulfilling. We’re driven by what we believe Chronic Tacos can be, we believe in this brand’s potential. Seeing people embrace the uniqueness and individuality of what we call the “Taco Life” inspires us.

What are some of your favorite events that you’ve held?

The Annual Taco Eating contests are always a lot of fun. We partner with Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce and bring in professional eaters, like the eating champion Takeru Kobayashi. It’s a great opportunity to have fun and interact with our customers and fans.We also have a good time with our Grand Opening parties, there’s live music, prize giveaways, and amateur taco eating contests. We cater Angels Baseball events and Live Nation– those are great, too.

How did you decide on your branding?

When we bought the company, we loved the uniqueness of the brand, but it seemed disjointed. We decided to focus on what we found important: the authenticity of our food and culture. Our branding and art needed to reflect that. We use Day of the Dead artwork to tie into our authentic recipes, and our music shows our Southern California roots.

Who are some high profile people you’ve worked with?

Every year, we work with Ryan Sheckler and the Sheckler Foundation for the Skate For A Cause event. This event keeps us involved with action sports and is a great opportunity for us to give back to the community. Jason 'Wee Man' Acuña is a long-time business partner of ours who we have a great relationship with. He owns a Chronic Tacos in Long Beach. We also partner with Dexter Holland of The Offspring. He owns Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce and we partner with them for our Annual Taco Eating contest.

Why did you go into the restaurant industry?

My brothers and I saw an opportunity with this brand, we saw potential in it. We were confident that we could utilize our skill sets in a way that would enhance the brand.

Where do you see the company in the near future?

We will continue to grow nationally and open new stores. As we continue to expand, we won’t lose sight of where we started. We want to be one of the most respected brands in the industry, with a customer base who appreciates the experience we provide. It’s important to us to be a franchise that franchisees want to partner with. 
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