Women’s History Month Series, Part 3: “Create the platform that supports the mission”

 

Our third feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Yemisi Awosan, the founder and CEO of Egunsi Foods, a Harlem-based food company that focuses on producing locally-sourced refrigerated African food. Although they now focus on their individually packaged farm-to-table soups, Egunsi Foods still offers catering through FoodtoEat and is the perfect option if you want to try something new for lunch and introduce your office to a flavorful and unique cuisine!

When and how did your business get started?

I started Egunsi Foods in 2014. In order to see if there was any interest in West African food, I started testing out the market, offering my services through catering and as a personal chef. Once I found that there was an audience for this cuisine and that my idea was validated, I was able to create an extended product line that is now sold at Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market, on FoodKick and Goldbely in New York City.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

My inspiration is to tell/share the story of my Africa, my culture through it’s food. I partner with farmers in West Africa to source their raw materials for Egunsi’s final products. My philosophy is to actively give back to African farmers and create a long-term impact through social entrepreneurship rather than a short-term donation through philanthropy.

What is the biggest/hardest lesson you’ve learned through running a business?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you will be the most passionate about your vision for your business. But you have to find ways to have others buy into that same vision that you have; and it may not be at the same level as your passion, but you need to find people that fall somewhere around that neighborhood and understand and appreciate your product.

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

I think being a female business owner has impacted my business in that I have to be extremely detail-oriented and super organized because I have to wear many hats as I run my business.  

Working with FoodtoEat means that you support the mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think the FoodtoEat mission is important?

I believe that the FoodtoEat mission is important because they create the platform that supports the mission. They are providing the opportunity that allows the mission to be actionable.

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Go after the dream(s)/goal(s) that you set for yourself. You don’t want to look back years from now and wish that you could have gone after them. Even if it doesn’t work out or if it doesn’t work out as you envisioned it, at least you tried and gave it your all. So no regret- I live by this philosophy.

Women’s History Month Series, Part 2: “The future is most definitely female”

 

Our second feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Ashley Jaffe, the co-founder of Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen, NYC’s cutest cafe located at 121 Madison Avenue! Ashley and her husband, Zach, strike the perfect mix with their upscale “coffeehouse” food, offering gourmet breakfast and lunch options as well as artisan coffee, craft beef and wine. Their food is known for adding a twist to your favorite, classic dishes and using fresh ingredients that makes their food as delicious as it is picturesque (see our Instagram where they are frequently featured)!

When and how did your business get started?

We opened our first store, Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen, in November 2015. I come from an extensive public relations background (specifically focusing on food & beverage) and had always wanted to take the leap into the operations side of the business. My husband had been operating bars and restaurants for years and was looking to open a new daytime concept. So we decided to partner up and open a café together!

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We set out to open a restaurant/coffee shop hybrid! We love coffee and great food and at the time, the concept really didn’t exist. We never understood why coffee shops were only offering soggy grab & go sandwiches. Customers should be able to get a great meal and a killer cup of coffee at the same place. So we set out to give them just that.

What is the biggest/hardest lesson you’ve learned through running a business?

I’ve learned the importance of a strong team that you can really trust. A business owner works so hard to ensure every last piece is perfectly in place, and then it’s up to the staff to execute those practices. Sometimes it’s great and other times a cashier just broke up with her boyfriend or is having a horrible day and is rude to every customer that walks in, which is not okay. I’ve learned the importance of extensive employee training and constant one-on-one conversations with each and every employee about the importance of customer service and quality work. As a business owner, you need to work endlessly to ensure that you have the right team that’s happy and proud to do good work for you. At the end of the day, your business is in their hands. 

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

I’ve seen the good and the bad of being a female-owned business. I’ve had not-so-nice people come in asking to speak with my husband, even after I’ve told them that I’m the co-owner of the business. But I’ve also seen so many people be extra supportive of our business because it’s female-owned. Wanting to shout us out on social media or order catering from us rather than a different restaurant simply because they want to support other women has been amazing to see!

Working with FoodtoEat means that you support the mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think the FoodtoEat mission is important?

I think the mission is amazing – especially in the food business. Women and minorities make up the majority of our team and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them! It’s so important to give these groups a voice and it’s incredible that a company in this space has recognized that.

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Go for it! I promise you- you will be more pleasantly surprised by the support that comes your way than the obstacles that you think you may face. The future is most definitely female!

Women’s History Month Series, Part 1: “Never Stop Hustling”

 

Our first feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Lily Brynes, the founder and CEO of SPOTS NYC! These delicious, customizable mini cupcakes come in four different flavors: birthday cake, brownie batter, red velvet and vanilla. Each cupcake contains an edible logo or message, making them exactly what you need for your next happy hour, pitch meeting or birthday party! 

When and how did your business get started?

In 2014, my now-fiance, Samson and I, decided to ditch materialistic Valentine’s Day gifts in exchange for ones with more personal value. After many failed ideas, I got the bright idea to whip out my edible printer and bake some mini cupcakes with our picture on them. I knew the cupcakes would be meaningful since they would be personalized, homemade and delicious. Needless to say, Samson loved them. Shortly after posting pictures of what I was calling “SPOTS” on my personal Instagram account, I found that others loved them too. Following my instinct I made the decision to walk away from my corporate job to pursue SPOTS NYC full-time. I haven’t looked back since! Today, we’ve worked with companies such as Amazon, Google, American Express, Starwood and Target. As well as a handful of celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Jessica-Parker, Neil Patrick-Harris, Mariah Carey and Reese Witherspoon… just to name a few!

What is the biggest/hardest lesson that you’ve learned while running a business?

How to turn mistakes into an opportunity! It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes (running a business is hard!) but it’s about how you deal with those mistakes that makes you a better leader. For instance, if you handle the mistake in a creative and unique way – your client wont remember how you messed up, they will remember how you went above and beyond to correct the mistake. You have the power to control the narrative!

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

Being a female business owner has been so special. Not only do I feel like I am helping to change the world (lean in, ladies and take a seat at the table!!), but I also have access to an amazing network of other female founders. When we come together and support each other – there’s nothing that we cant do! It has never been more important to be a strong woman! 

Working with our company means that you support FoodtoEat’s mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think this mission is important?

I think FoodtoEat’s mission is the MOST important thing to support. We need to do everything in our power, especially right now, to make this world a better and more accepting place. Female (and immigrant run) businesses should become the MAJORITY!!!

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Never stop hustling. Never let anyone get in the way of your dreams (especially a man). Don’t just reach for the stars, reach for the sun!!!  

Our Catering Account Managers are Superheroes.

 

Catering Account Managers are the engine of the FoodtoEat machine. This role is a pivotal part of the company. Each day, Catering Account Mangers are creating proposals, coordinating with clients and vendors, placing and confirming orders, making sure meals go smoothly and above all, keeping clients happy! Although the day to day tasks may generally stay the same, each day is filled with different challenges that need to be handled efficiently and effectively, which makes every day different from the last.

An Account Manager’s job is to make the client’s catering process simple and stress-free but, as is the nature of the food industry, mistakes happen and issues come up. In order to give you, our clients, a better understanding of the time and coordination that it takes to get from the initial “I need catering” email to your team eating delicious food from one of our local vendors, we’ve broken down the responsibilities of Catering Account Manager and explained how they do what they do.

Daily Tasks of a Catering Account Manager:

Creating proposals. When a client calls or emails with a catering request, the first step is to get all of the details and create a proposal. Generally proposals contain 3 menu options from 3 different vendors. Our Catering Account Managers create the menus and portion the meals themselves, so they have an vast knowledge of each vendor’s menu: what cuisine they offer, how many people each tray of beef or salad feeds, if the vendor charges extra for plates/napkins/utensils, etc. Using this knowledge, the Account Manager will filter through vendors that will work for the client considering the following factors: budget, headcount, dietary restrictions, delivery address and delivery date and time. Because we don’t want client’s meals to become repetitive and we want to introduce clients to new vendors and cuisines, they also look at past orders to see what cuisines the client has had in the past and try to include new and different options. These proposals are being generated for multiple clients, multiple times a day. But the detail that goes into hand-crafting each and every proposal for our clients is what makes our Catering Account Managers so awesome- you truly get a customized experience based on your office’s needs.

Coordinating with clients and vendors. Aside from interacting with clients, Catering Account Managers are also constantly touching base with our vendors: confirming menu pricing, seeing if vendors are available for an order, updating menus and most commonly, getting special pricing. Sometimes clients need something very specific for a meal, such as a dinosaur themed baby shower or cookies with their company’s logo printed on them. In these situations, Catering Account Manager must confer directly with the vendor and create a custom menu for the client, since these items don’t come on a standard catering menu. The Account Manager is responsible for conveying to the vendor exactly what the client wants and then must wait for the vendor to get back to them with how much it will cost. Since vendors are usually dealing with their own in-house orders or lunch/dinner rushes if they are a restaurant, it can often take a few hours or even days for the vendor to get back to them. The responsibility lies on the Catering Account Manager to make sure that they are continuously following up with the vendor for the pricing that they need as well as making sure that the custom menu is meeting the client’s expectations.

Placing and confirming orders. Once a menu has been selected by the client for their meal or event, it is the Catering Account Managers job to then place the order in our system with the vendor. To place the order, they must have all relevant delivery details on file so that they can give as much detail as possible to the vendor about the order. Since the vendor isn’t coordinating directly with the client, it’s extremely important that all details on an order are as specific as possible so that there is no miscommunication on the vendor’s end. These details include delivery address (including floor or suite), delivery contact name and phone number, delivery time and event start time (so that time is given for the vendor to set up the food for the client), if the delivery needs to go through a freight elevator or if there’s a certain procedure that must be followed in regards to delivering/setting up the food. Once the order is placed, it is also the Catering Account Manager’s duty to confirm that the vendor received the order and is clear on all of the delivery details. They must also follow up with the vendor on the day of the order to be sure that everything is on track to be delivered at the requested time and that nothing is missing from the order.

Last minute changes/cancellations/updates. If an order is cancelled or moved to a different day, if a delivery time is changed or the headcount on a meal is increased, the Catering Account Manager is the person taking care of it. They are responsible for communicating any changes on the order to the vendor and making sure that the vendor has an updated order form with those changes clearly noted.

Now that we’ve given a breakdown of the many tasks a Catering Account Manager is taking care of each day, below are two ways that you can help your Catering Account Manager improve the service that they provide to you and other clients!

How You Can Help Make Us Better:

Providing feedback on meals. After each meal is delivered to a client, a meal feedback form is sent out asking a few questions about what the client thought of the meal. We know that this can be time consuming when you already have a million things on your plate but we try to make the feedback form as quick and as painless as possible, while also garnering information about the vendor, the delivery and the meal itself. As a client, if you really loved or really hated something- let us know! Feedback helps the Catering Account Manager understand what your team likes and dislikes: if everyone loved the chicken, they’ll portion that a little heavier next time, or if the salmon was blah, they’ll make a note to discuss that with the vendor and see how it can be improved for another client. This feedback helps the Account Managers learn more about each client’s preferences and build a profile on the client for future proposal building. The bottom line: helping us helps you and is the best way for us  to improve our service.

Call or email catering requests as soon as you get them. We know that meetings come up last minute- it happens with us too! But as you get closer to your meal delivery time, the window of available vendors gets smaller. Most vendors are able to turn around an order within 24-48 hours but since we do work with a lot of local, mom & pop shops throughout NYC, many don’t have the staffing or extra food materials on hand to cook and deliver meals that aren’t scheduled a few days in advance. We are definitely able to accommodate those orders that pop up the night before or day of a meal (and we have in the past) but we’re able to give you a better range of options and create a better experience for you and your team when we have advance notice. The more lead time you can give us on an order, the better our service can work for you and the happier you’ll be with your meal!

Do good and make money at the same time? It’s possible and necessary.

A few weeks ago, Laurence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock, one of the world’s largest global asset management firms, in an open letter to CEOs, point-blank told businesses it is their responsibility to do social good.

He writes, “many governments are failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining. As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges.”

An impactful call to action coming from the founder of the of the world’s largest investment firms worth $6 trillion.

Social good and capitalism are becoming intrinsically linked because the world is demanding it. It’s no wonder that brand activism is the latest trend in the business world. A trend that seems like it’s here to stay if Fink’s letter is any indication.

Most large-scale corporations have philanthropic arms and for the past several decades, corporate social responsibility has become a mainstay in the business world.

But what if businesses went further than that? What if we become truly focused on the idea that profits don’t have to come at the cost of doing good or addressing social issues? There is a growing perception that it’s actually the right thing to do long term from a profit standpoint.

The very essence of FoodtoEat is to be invested (pun intended) in the idea of social good and community. We’re building a diverse food community by empowering small restaurant owners, many of whom are immigrants and women, to grow and sustain their businesses. We help food vendors connect with larger-scale corporate clients, bring in more cash and grow their business. Our business model is based on providing services to small business owners that are often underrepresented and overlooked. Not only do we connect small businesses with corporate clients they couldn’t reach on their own, we also help vendors create catering menus and improve their catering operation through feedback given at in-house tastings.

So, what’s our secret sauce for creating profits and contributing to society at the same time? Here are our three ingredients:

  1. We support small businesses get bigger clients and grow their revenue.
  2. We’re truly invested in diversity, specifically immigrant, minority and female-run food vendors.
  3. By introducing international cuisines to our corporate clients, we’re bridging the gap between different worlds.  

 

Resources:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2018/02/03/how-to-heed-blackrocks-call-for-corporate-social-responsibility/#54a26e37290a
https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanmcpherson/2018/01/12/8-corporate-social-responsibility-csr-trends-to-look-for-in-2018/2/#efe1f7f54e2f
https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianrashid/2017/04/25/why-more-and-more-companies-are-doing-social-good/#39bb8189db07
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/23/blackrocks-push-for-social-responsibility-shows-shift-in-companies.html

How FoodtoEat benefits you. (and your local food community)

At FoodtoEat, our mission is to unite people around the communal table and add diversity to the food community by championing small businesses from every neighborhood. So why should this matter to you?

  1. Team meals build office communities, improving teamwork and promoting success. Creating a happy and healthy workplace is not always an easy task. In a fast-paced environment like NYC, it can feel like you’re constantly racing to your next meeting, rushing to meet deadlines and answering calls at all hours of the day and night. Therefore, creating a time during the day (or week) for employees to come together and take a moment to decompress is pivotal. A team meal provides the perfect opportunity for colleagues to take a break from work, bringing together different members of your team that might not usually cross paths. Food and the discussion that it creates allows bonds to be formed between coworkers, making the office a place that they want to return to rather than a place that they have to return to. The inclusiveness of a team meal makes employees feel accepted and appreciated for their hard work, as well as that they have colleagues they can talk to when work is becoming too stressful. Employees that are well-fed are happier in the work place because they feel that their company is investing in them just as much as they invest in the company.
  2. Providing a unique experience keeps you top of mind with clients. As a FoodtoEat client, we strive to give you (and your clients) a taste of New York! We believe that amazing food can create an experience that goes beyond a board meeting or a lunch, amazing food can show your clients why they should have you handling their next big ad campaign or building their new website. At FoodtoEat, we have cuisines from Italian to Caribbean to South African and everything in between, making it easy to customize each meal to make sure that your clients leave impressed, knowing that you didn’t just order sandwiches and salad from the deli downstairs 20 minutes beforehand but that you put time and energy into finding a cuisine that you know their boss particularly enjoys or welcoming international clients to a new city with NY’s finest: hot pretzels and pizza. The food that we’re able to provide, created by our diverse vendors, makes the food a part of the meeting, creating an experience that your clients will remember and that will make you stand out. Showing attention to detail with your food can transform sustenance into a story and make it a memorable selling point.
  3. Supporting local, small businesses builds the community outside your office walls.  Some of the best food in NYC is created in the mom and pop shops that are standing room only or at the food cart on the corner. Unfortunately, most of these small businesses don’t have the infrastructure or capital to offer catering on their own. That’s where we come in! Our goal is to bring that food into your office, let you taste how delicious it is and tell the story about where it’s coming from. Allowing us to bring local vendors into your office to cater your breakfasts/lunches/dinners/afternoon snacks, helps expand their business and create opportunities for them that were previously beyond their reach. It also helps you, as a company, define your own mission: What do you value? How can a seemingly insignificant decision about food improve the local food community around you? How can you make an impact?

New York City is made up of the small businesses that we focus on promoting. They are a part of our city’s culture, shaping us as global citizens and reminding us of the hard work and determination that comes with running any business. In our current social climate, supporting your local food community is more important than ever before. When so many factors divide us, food is a common denominator- a reason to come together and share different parts of ourselves, our cultures and our identities.