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LocalStove Satisfies Your Cravings For Homemade Food

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Greg Dubin
Steve and Greg believe that everyone deserves homemade meals, but realize that with our busy lives, homemade meals are not always possible. As a result, they cofounded an online platform called LocalStove that connects the best home cooks in your neighborhood to you. On their website you can select which dishes you want from a variety of home cooks, and the food will be made and delivered to your event. We had the opportunity to interview them and learn more about their entrepreneurial journey and startup.

What inspired you to become entrepreneurs in the food industry?

Steven Finn: Food has been an obsession of mine for as long as I can remember. I started developing my own skirt steak marinade at age five, had a few years where my primary source of media was the food network, and have traveled as far as Australia and back in search of the best food out there. Wherever I go, I want to eat like a local. I spent several years as a software engineer for Bloomberg, and was ready to go out on my own and build something that I had a burning passion for. I decided I wanted to found a startup before we had the idea for LocalStove, and was exploring a variety of ideas. When it came down to actually doing something, working with incredibly talented local chefs who make authentic food from all over the world made so much sense! Greg Dubin: I learned about the power of food to bring people together at a really young age. While growing up, my grandfather owned a restaurant in a small town in Wisconsin. It was the type of place where almost all the customers were regulars and everyone there knew everybody else’s name. People were drawn in by amazing comfort food (like deep fried balls of cheese as big as your fist!), but would stay for hours because they were made to feel like family. Spending a lot of time at the restaurant from as long as I can remember left a deep impression on me about the emotions that food can bring out in people and drove me to find away to impart this gift on to others, like my grandfather did. Yet, this exposure also taught me how tough owning a restaurant is. Between the brutal hours, high risk and thin margins, I realized it wasn’t the right business for me. LocalStove came about as a result of the realization that we can still create amazing culinary experiences, without a brick and mortar establishment. So, I sought to abstract away the worst parts of the restaurant business and harness tech to enable talented, passionate cooks to share their creations with the world.

What was your biggest challenge when founding LocalStove?

Steven Finn: Our biggest challenge was in deciding to take the plunge to pivot our business model. Our original model was to have our chefs offer individual meals through our website with us providing marketing, payment processing, and delivery logistics, and more. While this business was growing, it was difficult to spread the word. Then, we fell into office catering, mostly by accident. We originally viewed it as a marketing activity to sell individual meals, but corporate clients kept calling us back. We discovered that there was a real gap in the market serving small to mid size offices, where groups of around 10-75 people are too large to order effectively from restaurants and too small to get good menus for good prices from traditional caterers. These groups were regularly ending up with pizza and sub platters. This is the perfect size group for one experienced cook with no help and low overhead to cook for, and it allows us to sell much better food to offices for prices comparable to (or better than) existing options. On top of that, our cooks are making a lot more money per hour of labor than they would on virtually any other "gig economy" platform. As catering became a larger and larger portion of our revenue, we noticed that the catering model actually solved a lot of the problems we were having in individual meals. Having office catering become our primary business model was a tough call to make, but one that has worked out and allowed us to build the beginnings of a sustainable and scalable business.Greg Dubin: The biggest challenge was probably emotional or mental in nature. Mainly, just taking the plunge into pursuing our endeavor full-time. Doing so at the end of business school was particularly challenging. Right when the majority of our friends were accepting high-paying jobs in lucrative industries, we were committing to having no income for the foreseeable future with absolutely no guarantee of success. The fact that all of us were married and either had kids or kids on the way certainly made the consequences of failure feel more daunting.

How was your experience like having 2 other cofounders?

Steven Finn: Having cofounders is great. I've worked on a startup alone before, and it's hard to keep moving! Having cofounders gets everything done faster, provides a source of instant feedback on your work, and allows for rapid iteration. We are lucky to have complimentary skill sets. At this point, we know almost without talking about it who should take responsibility for something that needs to get done because we each know our cofounder's strengths and weaknesses as well as we know our own.Greg Dubin: I believe there is a study that correlated three cofounders with the highest chances of success for a startup. I completely understand why. First, launching a startup requires so much work every day, across literally dozens of areas of expertise. I truly cannot comprehend how sole founders can do it alone. Second, I cannot overstate the importance of having a diversity of opinions and perspectives when formulating strategies and finding solutions to problems. Moreover, having three cofounders instead of two helps break through impasses where only two equal founders may be at a stalemate. (Side note: Our third cofounder Henrique left the company a few months after launching to take a full time job. He left on good terms and retained a tiny bit of equity, but isn’t involve in any day-to- day operations of the business)

Why did you focus your business around home cooked meals?

Steven Finn: We believe that the best food in the world is locked behind the front doors of our neighbors. It doesn't necessarily take years of culinary training to make food that resonates deeply with people. To us, home style cooking is Grandma's recipes. It's something you've made 1,000 times, but you still love to make it. It's cooked with feeling, passion, and editorial control. We find that we're more likely to get this type of food from a local, independent cook who works for his or herself than we are from a professionally trained line cook who spends their days pumping out somebody else's recipes in a restaurant setting. We don't tell our cooks what to make or what to charge. They give us menus of what they're best at, they set their prices, and we match them with offices whose budget and dietary preferences are a good fit. On a personal note, some of our food is some of the best food I've ever had, and I'd eat at Per Se for my wedding anniversary or drive to South Dakota for a rack of ribs (Bob's Broasted Ribs in Sioux Falls!).Greg Dubin: I’ve always loved to travel and quickly came to appreciate what an immense impact food has on culture. When visiting other countries, I truly believe there is no better way learn and understand about another culture than through its cuisine. A single dish can represent the mosaic of hundreds of years of history; a cross-section of the country’s plants, animals and ecology; and the long-held, rich traditions of the people. However, you don’t have to get on a plane to have these experiences. Philadelphia represents a rich tapestry of cultures, be them ethnic, religious, or simply socially-based. All these cultures have unique, exciting and authentic foods, which until now had been locked inside people’s own kitchens. The best cooks aren’t the ones on line pumping whatever they are told to cook for minimum wage. They are the ones who truly live and breathe their cuisine, because it is a part of who they are. LocalStove’s mission is about unlocking the kitchen door and enabling these amazing cooks to share not only their food with the world, but their passion, history and story as well. Local Stove food

How do you choose and evaluate new cooks?

Steven Finn: Most of our best cooks have come to us. The value proposition of LocalStove for them is very strong. We bring them new customers who otherwise would never have found them, we handle payments, we provide them with a web presence, we deal with delivery logistics. We like to say that our cooks only have to worry about the cooking, and that they should let us worry about the details of running a food business. Evaluating cooks for LocalStove is the best part of our job. We meet with the cooks, learn their stories, and eat their food. Our cooks are great people to work with, but it's their food blows me away almost every time.Greg Dubin: Finding new cooks is actually one of the easiest parts of LocalStove. We developed a comprehensive marketing plan to attract new cooks, but haven’t had the need to implement it yet. Whenever we explain to anyone what LocalStove is about, the most common response we get is, “I know the perfect cook for you.” Pretty much everybody knows the “best cook in the world,” who makes incredible food but has no desire to actually open their own restaurant. As far as evaluation, the cooks have to go through our screening process before being allowed to post food on the platform. Part of this involves us trying the food first, which is definitely one of the best perks of the job. We also usually to have friends and loyal customers sample the food as well and give us their honest opinions. Ultimately though, it is really the user ratings that will determine how successful a cook will be on LocalStove. The best cooks rise to the top pretty quickly and can command higher prices for their meals. Cooks who aren’t incredible fall to the bottom pretty quickly and don’t get orders. Furthermore, if their rating falls below a certain threshold we remove them from the platform.

Cook at LocalStove What are some memorable company milestones, and what developments do you project for this year?

Steven Finn: Getting our first "subscription" customer for LocalStove was amazing. Having somebody tell us that they loved our food so much that they wanted to have it again every week was something I'll never forget. Passing $100,000 in sales was great as well, and we can't wait to add a digit and get to $1,000,000 and beyond!Greg Dubin: One of our cooks is a culinary student who was also working a part time job to help put herself through school. She recently told us that she was able to quit this job that she hated, because LocalStove was giving her enough income to support herself. This was a powerful reminder of why we do what we do.

What is one character trait that defines you and why?

Steven Finn: I love to learn new things, and I always have. I like to understand how things work. I have three Penn degrees in totally different subjects (Operations, Entrepreneurship, and Computer Science), and am always reading about something new. Entrepreneurship is the best way to learn rapidly that I've found yet.Greg Dubin: Believing that there is always a solution to any problem. This means never admitting “it's impossible” when faced with a challenge. Instead of asking “can we,” I only ask, “how can we?”

What are your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Steven Finn: Don't pursue a great idea that you aren't passionate about. If you wouldn't be a user of your product, it doesn't matter how great the idea or opportunity is, you are not the person to execute on it. Make sure if you get into something that it's a field that you're willing to spend the next 5+ years in and be eager to learn everything about it. Also, I can't stress the idea of putting something out into the world quickly enough. We started selling food less than three weeks after we initially had the idea for LocalStove, and we've learned so much because of the pace. I've worked at a startup where we spent way too long in a room, figuring out every little detail of our product to make it perfect before launching, and we failed before we'd even finished the product. Startup guru Steve Blank says that "No business plan survives first contact with customers." He's right. The only way to move quickly enough toward real product market fit in an industry like ours is to put something out in the world, double down on what works, and quickly abandon what doesn't. Greg Dubin: Focus all your energy on finding product-market fit and don’t be afraid to pivot. Don’t spending all your time and resources developing what you think is a perfect product before you know if enough people are actually going to buy it. Instead, get your MVP out there as quickly as possible and see how it resonates with various audiences. If the product-market fit is right, they will accept an imperfect product because they innately see the value of what you are trying to do. Once you’ve identified the right customer base, engage and listen to them. They will be your most valuable resources for perfecting your product and driving your company’s direction.

Aaditi Tamhankar is a student at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. In her free time she can be found cooking healthy food, running, and watching too much Youtube.

Business

Foot Cardigan Taking Socks One Step Further

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Socks Foot Cardigan
Seeing packages in the mail is probably one of the most underrated and exciting things that happen to us in our digital world. You may know them as the guys on Shark Tank that ripped off their pants.
Foot Cardigan is a sock subscription that sends you random socks once a month. From holiday themed to socks covered in sushi, be sure to be surprised every time. Their fun, colorful Instagram feed is a small taste of what you will receive. We interviewed the founder of Foot Cardigan, Bryan Deluca, about how the company got to where they are today.Bryan Deluca Foot Cardigan

How did Foot Cardigan get started?

We fell in love with the subscription model after seeing that viral Dollar Shave Club video in 2012. Socks are a commodity so we knew we had a shot at having some success within the space if we came at it from a different angle, you know, like a subscription. Et voila!

Why socks?

The 'fun, crazy, fashion' sock trend was just getting going, so we kind of were at the right place at the right time. I had a little experience in sourcing so I was able to find our first factories and get that going. But I really loved the idea of taking this historically boring product, like a sock, and making buying/receiving it fun.

What makes your socks different from competitors?

Over the last four years, I think we've created our niche within the larger sock industry. Of course I think our product is as good or better than other brands out there, so when you're competing, you have to make sure there's just a quality standard there, or people won't buy your stuff. But beyond that, we've really separated ourselves with our design aesthetic. The words 'whimsical' and 'fun' are probably the most circulated within our design team. But really, it goes beyond the socks. It's the brand. The tone. It's unique to our industry.

Describe your subscription service.

Most people don't think about buying socks until they have to. They've got holes in their current ones, so now they've got to go to the store to buy new ones. It can be a hassle. But with Foot Cardigan, we give you something you need (socks), and we give you an experience you wouldn't expect for such an historically mundane product. You get a random pair of fun socks in your mailbox every month. You don't know what you're getting until you open the package. That's one of our customers' favorite things about us. We make the decision for them, and they get the surprise in their mailbox. No one gets fun mail anymore. And we're proof that people still crave it.team foot cardigan

Tell me about your team.

It's really a privilege to work with them every day. They work really hard and are really smart. About half our team is operations and customer service and the other half is marketing/web. It's a good blend of creative people. When I say creative, I don't mean just the designers. We need every position to be creative, with how we respond to customers and how we ship out socks.

Describe your company culture.

It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect from us. Meaning, if you've been to our site or received our socks and you walked into our office, it would make complete sense to you. A lot of laughing. A lot of energy. Whimsical decor. Every person on our team is empowered to do their jobs. And they're encouraged if they make mistakes, because when we make mistakes, we learn and get better. We love taking risks. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. We give our team the freedom to think about how to do things better, without the fear of judgement. That matters.

How has being on Shark Tank and HSN affected your business?

The've both been really great. Both are experiences that you never expect to happen, but when they do, you're kind of like 'WHAT?!?! Did that just happen?' But yeah, our business greatly benefited from both experiences.

Do you plan on expanding your product line?

I'm so excited about this. Over the last four years, we've launched four products. In the next 12 months, we have plans to launch almost double that. planets foot cardigan

What inspires you?

My family. They are my rock. My three-year old doesn't care that I was on Shark Tank and she doesn't care if I had a challenging day at work. She just wants daddy to cuddle her and play Candy Land. That's really refreshing for me. I thrive off seeing my friends succeed. I have a lot of friends in different industries that are so damn good at what they do. When they have victories, we celebrate, and when they fail, we cry. Being around people who challenge themselves to be the best they can at what they do. That gets me every time.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

To soak in every single moment of this ride. I find moments every single day to be thankful. I often find myself saying 'I can't believe I GET to do this every day.' Because I'm not guaranteed this will last forever. So I'm going to enjoy it while I can. Tomorrow, the world could decide that socks are terrible inventions and we're going barefoot, and we'd be done. Unless we made socks that looked like people were barefoot....I'll be right back....

What are some obstacles you’ve come across?

Growth. While it's really exciting to be growing, it's also really challenging. 2/3 of our team have been here less than a year. We've had to create things like an organizational structure, training, etc. Navigating inventory management with our model can be tough, but we're getting there. Oh, and things like at the beginning when we had to figure out how to tell people to buy something that they didn't know was a thing. That was strange.foot-cardigan-food

What was the proudest moment for Foot Cardigan?

It had to be the first customer who bought a subscription that none of the co-founders knew. We went ballistic over the fact that someone who wasn't obligated as a friend or family member bought a subscription because they just loved the product. I'll never forget that.

What is some advice you can give to someone building their own startup?

Get over that fear of failure. I see that the most from people. They work on their thing for a couple years and it never sees the light of day. No one will ever care about your thing as much as you do. We had the idea and launched in 2.5 months. It wasn't the best first site, but it sold sock subscriptions. We tweaked it from there. So yeah, just get your thing out into the world. Don't waste time and money building something people don't want. The sooner you push it out there, the sooner you'll know if it's going to work or not. That's invaluable.
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Video Is Changing Businesses, Education, And Careers

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video
Video seems to have existed for a long time, decades even. Why then, is it causing such consequential changes now? The 21st century has so far proven itself to be the fastest-paced time in human history. This change has prompted conventional industries and organizations to shed their old practices and embrace the digital current. A key aspect of this sweeping current is the refinement and accessibility of video, and its overwhelming presence online.
The “viral video” is a key component in the Internet space, and has amassed so much esteem and regard, that it has allowed average individuals to cross over and be showcased in mainstream media. Viral videos usually make an appearance on the main broadcasting channels or on shows like The Ellen DeGeneres ShowThe power and scope of video is not limited to viral pieces alone. Entertainment and humor from short clips online, videos have extended to impact every aspect of the physical world from business, current affairs, and education. A single, powerful device has found decades’ worth of practices and assumptions to uproot and revolutionize. A prime example is the mannequin challenge, were people freeze in action for about one min. It all started as a college challenge, filmed on a smartphone and shared on Facebook.

Businesses

Businesses have undoubtedly experienced the most positive change with the dominance of video. Videos are now widely used to market products and services that businesses may have to offer. This form of marketing has proven to be more concentrated and effective, and each video is a result of high-end production value and laser-like focus on a target audience’s consumption and response patterns.With the popularity of social networking platforms and the sheer amounts of site traffic, businesses have taken to video to trace online patterns and usage to target advertisements accordingly. This makes for marketing campaigns to be far more lucrative in that they reach the intended audience at optimal times. Video production and video marketing services are encouraging businesses in all fields to use video to attract customers and to reach a new level of engagement.A teenager scrolling through Facebook with a particular bias towards beauty will have makeup advertisements come across as an endorsed video of a particular brand. Likewise, if any user’s online preferences and behavior lean towards software and technology, they are more likely to find a few marketing videos related to the subject during their usual scrolling.Video is increasingly used in presentations and orientations, to better accustom fresher recruits with business models and practices. A short 5- minute video outlining the core philosophy of a business has a better chance at engaging investors. The online fundraising website, Kickstarter, requires pitchers to publish a video alongside their business model which details their entire product at length. This specific video alone has the power to make or break potential investment deals, and startups often allow a lot of time and attention to go into making this short video exceptional.Video calling and conference calls are slowly becoming somewhat of a norm. Businesses have found video to be an ever-helpful alternative. Not only are calls easy to arrange and connect, but they can be carried out on short notice and dramatically reduce the costs that usually go into long-winded business trips.Video is also increasingly used by businesses in training initiatives and programs. This practice stems from the vast amounts of scientific evidence available that proves how learning and retention is linked with visual and sound aid.

Education

Statistics, numbers, and information are better processed via visuals. 40% of the brain’s nerve fibers are connected to the retina, which makes the brain’s ability to process visuals much more efficient than computing text. This is the reason why video is assuming a more dominant position in modern education and teaching processes.According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, visuals are processed up to 60,000 times faster than plain text. This has greatly impacted the way teachers approach their jobs, and has allowed a number of companies to invest in the market of providing educational material that supports visual-aid.Providing visual aid does not only translate into a positive increase in scores, averages, and performance values; the key here is retention and comprehension, and how researchers have discovered that visuals and video improve learning by 400%. Schools and colleges are now reinforcing video in curriculums and courses, to make teaching programs more efficient. The end result is a more competent, able, and lucrative job force, that is able to approach various areas of business with fresh perspectives and ideas. Video is quite literally aiding the development of a smarter, more skilled workforce for future generations. This has vastly changed career dynamics and competitiveness, as well as opened up new careers and professions.The reach and influence of video is only expected to expand in the coming years. Educational institutions all across the world have begun to replace conventional paper-bound textbooks with iPads containing downloadable texts that feature a number of videos. For subjects such as History and Science where greater retention is required these videos prove themselves to be extremely efficient.

Careers

People can now form functioning careers out of video. The second-most popular website globally, YouTube, is a video sharing network that features a considerably substantial amount of online content creators and entrepreneurs.These “YouTubers” have managed to gather millions of devoted followers, and content creation has become nothing short of a highly successful career for many of them. These individuals earn a considerate amount yearly by simply creating engaging and thought provoking content with paid endorsements and advertisements. Majority of these online personas go on to star in movies and series, become best-selling authors, and go on world tours. Video has opened platforms that seemed impossible before.There are a number of Internet celebrities that started off with uploading shaky footage, and have now catapulted into mainstream media platforms. Comedian Bo Burnham began his career 10 years ago in his room, where he recorded himself singing his own pieces. Today, the 27 year old has two specials on Netflix, and has been able to tour and perform stand-up comedy on live television shows.Leading online sites such as BuzzFeed and NowThis offer 30-second videos to viewers that cover a range of topics. Anything between politics, current affairs, style, and technology trends are covered via short, informative videos. These have become nothing short of the evening news bulletin for much of the online crowd today.As this year comes to a close, one can only help but marvel at the revolutionary leaps and bounds video has taken recently. What began as an innocent medium to share engaging content and media, has now transformed into something of a business essential, a corporate tool, and a socio-political rallying-point. Though video is still overwhelmingly used for various purposes, a sizable chunk of leading businesses and social institutions have discovered that video may be an excellent tool to engage, market, relay, and educate.
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The Importance Of Controlling Risk In Your Business

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business risk control
Risk is a part of life! Any enterprise, big or small, can face some unforeseen incidents and incur a significant loss. The risk can result from both inside or outside, natural disasters, accidents, human error and faulty production. Managing or controlling the risks is one of the most important aspects of running a business. If the business is owned by a sole proprietor, he has to face an additional personal risk of liability and financial crisis. The risk management techniques include risk reduction, risk transfer, and risk avoidance.
The risk management process involves proper planning. Here are some guidelines to control risk in your business venture.
  • You need to identify methodically the probable risks surrounding your business.
  • Review the probability of occurrence of the events.
  • If you can sense any problem early, deal with them without any delay.
  • Chalk out a plan to respond to the unforeseen events.
  • You need to use your resources effectively to address the risks.

The importance of liability trends

One of the most important aspects of risk control is tracking the trends in liability insurance coverage. It can help you to get more coverage options for your business. You should always buy a good liability insurance policy for your enterprise. There is some additional coverage too like inland marine insurance which provides coverage for job site insurance and builder’s risk insurance which is specifically for construction site coverage.

Risk evaluation and consequences

Evaluate all the pros and cons and the risk involved in the business. Avoid doing something that has less benefits, but severe consequences if the action fails. If you want to take up the challenge, do it intelligently, divide your liability with your partners, and try to reduce the risk component.

Importance of quality assurance program

To avoid any unprecedented risks in business, implement a quality assurance program. Review the feedback from the customers. Regular product quality testing can give time for correction and reduce the chances of product failures.

Maintain accurate records

Implement a system that can check the overall performance of the company. Keep a track of how the finances of the business are being utilized. You should regularly compare the economic condition of your business with that of the market. It can help you get an idea of controlling financial risks.

Managing financial risks

Reduce the financial risks by managing the accounts of the business regularly. Minimize outstanding balances and identify the poor credit risks. Implement a credit and payment standard. Also, specify which credit score and payment methods are acceptable. Evaluate customer payments and if the customers do not follow your plans, implement advanced payment options. Keep your outstanding loans, and financial needs to the minimum. Plan business expansion in such a way that you do not have to take a huge debt. Try to finance the growth internally.

Recovery planning

Your business needs proper coverage for thefts, scams and other crimes. Chalk out a disaster recovery plan to save your funds. Get adequate insurance for data security, employees, and equipment.Remember, it’s always better to plan in advance and nullify risks.
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