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LocalStove Satisfies Your Cravings For Homemade Food



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.


Why Amazon’s Second HQ Should Choose Nashville



Amazon's Second HQ

Nashville is amongst 20 cities being considered for Amazon’s second headquarters site. The “Country Music Capital of the World” hopes to boost their state’s job market with the new Amazon Headquarters. Amazon’s second HQ expects to invest more than $5 billion to build the 8-million-square-foot facility and promises to create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs over the next 15 years. Before any decisions are made, the company created specific requirements to be met for each city. Some of the requirements include a metropolitan area with over a million people, a time distance of 45 minutes from an international airport, direct access to public transportation, and to be able to expand 8 million square feet in the next decade.

The Unemployment rate is on the rise in Nashville. City officials have their sights set on the on the jobs that Amazon’s Second HQ will provide for 50,000 residents. “It is going to increase the size of the economy,” University of Tennessee Economist Bill Fox stated, “It is going to bring in a really highly skilled labor force that is not already there, a lot of community leaders. To have somebody with the worldwide vision of Amazon look at Nashville and say, ‘This is the place we want to be’ is really good for the brand.”

The aspect of new jobs may not be enough for some to welcome the online retailer with open arms. Residents of Nashville fear the new site would affect the housing market for low income families  in the process. “If you look at the size of Nashville, a headquarters like this bringing tens of thousands of jobs, it’s going to radically affect what the housing landscape looks like,” said Javier Vivas,’s director of economic research. Amazon’s decision creates an atmosphere for the conservation of gentrification not only for Nashville, but the other 19 cities in the running. “We have a housing crisis now and all this would do is throw gasoline on the fire,” said John Summers, a former Metro Council member who now leads the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods. “We cannot build affordable housing to replace what’s being lost by the rapid gentrification in all of our inner-city neighborhoods.”

The community of Nashville are now able to broadcast their opinions on Amazon. While state officials deal with the financial benefits, agencies and businesses within Nashville are now able to give insight on their city as well. This is why Amazon’s second HQ should choose Nashville.

If you are an agency from Nashville, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here:

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Why Amazon’s Second Headquarters Should Choose Northern Virginia



Amazon’s second headquarters

Among the top 20 shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters, Northern, Virginia is not a stranger to the massive tech company. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have frequently conducted business in the region. Bezos is known to own The Washington Post and Amazon’s cloud service AWS is situated in a huge data center in the northern Virginia region. It is no surprise that Northern, VA is listed on the list. This region proved to be a safe home for Bezos’ businesses, it would only make sense that Northern, VA is the next home for HQ2.

While the nation waits for the announcements of Amazon’s second headquarters, speculations rise as Amazon employees crowd The local news-source for Arlington Virginia have reported major traffic from an internal Amazon site. The article reporting the county’s green building council had received over 6,000 page views and 3,500 visitors from an Amazon web page that is only visible to Amazon employees. Amazon’s interest in the community’s dedication to sustainability is predicted to help the company’s future development of a sustainable building of their own.

The area is surrounded by copious international airports including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Richmond International Airport for Amazon’s consideration  of transportation. The bid for Amazon had reports of the Hub property as a potential site for Amazon’s second headquarters. This 85-acre undeveloped location is near the Dulles Airport, perfect for Amazon’s demands.

Amazon’s second headquarters

Amazon announced that they are developing a second headquarter of up to 8 million square feet in order to accommodate 50,000 workers. The plan to bring in 50,000 lucrative jobs to the new location will create billions of dollars in investment for the community. This opportunity for economic expansion does not come often, but neither does a perfect business location in Northern Virginia that is close to Bezos’ other businesses.

A possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters is on the border of Fairfax and Loudoun counties along Metro’s Silver Line. “We are very excited that Northern Virginia is included on the short list as a potential location for Amazon’s second headquarters,” spoke the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova. “Fairfax and Loudoun counties are able to offer a great quality of life coupled with an innovative and business friendly culture for future Amazon corporate neighbors and employees. With our highly educated and talented workforce and a location close to Dulles International Airport and a new Silver Line train station, we hope we will have the opportunity to welcome Amazon HQ2 to Virginia.”

Small businesses and agencies within Virginia are able share their professional insight to Amazon now as well. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Virginia.

If you are an agency from Virginia, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here:

*Sponsored by Penji

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Why The Second Amazon Headquarters Should Choose Toronto



Second Amazon Headquarters

Amazon is considering their first international city for their second Amazon headquarters. The bids for HQ2 have reached Mexican regions too but the tech company have their eyes on Toronto. Prior to this announcement, Toronto has been established as a major technology center. Their advancement will only grow from here, perhaps even more when Amazon arrives.

The city reported that they are not offering Amazon much financial incentives, but is offering a 100-acre land as a potential site for their second Amazon headquarters that is approximately close to downtown Toronto. Although this site is outside of the United States border, Toronto is the best option for the innovative company.

The mayor of Toronto, John Troy expressed how proud he was of the city when Toronto attracted Amazon without offering significant tax breaks. Toronto does not have to resort to selling themselves for the second Amazon headquarters, unlike other competitors on the top 20 shortlist. Toronto is already home to a significant Google engineering operation, a major artificial research center and quantum computing institute. Due to the massive influence in technology, there are plans to direct Toronto’s waterfront into a massive tech-city for the near future. This environment will foster Amazon and future companies moving to Toronto.

 Second Amazon Headquarters

The second Amazon headquarters require proximity to a metropolitan area with a large population for employment, mass transit, an area that is 45 minutes from an international airport, and an 8-million-square-foot facility that will eventually expand to 740,000 square metres over the next decade. Toronto would be an ideal location to attract talent from overseas. This move will put Amazon’s name outside of the United States and begin their serious international affairs. North America acknowledged the massive tech company’s capability when Jeff Bezos was announced as the richest man alive in 2017. After Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dethrones Bill Gates, the entrepreneur should look to invest in talent from overseas. This plan can start with a move to Toronto for the second Amazon headquarters.

Toronto holds a strong quality of life. Canada is notorious for their free healthcare, something that the United States is lacking. The affordable area is attractive to employees. “We’re excited to have this opportunity and to be able to tell Toronto’s unique story,” told John Troy. “There is no other place in North America that can boast the same talent, the same quality of life, the same vibrancy, the same economic strength.”

Small businesses and agencies within Toronto are able share their professional insight to Amazon now as well. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Toronto.

If you are an agency from Toronto, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here:

*Sponsored by Penji

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