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.
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.
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.
Why Amazon’s Second Headquarters Should Choose Northern Virginia
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 ARLnow.com. 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 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: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/
*Sponsored by Penji*
Why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Chicago
Most of the cities on the top 20 shortlist for Amazon HQ2 had given some extreme proposals. The majority of the pick is located on the East Coast with an important city that is Chicago, Illinois. The city of Chicago is an important business hub that is currently attracting millennial entrepreneurs and corporate talents. The region offers a broad selection of professionals that are specialized in tech, logistics, advertising, and more. This is a huge bonus for Amazon if the tech company picks Chicago as the rightful city for HQ2.
Chicago ranks high in tech, affordability, and infrastructure. These benefits will fulfill Amazon in their search for employment, land, and logistics. The city offers the O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport to the company for traveling affairs. This is just one of the city’s proposal, the entire bid for Chicago was put together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner. There is a promising bid that if Amazon chooses Chicago, then the massive tech company will collect at least $2 billion in incentives and $1.3 billion in tax revenue back. Employees are still expected to pay the taxes, however, it would be Amazon who is receiving that money back and not Illinois.
There are 10 total potential sites to situate HQ2. One includes the Sterling Bay’s 70-acre Lincoln Yards, and many more sites including the Illinois Medical District. The forefront for a new location is The River District, Riverside Investment and Development in River West. This 37-acre site connects to Chicago’s downtown, River North, Fulton Market, and more. The best deal for any other location.
Amazon will be able to create a substantial amount of benefits from Chicago’s bid for Hq2. Illinois has given over $1.4 billion of tax money to companies like Amazon ever since 2001 when EDGE was created. The EDGE Tax Credit Program provides tax credits for businesses that make capital investments in Illinois and more. The massive tech company is more than qualified for this program and this will be deemed beneficial to Amazon if they participate.
The Chicago metro area grew by 0.6% and it will only get better from here. The region is populated by a big number of young and educated students from the notable schools of University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The work force in Chicago are tech driven and strives for professional support, which is an attractive atmosphere for all companies. Amazon should be using up that advantage as well.
Proposals are still being presented to Amazon by representatives. Small businesses and agencies within Chicago are now able share their professional insight to Amazon. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Chicago.
If you are an agency from Chicago, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/
*Sponsored by Penji*
How The Technology of 23andMe Benefits You
Tracing down our ancestry is a difficult but possible task thanks to 23andMe. Ancestry research is an obsessive hobby that is provoked by curiosity. You can discover historical events, trace medical conditions, find birth parents, and understand yourself through DNA testing. With 23andMe, people can now discover the truth about their genes. Through extensive DNA analysis, 23andMe can interpret your biological roots from a simple saliva sample.
More than 500,000 consumers have bought a test from 23andMe. For it to work, consumers have to spit into a tube and ship it to the company. To retrieve your results, you must first create an account on the 23andMe website and log in within six-to-eight weeks to view your data.
The massive biotech company employs scientific researchers to study customer data for research on inherited disorders. The team is filled with quality workers and a pool of professional partners in fields like pharmaceutical and biotechnology. 23andMe hopes to provide consumers who wanted to know about their DNA information on any potential genetic disorders or diseases. For the first time ever, the genetics company offers direct to consumer genetic tests on breast cancer. Anyone who is curious about their future health risk, 23andMe is the ideal service to get answers from.
In tracing back your genetic roots to compare you to a total of 150 regions, people can now discover their DNA background. 23andMe have united many disconnected families from their service. The option to publicize your results to rekindle with other family members have proved to serve a great purpose to users.
The precision of 23andMe is impressive. The results are not vague responses. The scores show percentages and specific breakdowns on your ancestry. With a total of 150 regions, 23andMe ensures an informative report to fulfill your curiosity. The ancestry discovery has given people an identity and the chance to reconnect with their culture. Customers have the opportunity to share their results for research purposes, so most have consented while others chose to remain anonymous.
The health and wellness report will analyze your genetic risk for up to 10 diseases. This information is intended for people who are concern about their future health. The data comments on your potential variants to lactose intolerance, saturated fat and weight, alcohol flush reaction, genetic weight, deep sleep, muscle composition, sleep movement and more.
The more serious analysis are the findings of potential late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, AAT Deficiency (a lung and liver disease), Celiac Disease, Hereditary Hemochromatosis (iron-related) and Hereditary Thrombophilia (blood clots), and others. Users do not have to oblige and see the results, you can choose to keep the answer hidden.
Although the company have experienced issues with the FDA in the past, since last April, the FDA agreed to allow 23andMe to sell direct-to-consumer genetic predisposition tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Celiac disease. This innovative business idea is benefiting many consumers. 23andMe’s technology have reconnected families, provide useful knowledge, and give health warnings.
The innovative biotech company proves just how rapidly technology is advancing. DNA testing will only improve from this point on. 23andMe have benefited many customers with their technology. As they continue to grow and improve, a 23andMe spokesperson shares how the technology of 23andMe benefits you:
How does 23andMe work?
“You can read about the process on our website here. You choose from our two products – the Ancestry Service and Health + Ancestry Service. You can either buy the kits from one of our retailers (Target, Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, etc.) or from our website. Your kit will take 3-5 days to arrive, you follow the kit instructions to spit in the tube provided, register your kit with the 14-digit barcode associated with your kit, and mail the tube back in the prepaid package.
In approximately 6-8 weeks, we’ll send you an email letting you know your reports are ready in your online account!”
What inspired 23andMe?
“Our company’s founders believe that everyone has the right to access their personal genetic information. We believe in the power of genetics to transform health and empower people, and that your genetic information is the most valuable thing you can contribute to help accelerate research”.
How will people benefit from 23andMe?
“23andMe customers will benefit in three ways:
- Access Revolutionary Science
- The only crowdsourced data set for genotypic and phenotypic big data analysis.
- Health and ancestry reports driven by top-tier scientific rigor
- Data-driven drug development by accomplished scientists
- Discover Evolving Insights
- Explore your unique health, ancestry, wellness and personal trait data
- Engage with family members or connect with new ones
- Learn more as new reports are released
- Improve Healthcare
- Easily participate in disease-fighting research
- Drug development based on human genetics
- Stay informed about the impact you’re making”
Are the analysts completely accurate?
“We proved through the FDA review process our ability to accurately call, or find, these variants with 99.9% accuracy when compared to Sanger sequencing results, the gold standard for accuracy.
23andMe uses an Illumina genotyping chip, widely used in academic and medical research, to capture genetic information and samples are processed in a CLIA-certified laboratory, the gold standard for laboratory testing, that also adheres to CAP (College of American Pathologists) standards. These are the same standards applied to doctor-ordered tests. We also have a variety of proprietary validation processes and quality controls that are applied to data before information is ever returned to a customer”.
How does 23andMe stand out to other competitors?
“We offer the only FDA-authorized genetic health reports directly to consumers, without a prescription. We also have a unique Research division, in which our customers can consent to participate in research (over 80% of them do consent) and answer questions that we can then use for research. Our customers have contributed to over 100 studies/published papers to date!”
How does the company overcome setbacks?
“Our CEO has said she doesn’t shy away from conflict. If you put your head down, do the work you need to do, and don’t give up, persistence will pay off. In 2013, when we received the letter from FDA warning us to stop marketing the Ancestry + Health Service, we didn’t give up. We believe people have a right to their genetic information without going through a doctor, and we are committed to providing it in the most responsible way possible. We will continue to work with the FDA to get more genetic information out to the public”.
Are you looking to improve? If so, how?
“Yes, we are constantly looking to improving and working to provide additional information to our customers. Prior to November 2013 had more reports than we currently offer. As an FDA regulated company we’re working with the agency to provide health-related reports to our customers, beginning with carrier status, authorized by the FDA in February 2015, and genetic health risk reports, authorized by the FDA in April 2017. In fact, we just announced the FDA clearance of our BRCA 1/2 (Selected Variant) report, that is the first FDA authorized genetic test for cancer risk, and also expanded our Ancestry Composition product to over 150 populations around the world. We also just launched our Conditions pages, where customers can rate various treatments for common health conditions they suffer from, including asthma and depression”.
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