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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

15 Ugly Truths About Entrepreneurship Everyone Should Know Before Starting a Business

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Entrepreneurship

Becoming an entrepreneur is like taking the road less travelled. There is no map and you will always feel uncertain about your decision. If you decide to take an entrepreneurial journey, it’s going to be a bumpy one. However, nothing worth having comes without a degree of risk. Therefore you need to arm yourself by avoiding common “beginner” mistakes. You have to understand that entrepreneurship is not all sunshine and roses. There are some ugly truths that you need to know about before setting off.

1. You Can Lose Everything

A business is a financial risk. You can start a business with a small capital but eventually you need lines of credit for inventory and operations. In some cases, you might also need to take on loans to help the business grow. This means you will be taking on debt.

2. Extreme Stress

With everything riding on the line, prepare yourself to experience extreme stress. If you think exam stress is hard enough, it is nothing compared to taking the entrepreneurial path. When you start a business, everything is on your shoulders and there is nobody to pass the buck to.

3. Forget About Hanging Out

Expect to lose touch with family and friends. Becoming an entrepreneur is very demanding on your personal time especially in the beginning. There will be people in your life you will lose touch with because you will not be able to give them enough time.

4. It’s Going To Take Long

Don’t expect your business to take off overnight. Prepare yourself for sleepless nights and to work double time to achieve the results you want. In this event, you need to plan accordingly no matter how small or big the venture.

5. Regrets

Over time you will regret taking this path. This is normal especially if you see friends connecting on weekends while you work later into the night. This will make you regret leaving the comfort of your 9-5 job. But don’t worry because some of your friends will also regret taking risks.

6. Anxiety Competition

It is normal to think and worry that somebody out there is executing the same idea in a better way. Having anxiety over the competition is part and parcel of becoming an entrepreneur. Don’t let this drag you down but inspire you to work harder and become better than your competitor.

7. Other People Depend On You

You are now the employer. People now depend on you so that they can provide for their families. You will need to endure this even though you are sick, have personal things going on in your life because the business and your people are depending on you.

8. Success and Failure Will Impact Your Relationships

When you’re successful, everybody will want to work with you and be your friend. When you’re failing, it’s going to be the opposite. There will be many moments of celebration and frustration. For every friend you make, somebody will turn their back to you.

9. You’re It

Everybody is going to be dependent on you. Essentially, you are it; every responsibility will fall back on you. Being a leader means that you take this entrepreneurship responsibility and when there are problems you take the helm of the ship.

10. No Guarantee

Going to business is not a guarantee of anything. No matter how great the idea, product or team behind it; it’s still going to be the market that decides. In other words, your hard work is not a guarantee of success.

11. No Appreciation

Hard work is not only a guarantee of success it does not also guarantee appreciation. You have to remember not to expect it.

12. Success is Not Measured In Weeks

As you go along your journey, you will learn that success is not measured in weeks, months, quarters or years. While business is small, success can be measured easily. However as you go along you will realize that measuring success will take longer periods of time.

13. Your Stomach Will Twist

Entrepreneurship will make your stomach twist during unexpected situations like when you’re operating at a loss or when a supplier bails on you in the middle of a project.

14. You Will Have To Learn To Move On

Over time you will become attached to the business and cutting ties with people will be difficult. However, entrepreneurship is about adjusting and you will need to learn when you need to move on.

15. When You Fail, It Will Have Your Name On It

If you fail, people will know about it. Family and friends will know that you drove a ship and crashed. Many don’t follow the entrepreneurial road because of this thought.

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Business

Guess Measures Carbon Footprint And Energy

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Guess Measures Carbon

Climate change is one of society’s biggest threats and the American clothing brand Guess is battling this issue by performing their first carbon footprint analysis for North America. In series of analyzation, Guess measures carbon footprint in hopes of reducing harmful manufacturing. A carbon footprint amounts to the total sum of carbon dioxide and its equivalents emitted through harmful anthropogenic labor. The main source of carbon emissions are through electricity generation, transportation, domestic energy consumption, industries and agriculture.

Guess begins calculating their first carbon footprint and greenhouse gases by referencing the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute. By combating humanity’s current challenges that we are facing, Guess reported their ambition to go green by cutting back scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions per square foot. Guess measures carbon in the analysis covering Scope 1 and Scope 2 by referencing the different emissions generated. Where Scope 1, their direct emission are generated from actions like chemical processing in result of building and space heaters. Meanwhile, their indirect emission, Scope 2 emissions refer to emissions generated as an outcome of purchased electricity from utilities and other energy provider, like electricity or heat.

“Through my experience leading this truly global company, I see one constant across borders: people, particularly the younger generation, are deeply concerned about the future of this planet,” Victor Herrero, Chief Executive Officer of Guess said. In embracing his concern through his work, CEO Victor Herrero continues to say that, “We aim to embrace existing solutions as well as to try new ones to address the social and environmental challenges of our time.”

The consequences that we experience is observable on the environment. Climate change strikes without notice, with harmful effects that are now in action as predicted by past scientists. Loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves are the cost of climate change. Upon this data, Guess measures carbon footprint and their energy to encourage more companies in stepping up to go green.

Guess reported the total carbon footprint in 2014 for North America to be 34,461 metric tons CO2e. With electricity consumption being the highest overall impact on carbon footprint and is heavily reliable for 97% of total emissions. By changing their ways, Guess reported its overall carbon dioxide equivalent from all types of greenhouse gas emissions, declined by 2 percent between its fiscal year ended in January 2016 and the 12 months ended in January 2017.

Predominantly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities, scientists have shared their predictions that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades. We have a long way to come to fix the problem that we have caused, but companies like Guess are a step closer to changing that.

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Business

Tips On How To Manage An Online Business

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Business Online

Having the right e-commerce site can make shipping and tracking your inventory easier. IT is constantly changing and it is important to have a secured site to make sure your customer’s data is safe. Following these steps will seem daunting at first, but remember that success will come if you keep pushing towards your goals. America was built by small business owners and with faith, you can have a profitable online business.

Determining your target audience.

The first step in opening an online business is determining who will be your target audience.  It is important to research your competition online and find out who will be buying your products. There is a lot of competition online, so you have to find a way to stand out. I suggest coming up with a unique business name or signature product. Separating yourself from the rest of other online businesses is important to succeed long term.

You also have to decide if you want to sell a product or provide a service. Once you have identified your business model, you will need to come up with the terms of your business. I suggest seeking legal advice, so you can protect your company. It will need to be clear to your customers who you are as a business and what service you provide. It is also important to outline how you will provide customer service and solve any problems that arise.

Selecting the products you want to sell or determining which services you want to offer.

Before you start selling products or offering services, it is important to get registered with the state you are in. There are many advantages of becoming an LLC or incorporating your company. I recommend researching the options that are available in your state. It is important to protect your brand and make your customers trust you as a business owner.

In order to succeed as an online business, you need to have a strong vendor list. Being a licensed company makes more vendors’ want to work with you. Once you have added companies to your vendor list, you need to decide how you want to market your business. You can either hire a SEO company, marketing firm, or you can learn how to do it yourself. There are hundreds of free online tutorials on how to market your company for free on social media sites and YouTube. You can also use Google AdWords and Adsense to help promote your business. There are also several apps that can help you manage your social media sites as well.

Making sure your e-commerce site is effective.

I suggest hiring a website developer or technology company to build your site. There are several user friendly e-commerce sites that are very easy to set-up yourself. Having the right IT support to very important, because they can quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

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