Connect with us

Business

LocalStove Satisfies Your Cravings For Homemade Food

Published

on

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

5 Ways To Break A Bad Habit

Published

on

habit bad
We all have bad habits whether it is biting finger nails when nervous, smoking, or gambling. The bad news about bad habits is its ability to impact relationships, happiness, and health. Many people want to kick their bad habits, however not many of them succeed in doing so. In order to successfully overcome bad habits, the first step is to develop insight in their origin. Once you know what is causing these bad habits, it will be easier for you to control these triggers, and you will be one step closer to kicking these bad habits forever.

Decide That You Can

If you have a bad habit like being chronically late you need to acknowledge that you have this bad habit and decide that you can kick it. Being totally committed to changing yourself is the first step to success.

Learn What Is Causing This Bad Habit

Learning what causes a bad habit is one of the ways to kick it and know how to avoid it. Take a good look into what is causing the habit. Take being late for example. Is it because you forget to set the alarm or maybe you stay in bed even if you’re already awake? By figuring out what is causing your bad habit, you can work out how to manipulate the situation so that your behavior is different. Take a look at the "reward" for your bad behavior. Do you like the excitement or attention when you are late? If this is the case, maybe you can figure out ways to get noticed or to become excited over something else.

Set Reasonable Goals

For those who are chronically late, being on time the first time after deciding you want to change can be very hard. It is better to set reasonable goals so that you can slowly work towards achieving bigger goals. If you want to start arriving on time, it would be unrealistic for you to set being on time the first day after setting the goal. For those who are chronically 20-30 minutes late all the time, set a more realistic goal of being "only" 10-15 minutes late for the first few weeks and then gradually lessening the minutes until you get into the habit of being on time.

Measure Progress

One of the ways to keep motivated is by seeing how far you have come to reach your goal. Seeing your progress will keep you inspired and work harder to achieve the ultimate objective. For those who are chronically late you can keep tabs of your lateness by taking note of it in a journal or calendar. You might not experience progress immediately so it is important not to get discouraged but to keep on moving forward.

Additional Support

Lastly, find somebody who will support you and help you kick your bad habit for good. For those who are always tardy perhaps you can get a co-worker to cheer you on or remind you to get going if you're slacking off on a project again. Ask family and friends to help you by telling you it's time to get ready for an appointment right away lest you be late. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are testament to the fact that it can be hard to do it alone and that you don’t have to.Aside from negative impact on relationships and work, bad habits can also shorten your lifespan. Eating junk food and not exercising can cause various diseases that can affect health and longevity. Smoking, drugs and alcohol can cause a myriad of health problems and gambling can jeopardize family land financial security. Some bad habits need professional help to totally eliminate however, following the above stated examples can give you a head start in getting rid of them.
Continue Reading

Business

Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity In Design

Published

on

design quality over quantity
We have all been taught that quality is always better than quantity. This is true even in design. Quality is better than quantity in a web design, because a well designed website is thought out and capable of capturing your target audience. While it is true that there is competition when it comes to web design, there are still many designers and companies that prefer their designs to be tailor-made for their company rather than a 1-size-fits-all type of website. Here are reasons why you should always go for quality rather than quantity.

Quality Means Better Work

Let's stick to the example of quality web design. When you go to the internet and search for products, you usually go through several sites before settling on a page that catches your attention. But, before you decide to stick to that page, you've probably browsed through 3 or 4 websites. You might try asking yourself why you left those pages. Some of the most common answers include: slow loading time, unfriendly web design or uninformative product descriptions. All these reasons point towards sloppy workmanship on the part of the website developer. This could mean that the company is hiring inexperienced talent due to an overload in projects or poor supervising. Either way, this does not bode well for the reputation of your company, because it makes you look sloppy too.Quality takes work. Designers and craftsmen alike need to consider many different factors so that they can make a product attractive to the target market. If your website looks like a cookie cutter website, it makes you look unoriginal and common. It might make customers think you stole website ideas from your rivals, because your website looks like theirs. This could translate to a loss in trust and a drop in reputation for your company.Quality designs, on the other hand, means that thought was given to the design and development of the product. Designers studied what the customers wanted, what they need, and find ways to make the product unique to entice customers to them come back. All of these take time, but they have a better potential of paying off in the future. Designers and craftsmen need to consider everything from materials to the cost of time and materials ensure that the product is of good quality.

Quality Means Getting Noticed

There are over billions of different products available in the internet and in real-life. If you have a product you might want to launch it immediately to get a chunk of the market. Earlier is always better, so that you can reach more customers, right? This might be right, but in order to launch immediately, you might be tempted to go for something cheap with poor craftsmanship to ensure that your products are launched at the shortest possible date.But, there is a price to your hastiness. Cheap and poor quality products are very common. They look like carbon copies of each other and break easily. The only difference in some of them is the price or the color of the product. You don't want to be lumped together with companies like these

Quality Products Mean Better Reputation

In the end, the reputation of your company hangs in the quality of your product. If you want to be a trusted name in your industry, you want a quality product. If you produce quality, people will see your product and company as industry leaders, and there is no price you can pay for this kind of reputation. Yes, it might mean that your product is more expensive than others, but at least you know you are providing good quality products that provide value to your customers.
Continue Reading

Business

Turning Stress Into Productivity

Published

on

productive stress
There isn’t a person in the planet that can hide from stress. Stress happens whether we like it or not, and it can have a huge impact on your work, relationships, and feelings. Being stressed at work is normal. However, when it begins to impact your productivity or co-workers, stress can become an even bigger problem. The good news is that there are studies that show when stress is managed correctly, it can have a positive impact on productivity and performance. Here are some ways to turn stress into productivity.

Recognize Stress

Stress is unavoidable and worrying about the cause of your stress will do nothing to alleviate it. When a person is stressed, he or she feels anxious. There is tension in the body and the heart is racing. This means that stress is a feeling. Being stressed could be an indication of how you feel towards a project. How much stress you feel is directly co-related to the importance of the job or task. Once a person recognizes that he or she is worrying about a project they can respond to it in a rational way.

Reframe It

Rather than worrying about your project and being stressed about it, don't see it as a threat but a challenge you need to conquer. Once you reset your brain from the negative to the positive, your body responds in a more favorable way. When our brain is stressed, it triggers a flight or fight response. To avoid this, you need to think of stress, not as something negative, but as something challenging you need to overcome. This way your brain will be conditioned to become active rather than paralyzed.

Control

What is the use of stressing over something you cannot control it? Too many people spend too much time feeling bad towards things they cannot change or control. When faced with worry or anxiety, positive psychology expert Shawn Achor suggests the Island Experiment. On a piece of paper, write down all your stresses and draw two circles. In one circle, put all things you can control and on the other things you can't. Ignore the second island and focus on taking action on the things you can control.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

One of the reasons why we get stressed at work is the fear of letting our co-workers down when we make mistakes or miss deadlines. One of the reasons for this is being overwhelmed with tasks. You don’t have to go at it by yourself. One of the best ways to handle stress positively and turn it into productivity is by asking help from others. You might have a co-worker that is an expert on the job you have been assigned or an officemate that is already finished with his tasks. Asking for help when you need it will help you stay on track at work while being productive and keeping stress at bay.

Stay Organized

You might not realize it, but you might not be stressing over the right things. If you are unorganized at work or have too many jobs at once, you might be worried because you don’t know how to prioritize your assignments. To keep yourself from becoming stressed due to lack of workflow, organize tasks from important to can-wait. This will help you focus on which jobs are the most urgent to the least important. Once you have tackled the important jobs, the smaller jobs can be handled easily and prevent you from becoming stressed while at your desk.Stress can ruin your life, but only if you allow it to. Since stress is inevitable, the best way to tackle it is to keep a positive attitude and keeping things in perspective. If you continue to tackle things you can control and stay organized you can beat stress so that you remain positive and productive at work.
Continue Reading

Trending