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Eman Pahlavani on Business Unveiled

How to Overcome the Unexpected as a Business Owner

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How to Overcome the Unexpected as a Business Owner

EMAN PAHLAVANI ON BUSINESS UNVEILED 

How to Overcome the Unexpected as a Business Owner

You’ve probably heard the saying “expect the unexpected” and being a business owner is no exception! Every entrepreneur faces unexpected challenges and obstacles. These challenges can be both big and small, and they can come from any direction at any time.

Pivoting is hard, but if you do it right it can change everything for the better! It will likely take some sweat and tears to get there, but when you overcome the challenges and look at your business on the other side of pivoting, all your hard work will all make sense. 

I’m so excited to share this week’s guest, Eman Pahlavani, Founder & COO of HUNGRY a food tech startup that has innovated to meet a need and grow their business in ways they never would have imagined!

MAIN TOPICS
  • How HUNGRY was born
  • How to use your platform to give back during hard times
  • How to pivot and then grow even more afterwards
KEY TAKEAWAYS

Pivoting is hard as hell…but if you do it right, it can save everything.

Take care of your employees during scary times. It's critical to keep morale high when things look apocalyptic.

Figure out what motivates you and focus on it. Figure out what motivates your team and get them to focus on that. 

MORE ABOUT OUR GUEST

Eman Pahlevani is a successful D.C.-based serial entrepreneur. After graduating from law school in 2012, he and his brother Shy Pahlevani founded LiveSafe – a venture backed mobile app company that crowd sources safety intelligence. The brothers teamed up with long time friend and business partner Jeff Grass to successfully grow LiveSafe into a global enterprise. Over the next five years, the trio would raise more than $30 million dollars for LiveSafe and take the brand international.

Later in 2017, Eman, Shy and Jeff again teamed up to create food-tech platform HUNGRY – the first ever online marketplace connecting local top chefs with businesses in need of office catering. The company grew quickly from a $1 million dollar run rate to nearly $20 million dollar run rate in less than 24 months. HUNGRY began launching in new markets earlier this year and today operates in D.C., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston and NYC. Throughout his startup career, Eman has been recognized as one of D.C.’s top entrepreneurs. Eman currently resides in the Washington D.C. area where HUNGRY is also based.

EPISODE TRANSCRIBED

Hi, y'all. It's Angela. I'm back for another episode of business unveiled. And we're gonna unveil some really fun stuff today, because I'm so excited to bring on another serial entrepreneur who loves opportunities. When they present themselves. It's hard. It's never easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it. But we're going to talk about something that I'm super passionate about. And you guys know, I'm not a good cook. And I have learned that our guest today is not either, but it's really funny because like he was saying he has a platform that helps all of us who really don't know how or don't want to take the time to cook. So I'm excited. Iwan, welcome to the show today. Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited, super excited for you to be here. I love your story. And I love everything that I've read about you. But before we jump off, and start talking about hungry, and you guys, if you're hungry, you might want to grab a snack while you're listening or watching podcast.

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But just tell us a little bit about your background, because I read some stuff about you. But for those of those of everybody's listening, watching, I want them to know like a little bit about your background, and you'll share your journey before the whole pivot thing with the pandemic and what you guys have built, if you can share a little bit about that first. Sure, sure. Um,
I am 34 years old, born and raised in Northern Virginia, DC area.
I had a path that I that I thought I was gonna be on, I wanted to be a lawyer
went to law school. And about six months before I graduated, my my brother, who is my co founder and all the companies that we started,
came to me with an idea of, you know, a mobile app that allows you to essentially report incidents of violence and crime. So if you see something, it was basically an app for see something, say something. One of our friends was one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting, and just the aftermath of that got him thinking. And
so six months before I graduated, I joined him as the co founder of the company knew nothing about entrepreneurship.
We worked out of his garage, literally out of his garage.
For what a year, no salary, no pay kind of scary, actually.
And we then met the right people brought on some of their co founders, who then helped us make some really good decisions and just kind of catapulted the business from there.
That business exited. We sold that. And we are now in our second tech venture company called Hungary, about four years into the business.
So what was the whole inspiration behind Hungary? And how was it born? I'm assuming that when you and your brother like, okay, we've built this once, and we know we can sell it and exit. So I'm assuming starting a second startup wasn't as scary or risky going into the second one is, is that a right assumption? Maybe so so the first company was called lib safe. So it was myself, my brother and a co founder named Jeff grass. So the three of us, you know, worked on that business. And then the way that hungry kind of came about was we were obviously eating lunch at the office every single day.
And I have, you know, my background is Persian, we eat a lot of home cooked meals. And the idea was, how do we get all these home chefs? these moms and dads and really good cooks who are cooking meals inside their home? How do we create revenue for them by allowing them to sell their food to people who go to work every single day so rather than me eating subway and Panera Bread, I would eat authentic type.
Eat or Persian food or Italian food or you know, Mexican food.
So that was the original idea. And totally against the grain, you actually can't sell food out of your home and delivered to people.
But we were like, we're gonna do this, this sounds like a great idea. And so
we left lift safe, one by one, and very scary starting a company again. Because you know, you, you're so far removed from those original entrepreneurial days of starting from scratch where you're literally thinking, what do we do today? what's what's next? You know, what, where do we start? And what's the name of the company? You know, what's the logo, what is you know?
So, you know, we were in what year six and seven at Lyft. Safe, so.
But we, we did it, we were working till three in the morning, four in the morning, for the first year of this.
And it was great, you know, we come up with a lot of really, really bad ideas, and some really, really good ones. And the bad ones kind of go away quickly in the good ones over time, you know, stick stick, and you start to kind of grow and develop and add people and a lot of positive things started to happen. But But that was the original idea around hungry. we pivoted from a home cooking model to chefs that work out of these incubator kitchens and these ghost kitchens that are all over the country and delivering their authentic, delicious meals to offices for corporate caterers. So, you know, who knew there was $100 billion corporate catering market annually.
And Panera is scooping up most of that revenue. So, Hungary's job was essentially to take that revenue and distributed to all these independent chefs who were trying to make it. And that's basically the mission of the company.
But it's so awesome, because it is like, so against what it's like, you can't cook in your home. And in working in hospitality and events for two decades. I got into the middle of clients saying like, well, it's gonna be like a potluck, or my grandmother's gonna make the cake. And like I had to be the bad news person where I'm like, well, your venue says it has to be a licensed person that has a catering license. And no, you can't just go serve the alcohol, there has to be ABC bartenders. And now your grandmother cannot make the cake at this particular venue because it's owned by the state or it's a nonprofit, or there's just a long list of rules that are in place. Because if somebody gets sick somebody Sue's somebody, I mean, I've seen it all. I feel like I've seen it all. And so I could see where it's like you have this great idea. And then Oh, the rules say we can't do it. But like you said, there are so many people, there's actually even chefs that run some of these catering companies that we've worked with, who never actually went to culinary school, but they still identify and they're like, I'm a chef, I'm an entrepreneur, I started this company, or I started this restaurant. Nobody said that, like you have to have, like a like a surgeon, you know, if you're going to be a head and neck specialists, like you got to do a fellowship. And you've got to, you know, go to school for 10 years. And in the cooking world. It's not so much about that. Like some of the best cooks and people that call themselves chefs like they never even went to school for it. It was they grew up around their mother or their grandmother. And talking about Persian food. Oh my gosh, the most fun weddings that we see.
The Persian weddings and the food and the music and the DJs oh my gosh, like we would fly in famous DJs from DC. Like from the Persian community who were specifically for like Persian parties. And my very first Persian party people would like they didn't mean to but there were tables in the way and they all just like rushed the dance floor and like the first three tables in the road just like fell and like all the China goes down and it smashes and breaks and like they keep dancing. It's like nothing happened. And we're over there like cleaning it up. I'm like let's move all the tables out of the way. And so what was like the Jenner area with the small dance floor became like the entire ballroom was like a dance floor with no did it it was it was it was great. You guys know how to party and the food is incredible. It's a huge part of the culture and something with the Persian weddings, we would have to get
At our class would have to sign an addendum to some of these places that had these strict rules because they would bring these amazing like crazy desserts. And like do these amazing spreads. And what's it is it called a sofa? I can't remember so far. Yeah, yeah, like the big table. And it's like, you know, for for a specific culture, like, I'm like, you're gonna have to make some exceptions, because the chef here cannot make this stuff because he's not Persian. Like, you're just gonna have to get over it. But I know that it, it was scary. And I'm sure a lot of chefs too, it was really scary. When the restaurant scene, especially Nashville, where I'm from, it was booming. Prior to the pandemic, new chefs were moving here, new restaurants were opening. And then also there were a lot of delivery services, which I don't think they knew that a pandemic was coming. But that was even a challenge for the delivery services who were pre packaging things and shipping it out because some of their people couldn't come to work to do that. So we all know, pivoting is hard. But okay, you have this idea. And then you decided to work with these chefs all over, that we're working in these kitchens. But then how did you guys really decide when COVID hit and the pandemic hit? Like, oh, shit, how are we going to pivot? How did it affect hungry?
So we,
I'll take a quick step back and just share not only so hungry is a venture backed business. So we had been raising money from institutional investors, to the tune of $30 million, over
how many years over like three years.
And in that group of investors,
we were very blessed to have lots of celebrities also investing.
Jay Z, put in millions, you know, assure Kevin Hart
you know, we there's NFL players and dama can sue and Todd Gurley. And so we were very attractive to
the celebrity kind of elite who wanted to get into helping with, you know, using their money to obviously,
grow their wealth. But in doing so helping a community for example, chefs who naturally disadvantage and that it's not a level playing field for them. Most chefs will not make it past 60k a year, annually, and they work crazy hours. And so
what had just happened right before the pandemic was, we had just closed on our Series B fundraise. We had raised, you know, something close to $20 million.
And the story was we were going to take this money and basically launch in 24 cities in two years. So a city per month, basically. And at that time, we were I believe in five or six days, we were growing revenue, the company was growing, there was a lot of excitement around hungry. Yet our single source of revenue came from offices, like that's it 100% of Hungary's revenue comes from offices and nothing else. And
yeah, and so we had just raised the money about a couple weeks right before the pandemic hit with the story being we're going to basically, you know, world domination, in a good way, we're going to help shut off the country make a ton of money. And by the way, shops on the hungry platform, we're making upwards of 1020 $30,000 a month. That's incredible. So
so the pressure that was met, you know, that we had taken on when the pandemic hit, and the revenue source completely dried up in like two weeks.
So here we are, you know, sitting at a table, we had just raised $20 million. We've got all these employees and all these cities that we're in, and our single source of revenue totally eliminated. So what that means is the business now has a crazy high burn rate. You know, you're you're basically all the employees and the offices and all the bills and everything that you have to pay for is no longer being paid for by the clients that you have because that revenue sources gone. So if you remember during the early days of the pandemic, most companies quickly furloughed almost everyone, you know, every industry tech restaurants, hospitality.
You know, I remember watching the jobs report and every week it was like another million people were laid off another million people were laid off.
We
decided to take kind of a different radical approach. And not only not let anyone go
But like, let's double down and reinvest in the people that we have.
And hopefully figure out what we can do that allows us to survive. We were in total survival mode at that point.
And, and our investors were nervous, you know, there's a lot of, you know, they had just written checks of 1,000,002 million, 5 million. So a lot of people, you know, wondering what's going to happen to it, and rightfully so. Right.
And we had,
we're very lucky to have some very smart employees in our company,
who came up with some brilliant ideas during the pandemic.
Two of them both both females on our team, both super smart, very, you know, just strategic thinkers,
came up with two ideas that helped us, you know, totally catapult the business. One was what we now call the virtual experience.
So basically taking all of our chefs the talented, the ones who are very outgoing, and they can put on a show, put them on zoom, and have them teach employees of Microsoft and Apple and Google and Amazon, how to cook delicious meals at home, because everyone's stuck at home. But to make it interesting, let's also send people these kits that have the dry goods and the knives and the cutting boards and the cups and you know, the different parts and pieces, let's have that delivered to the employees homes, so that they can, it's a very immersive experience. We were the only ones in the country that were doing this, where we would send these kits, everyone was jumping online, right? Everything became virtual, but no one was actually producing these kits, and then shipping it out, it was in about 60 days, we set up this massive factory at our headquarters. So this tech headquarters, we moved all this tables got every governor of everything, and all of our catering captains turned into these workers who would come in and help us assemble these kits.
And all of us would, you know, frankly, everyone would die. You know, we all got in to help out teamwork, teamwork, you're just trying to, you know, figure out what's going to work. And the incredible thing was companies wanted to spend on their employees, they wanted to keep morale high. So they were using Hungary's virtual experience as a tool to keep people not just engaged, but having fun.
So we went from zero to doing over $1.5 million a month, in like four months.
totally new business started from scratch. We knew nothing about this industry of basically corporate gifting.
And the sales team pivoted the operations team had to totally do an overhaul.
And today, that part of our business is the number one, it's the tip of the spear. It's the driving
piece of the business. Another thing that we started doing was deliveries for those who need help. So the government of different states called on hungry to be Hey, can you deliver food to, you know, 1 million people who are stuck in their homes, and they used to get meals from the YMCA or from their local school?
We need help with delivery. Can you guys help? So
at one point in New York, we were delivering a million meals a month to city residents. Wow, that's crazy.
The operation that we had to go set up in New York was nuts. It was at like pier 36. The city like locked down the pier for us.
And we partnered with a couple different catering partners that were local, and we just were delivering, you know, with hundreds and 1000s of drivers throughout the city. So again, it was lots of now when you look back, you're like, you know, that was really cool. That was awesome. We did a lot of great things in the moment. Terrifying, stressful. There were lots of tears shed from people on the team,
sleepless nights, you know, but it allowed us to continue to grow. We went from survival to thrival. We had a record revenue year. This past year, we doubled our sales from the prior year, which doesn't make any sense because 98% of our revenue came from sources that didn't exist prior to COVID.
So you know, a lot of this is just kudos to the team. They stuck together. They figured it out. And I think the lesson for us was like if you give them a chance, people will come through and they will figure out how
to, you know, make things work. So anyways, that is so odd. I mean, it gives me chills like listening to you say it out loud, because some companies like the the founder, the CEOs, the leadership team, and I mean, I've been in meetings before where I mean, back in my early days when I was in healthcare, and it's like, you didn't even get to sit at the table, you know, with all the leadership team, like I was sitting the back and take minutes. And it's like, sometimes people would speak up, but it's like, if you're not a leader, or a founder or an owner, it's like, Oh, don't listen to them. Like they don't know anything. But like the way that you guys empowered your team members and your employees who had ideas, and then look at what was born from it. And like, What a way to pivot and nothing's easy, like, if it were easy, everybody would do it. But one thing that we know is like, people have to have food to survive and to live period. And a lot of in the restaurants that are still alive. Even in Nashville, the ones that are winning, are the ones that figured out how to keep all their people and pivot. And do like there was one cater that they have a small restaurant, but 80% of the revenue all came from events. And they have this huge team that is used to working every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, no matter what Sundays was churches, Saturdays was weddings, Fridays, was ballgames, like all the thing, all the social things completely wiped out. And they came together and said, like, similar to what you guys do, like, let's put these kids together, and you know, assembling things. And then they did a great job on social and that's just like one local company. But then there's also a lot of people that said, I don't want to do this anymore, like I'm gonna get out of hospitality and do something else. And that was a different way for them to pivot. But with you guys being a new company, a new or company, having all these investors, it's like, What a way to not let them down. But more importantly, it's like helping all the communities and giving them something that they have to have to live. And I think New York is the towards the beginning of the pandemic, wasn't it one of like, the worst places where people were really sick. And so on top of you all having to do that. How did you decide the like, how did you keep everybody safe? With you know, delivering all these things? Like were there extra precautions, like things that you guys had to do? Yeah, we? Yeah, you know, right now, I think everyone's a little bit desensitized to COVID, to a certain degree. But yeah, the beginning, New York City was one of the epicenters, it was I think it was the worst city in the world for like, a good four months,
with the pandemic. And so the city was totally locked down, you were not allowed to walk in the streets at all. And we were our headquarters is in DC. So we were trying to decide who's going to go from DC from a management perspective, and help set up this massive operation.
And, you know, everyone's got families and so you're, you know, everyone's going home and talking to their family and saying, you know, look, I gotta, I gotta go into New York and,
you know, help set this thing up. So, we, you know, we're mask, you know, gloves. We, you know, we're very, you know, strict about, you know, social distancing with the team when we're up there.
But it was hard, you know, you have hundreds at some point, you know, at one point 1000s of drivers that are helping make this delivery happen.
We had to help we were helping the city come up with the rules around how do you deliver meals in a COVID environment, in a pandemic. So, you know, you're not, you know, knocking on door and waiting to hand it off.
So, there's just a lot of things that, you know, in the early days, we had to figure out that now, you know, it's become very commonplace in the norm,
testing a lot of things, you know, in New York City, you know, it's it's hard to deliver, you know, 20,000 meals to a corporate tower.
You know, while keeping social distancing and wild, trying not to, you know, just make sure everybody's safe all the time. So a
lot of, you know, trial and error and figuring it out. that had to happen. You know, one of the one of the things that I would encourage all the listeners, you know, to, not to be afraid of doing things wrong, the first, second, third, fourth time, because most of the times when you try something new like it's always going to be wrong, you know, will not be what you start with is not what you're going to end with
to entrepreneurs who are
You know, they're always thinking about what's the name of the company on the website. And a lot of the times what you start with, you will change it over and over and over again until you figure out what the market wants with the product market fit is.
So we just kind of took that philosophy and put it into play during during the pandemic, you know that Madison is the person on our team who came up with the idea of virtual, she was selling virtual experiences without even like, us being involved, she was just surviving, she was just trying to figure out alright, like, my, my, my book of business is totally dead, I'm not gonna be able to sell to corporate offices. So she had just asked a couple chefs to go online, start teaching, you know, her clients how to cook different, you know, things, and she was putting kits together on her own and sending them out. And, you know, all of a sudden, a month into the pandemic, we see this little, you know, $7,000 of revenue that came in, and like, what is this From where did you know, Madison's you know, raising her hand, like, Hey, that was me. And we're like, what is this and dug in, and there's a, you know, multimillion dollar business that, you know, kind of tripped into and fell,
fell on. So, you know, it's
a lot of there's a lot of these types of stories that we kind of encountered, another employee found, you know, found another opportunity. Another one reached out to New York City, and lo and behold, that became this multimillion dollar delivery opportunity. So it was a lot of just folks not stopping and not getting stuck in a very crappy situation.
Well, in you really hit on something that I want to circle back to the whole, like corporate gift giving. And even like, for when we have big groups that come into town, and depending on who the client is, and what their personality is, because we have some people that have a very giving personality. And they're like, we in every hotel room, we want everyone to have a box and our budgets, 100 $200 per person per room. And then we have some people that are like, why do we need welcome bags? Like, well, when people are traveling, and like for meetings or events, like it's nice to give them something, you know, from the city. But whenever we think of swag, or we think of corporate gift giving, it used to be something like kind of just out of a catalogue, where now the pandemic has, and again, hospitality and companies have learned to pivot and think of themselves as like this corporate gift giving. And I know a local company that decided they were amazing. They have like these cool mixologist things going on at events, and then they're like, oh, okay, we can't do it anymore. And they started Tick Tock account, and then blew up on Tick Tock like teaching people how to make cocktails. And then that turned into Oh, do you want us to send in a no, with alcohol, it's a little bit different, because different states have different rules, but they were still able to abide by it. And they would like send a little kids. And then it was neat. It was like, Okay, and then everybody get on at 6pm for like, a group happy hour. You know, these are some different organizations that I was in, but I know that companies were doing it too. And then my mom's company, instead of giving people, the T shirts, and you know, the water bottles that we that we usually get, they were doing this type of thing, so that everybody could get on and involve, like the whole family, which I think really brought companies and brought co workers a lot closer together. Because people actually got to see, like, inside of other people's homes, and they're like, Oh, that's your dog. And that's your kid. And I don't know, like, I think so much good has come out of it. The people that harp on like the negativity and the bad stuff, I'm like, Well, a lot of good, good things come out of some tragedies. And when you don't, the thing is, a lot of us in businesses, none of us knew what the hell to do. And we're all kind of in the same boat, and we're all trying to figure it out. And if we had that mentality of like, everyday entrepreneurship, like if something isn't working, like let's figure out and fix it, then I feel like a lot less pressure would be put on us to go make a million dollars or go get the ROI. Because it's like, if it's not working pivot, we don't have to have a pandemic, to pivot. But do you think that if the pandemic never happened, you guys would have just stayed on the trajectory of what what you were doing and you guys had never would have gotten into the whole delivery service? Yeah, we there's no way we would have we, the, you know, the pandemic has caused us to create four new lines of businesses
that
Will that is catapulting hungry, way faster than we ever expected.
And, you know, it's funny, I was talking to Jeff yesterday, my co founder, and we were like looked at
the pandemic was super crappy in the first few months for everyone across the board.
And, yeah, everyone's figuring out, like, what do you do? Do you continue to do what you're doing? Do you switch jobs? Do you, you know, how do you support your family, you know, all these different things go through your mind.
But after all of this, you know, there's a lot of businesses that were able to
pivot and create and pivot and innovate, and
a lot of new things have now, you know, being created for the system for our society, country world that didn't exist before.
Now, the sad truth of it is, there are a lot of businesses that also, you know, went out of business and the pandemic helped accelerate, you know, those who, you know, we're trying to make it.
But lots of good also can come from a really, really bad situation. And this was one of them. And
I think we got, there's a little bit of luck, a lot of hustle.
And we have a very good investor group that kind of stuck by us the whole time.
Let us do our thing, kind of, you know, totally backed up, it's not even backed up, they offered help in different cities to be able to continue to support us. And
you know, we're in a, we're in a really good place today, that trajectory wise, we're probably going to grow, you know, three or four times faster than we expected. Pre pre pandemic,
which is awesome. So I have a couple more questions like, so when a city hires you guys to do this? And I'm assuming like, you didn't have hundreds of drivers lined up? Like, did you all partner with like, I know, in every corner on New York, it's easy to get a cab? So did y'all partner with taxi drivers that couldn't take people are like, how did you attack the whole thing of like, Oh, my God, we have to hire all these drivers. How did you guys do that in in New York, we would. So when we first did it in New York, we essentially had to create the playbook to then you know, if you can do it in New York, you can do it anywhere.
And so we we staffed up a hiring team of about 10, whose sole job was every city, we were awarded, you know, this, these contracts to go in and do the delivery, within two weeks, they would staff up to a minimum of like 50 drivers. And over the course of a month, we could get it to a couple 100 drivers. These are people who were screen train background checks, totally qualified. So it was a it was a machine that we had essentially set up through the you know, through New York, building it, and then we were able to apply to the rest of the country.
And then what happened after the pandemic, you know, it's kind of subsided in the cities is now private companies who have these meals that they want delivered, are using hungry instead of shipping it with FedEx for last mile logistics, because we end up being you know, we're just more cost efficient, cost effective for them. And so, again, another business is now born out of something that originally started off to help, you know, folks who needed food is now turned into, hey, this is a really sophisticated logistics setup. You know, Can we tap into this for, you know, we need to ship this and we need to ship that out.
So, you know, that's kind of how we got to where we are today. It's funny, because I was listening to a podcast recently, and they were talking about Domino's Pizza, which there were everywhere. I've lived growing up like Domino's was never around, like pizza hut was always there. But they were talking about how when everyone thinks of Domino's they think of pizza. But really, Domino's is a logistics company. And so it's like, you know, well, hungry provides food. It sounds like to me when you guys went into these big cities and you got these opportunities, you came up with a freaking process that worked. And then you took it to each city. And so when you look into the background of like, what the consumer thinks versus like, from an entrepreneur level and investor level, like okay, logistically, if you can make it go in New York, no matter what you're pushing, whether it's food or whatever it may be when you get the logistics down, right? You can pretty much deliver anything. So that that's amazing. Do you think that the hungry will continue to just focus on food
and hospitality and events, or do you think that it will expand to do other things, not just food. So So on the virtual side we've already expanded into, now we have yoga classes, kickboxing, and again, like you get a kit with, like all the yoga stuff, okay, with boxing gloves and like water bottles and food that is good for you. It's, we've started expanding outside of just food, in going gone into more food and employee wellness.
On the other side of the company, we're going deeper into food. So,
you know, pop ups, pop up restaurants, in these corporate buildings, corporate catering, events coming back, you know, live events is coming back. And so
we're replacing,
you know, in corporate tower cafeterias with our chefs, today, it's and you know, it's an Indian chef, and it's a Persian chef and Italian chef. So you're switching up the cuisines by switching up the chef's,
versus just kind of having a stagnant menu everyday for everybody to go through. So it's just using the power of the platform to solve different food needs, throughout, you know, the corporate food sector. And then virtual is kind of this beast on its own, that's just running fast. And you have no clue how it's going to, you know, how it's gonna turn out.
We just right now, we offer I think, 35 or 40 different experiences. And so companies literally are booking out for 12 months, you know, an experience a month for their employees, or some are doing it for their clients. They want to impress their clients. So, you know, you can't take someone to a basketball game anymore on a cruise or the different ways people used to schmooze. So now they're booking these hungry virtual experiences, and everyone's having fun. And, you know, you get a gift at home. So it's a
lot going on there. That's awesome. So if people want to, if anyone listening, like, wants to go through this experience, do you what what's the best way go to the website? Is there an app like, what's the whole customer user experience? If they go to try hungry, calm, there's a link at the top to if you want to try virtual experience. And
from there, you'll see all the experiences, you can go ahead and book right on the website.
And then they can how do you guys deal with all these dietary restrictions that people are? In some of them, like they're legit, I know, like working in events, people would select, like the beef, or the vegetarian or gluten free or whatever. And then we would like bring out the beef and the chicken. And then we would bring the vegetarian meal. And they're like, actually, like, the the state the beef? And I'm like, are you just deciding to be like, a part time edge? I don't know, I see that happening all the time, it was used to annoy the hell out of me. And I'm like, you're either a vegetarian or pescatarian? Or you're allergic to it, or you're not like there is no gray area here. But is that something that you just completely leave up to your chefs that are creating that? Or how do you guys handle that, when we were doing corporate catering in high volume, the beauty of working with independent chefs was they, you know, for a chef to join our platform, they would have to adhere to the hungry rules. And part of that is, if you have people that have dietary restriction, you'd have two as a chef, they would put that person's meal in a separate, you know, biodegradable container, whereas everyone else's food is in pans. So like lasagna, Pan, Pan, Pan Pan, but the 10 people that needed to be there googling free, or can't have this, enter that, and then they would put the person's name on it as well. So it just makes it very easy for that employee to participate in the group eating and you know, the communal eating, but also get their dietary needs, you know, totally handled in a safe way. So
that's how we handled it, you know, prior to the pandemic, and post pandemic is what we're going to be doing as catering comes back on. But yes, lots of dietary restrictions out there. And, you know, folks are picky these days. And so you just got to you have to be able to adapt to what the needs of the consumers are
exactly like you have to that but but that's great, like to keep everything separate. And then my last question is like, from a growth perspective, like during the pandemic, because I know like making sales calls and things like that just kind of went away. Did you guys really invest time in growing out Instagram and people started to see what you were doing? And then you found that you were getting referrals like through Instagram or what has been the best referral source for you all.
So our so pre pandemic, our clients, office admins EAS and companies that were ordering from us would, would be our best source for referrals. And that, you know, they were like, hey, you're delivering food to us on floor four. Have you seen, you know, Microsoft's on number six, you know, Google's on number eight, you know, have you guys gone up and talk with them?
So that was pre pandemic, a lot of just word of mouth. During the pandemic, a lot of our celebrity investors
would.
They wanted to donate food to certain areas that was important to them. And though they would,
so they would go on Instagram, and post about hungry. So Kevin Hart did this a couple times. And he's got over 100 million followers. He posted on his Instagram hungry, and I have joined forces to donate food to Philadelphia, and we would deliver, you know, 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of meals to different people.
So a lot of our you know, Todd Gurley did that for folks in his hometown. And so they would, through goodwill,
promote hungry on their social platforms. And and we were just, you know, delivering food from chefs to folks that needed it.
So that helped get the word out on a national scale about, you know, what is hungry and in who we are. And right now, we get a lot of business
referrals through via virtual experience. So folks will come on the virtual experience will have such a great time, and a lot of them are from different companies. And then they'll go back and then they'll tell their company, like let's do this. Let's do this. So we've been growing quickly, just through word of mouth on the virtual side. And it's so awesome. Like, y'all, you have to go check out their Instagram, because it's not like what you expect. And then you get there. And it's like, this is fun and colorful and like you're celebrating, you know, all the different. It's like chicken and waffles, which is like such a national.
And then it's like you've got whiskey tastings, and you've got mixology things, you've got tequila fights, like, you've got all this fun stuff. It's not just like, oh, we're gonna sit and eat or make a meal. Like, it looks really fun. It's pretty, like the what is a cake sickle like?
That is a creation from our virtual team.
It's basically like a cake and a popsicle mixed together. We our we have a really awesome PR team. Yes, that has helped us take our Instagram following from just a couple 1000 to where it's at today. They
it's just an awesome group that we work with. And they're very ahead of the curve on what we should be thinking about from a social presence from a marketing perspective, from a publicity perspective, so we've been blessed, and they've kept us constantly in the media during the pandemic, I can't tell you the number of times that Forbes and Inc and other, you know, magazines and written about hungry.
So, we were named, you know, one of the most innovative businesses in America by I think it was Inc or fortune.
So, they've just done a great job of keeping us very relevant. You know, in a world where there's lots of other things that the media is focused on, which is awesome. And so it's like, I'm looking and I'm like, Okay, what are the boxing gloves? And then when I asked, like, are you guys gonna be doing other things like logistically? And you're like, yeah, the kickboxing in the yoga and I'm like, Oh, that's what that is. Yeah. Because I mean, it's, it's so genius to like, people pay for convenience to like, before the pandemic, my mom didn't understand why I would have groceries delivered why I'd rather get a blowout than doing it myself when I could, like sit there and put out proposals and like, get some work done. And but now she gets it and she's like, Oh, it's I don't think I'll ever go back to like buying all these things. And I'll just get it off Amazon for Mother's Day. She got her own amazon prime account.
Like I don't want to order it all your shit. Nothing on mine. But like, every Sunday went to like every other day of like getting text messages and Markopolos and like you need your own account like mom, and you've got an Alexa like you can just voice speak and you know, it's like wonderful. And she's like, Well, they've just made it really easy for us consumers and I'm like, Yes, and it's also like helping build businesses. So it's just it's it's incredible like what technology has been able to do, either
Like people that are a little bit older that wanted to go to the grocery and wanted to do these things, like they're seeing how much more time that they can spend with their family and their friends at home rather than like coupon shopping around, like it's no longer about the coupons anymore, which is how my mother is.
It's, it's, you're absolutely right, technology has totally changed. Everything pandemic accelerated, you know, how much tech we use, and, you know, some people, you know, are hesitant, but it has, you know, save the day in a lot of different ways food delivered groceries delivered,
just made life easier. And to your point, you get to spend more time at home with the people that you care about, versus spending two hours going grocery shopping, not to say like, that's bad, you know, do it, you know, but you just don't have to do it as frequently anymore. Especially if you need one or two things, you don't need to go all the way to the grocery store, get in your car, burn gas,
you can just have it quickly delivered to you. And while you play, you stay home and do do other productive things.
And one last thing, like as we wrap up here, like y'all, like you were like, I'm not a cook, I'm not a chef, like, you know, I don't do these things. But you saw the need for it. And there was a huge need, I think bigger than you guys ever could have expected, like when you started this. So just because you're not certified, or you don't have the degree or you're a chef, like if you believe in it, and you are able to get the right partners, because it's hard to do these things alone. Like you've got to lean on partnerships, and like you said, co founders and, and we work with a lot of family, I was in a family business. And so it's like, you've got to lean on other people to help you get there. And it's like, not every story is the success story and, and the shits hard. But how you guys really took and saw the need and then ran with it is just incredible, like congratulations on everything that you guys have done. I totally appreciate it. And biggest advice to any entrepreneur is go find a co founder, get a co founder because starting a business alone sucks.
And you'll you'll quit quickly because you don't have anyone to continue to motivate you to get to the next level. Even when you keep hitting the wall, keep hitting the wall, keep hitting the wall. So
find a co founder, give them half the company, it's okay like the you will survive and then thrive and grow business versus, you know, trying to do it alone. And at some point, you hit a wall and you're like, you know what, I'm just gonna go back to a nine to five.
And when you always follow the need, like the needs of other people like the money comes. And you know, that's something that when I started my businesses like It Wasn't I had a I had a corporate job for fun, but it's like follow the passion and fulfill and fill the need and like the money will come. So it yeah, it always does. But a lot of younger entrepreneurs, they're so worried about some of the wrong things and sound like you just had to follow the passion. They're like, well, that's easy for you to say, I'm like, but I went through what you what you're going through right now 15 years ago. So you just have to keep going and learn how to fill the need of what people are needing. So this was amazing. We'll put everything in the show notes. You guys have to check this out. And definitely check out the Instagram because I'm like very unlikely I want to go click on all these things like so watch all some of the videos, this is awesome. And also love how you guys like really empower like you have your team on here you have a lot of the different chefs. It's not just all about like celebrity celebrity. It's not always about the celebrity and the money what I've really learned in working with some people that are in the public eye, it's money is a tool and it can help you help so many other people. And so the generosity that some of these people have, you know, they're feeding their towns and and the cities where they're from, like you said, what's important to them is just, I mean, it's just next level like it's it's so awesome. Like how you guys, you do have a really good team. I love how they've like put everything together. And they don't make it just about food. It's all about the experience. 100% Yeah, totally. Yep, we've great team Great, great.
And the focus is all on the team for us. super flat organization and hope that everyone on the team feels very much like they are you know at the decision making table because we've been running the company like that. So hopefully this continues to work for us it has in the past and don't see why it shouldn't in the future. It's awesome. Well guys, you guys
Gotta go check it out. And now I'm hungry. But I have to get to my next podcast and then I'll get to eat something. Thank you so much for your time today. I'm so incredibly excited and honored that you took time to be here today and share your story today. Thank you, Angela. Thanks everyone. And everybody that's listening or watching be sure to tune in next week to another episode of business unveiled by y'all. That's it for this week's episode of business unveiled. Now that you have all the tools that you need to conquer the world and GSD get shit done. Would you share this with your friends and fellow business leaders? One thing that would really really help us and help new listeners is for you to rate the show. And leave a comment and Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you tune in and listen to business unveiled. You can check out the show notes at Angela proffitt.com slash podcast and link up with us on social media so you can share your biggest insights and I want to know your aha moments. Until next week, remember the profitable shifts and structures you're creating in your business help you be more present in your life. So get out there and GSD

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Published: September 23, 2021

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