The United States food and drink industry is estimated to be a more than $5 trillion per year industry. It has many big players that dominate the industry, but there are some great companies within the New York area that are looking to get themselves a piece of the $5 trillion pie.
I spoke to the founders of eight businesses that are each doing something great, and asked them questions about how they got to where they are, what struggles they had to overcome, where they see the business going, and what advice they would have for entrepreneurs looking to make the first step in starting a business. They are all very unique and you’re sure to see their names popping up more soon. Here they are!
Phin & Phebes
Phin & Phebes is a unique take on everyone’s favorite dessert, ice cream. They use quality ingredients to create unconventional flavors to create a higher end ice cream that they are sure you’ll love!
The company started when one of the founders hosted a dinner party and made home-made ice cream. The guests loved it so much that she decided to turn her delicious ice cream into a business after she realized there was a gap in the marketplace that could be filled by higher-end ice cream, with unique and innovative flavors.
Co-founder Crista Freeman describes the main challenge of running Phin & Phebes as raising money while properly anticipating growth. It seems like they’re doing a good job, because this last year they grew 800%! They are now in 2,000 stores in 40 states including Walmart.
For those of you that want to start your own business, Crista believes that a good, positive approach and a willingness to fail is key. She also advises hopeful entrepreneurs to fully understand what makes their business tick, and constantly be adjusting it to be more optimal and self-sustaining.
Molly’s Milk Truck
Molly’s Milk Truck is a food truck and soon to be brick-and-mortar cold brew coffee business that uses natural ingredients and almond milk to make their coffee the healthiest and tastiest it can be.
Founder Hoda Mahmoodzadegan quit her nice, well-paying job in order to pursue entrepreneurship. She believes strongly that the iced coffee that is currently sold is both too unhealthy and too expensive. She dumped all of her life savings into the business, leaving her with just $2.61 to survive on, and gave the business her all. And, it’s working out well for her. Hoda raised $500,000 in cash and $300,000 in equipment to start and build out Molly’s Milk Truck. An iced coffee from Molly’s Milk Truck has just 90 calories, while the competitor has anywhere from over 100 to 200 calories per serving. It tastes great, and to top it off the entire process is by hand, no chemicals are used, and the coffee is always cold brewed, a process where the coffee sits in cold water for 12-24 hours to create a more flavorful coffee. Molly’s Milk Truck will have its first brick-and-mortar store opening soon in Brooklyn.
Hoda advises hopeful entrepreneurs to attack their dreams.
She believes strongly in “Google and a lot of sweat” and that if you want it enough, you can have it.
Hoda wants you to “give the underdog a try and check out Molly’s Milk Truck at www.mollysmilktruck.com
Staying with America’s favorite beverage, Vega Coffee is reimagining the coffee supply chain. Usually, coffee farmers in Nicaragua make $1 or less per pound. The rest of the money goes to coffee roasters and distributors in the United States. Vega now has farmers roasting the coffee themselves, so they can make around $5 per pound now.
Three friends decided to start Vega when the realized the supply chain was broken. They are now split up between Nicaragua and the US, trying to take Vega to the next level. They went from nothing to something very quickly when they realized that they could be the more trustworthy and less greedy middle-man between coffee growers and consumers in the US. In the past year, they have grown a lot, causing them to believe that there are more great things to come down the line and that the entire coffee supply chain could be revolutionized by Vega. They recognize that they will not be making as much as the big roasters and distributors per pound, but they believe that doing the right thing and that people care about where their money goes, especially when the coffee is at a similar price (or lower!). Vega is the only coffee company that roasts at origin, and they believe that this gives them a great advantage over other companies who may try to do a similar thing.
Check out Vega Coffee over at www.vegacoffee.com
Try the World
Try the World is an online food marketplace that aims to capture cultures through food. They take food that would normally be unavailable in the United States and bring it here for everyone to try.
The founders met at Columbia University, both with interests in food and travel. They both knew that foreign brands had a very difficult time entering the US, so they decided to create a marketplace for exactly that. They took part in a Google incubator, which they believe played a key role in their success. Since, they have also created a monthly curated giftbox that contains food brands’ products from a different country each month. For July, 2016, it’s Brazil! They currently have 40,000 monthly subscribers for just the gift basket alone. They do admit that getting new brands into the United States is difficult, because each country has its own unique export laws that need to be abided by, but they believe that it’s worth it to allow Americans to try the world through food.
They advise any hopeful entrepreneurs to discover something that they believe there is a need for and give it their all, even if it’s difficult or does not make sense all the time.
Check out Try the World at www.trytheworld.com
BookaLokal and SixPlus
BookaLokal and SixPlus are both founded by Evelyne White and Frank Ramirez. BookaLokal is a platform that allows travelers to go into someone’s home for a home-cooked dinner, which the local is payed for. BookaLokal is in North America, South America, and Europe! SixPlus is a platform that connects private event spaces with those who want to book them. It came out of the interest in private events from BookaLokal. While Evelyne really like both businesses, she recognized that SixPlus was the scalable one, so she kept BookaLokal running, but looked to expand SixPlus.
On SixPlus, a person can book a private event for anywhere between 6 and 200 people. As a marketplace, Evelyne made sure that she was solving a problem for both sides of the business. For the restaurants, they get more business from SixPlus. For the customers, SixPlus makes the process simple and easy, taking the headaches and wasted time out of planning a private event.
As a multiple-time entrepreneur, Evelyne has great advice for those that want to start their own business.
“I would advise them to make sure they’re solving a real problem.” Evelyne believes that creating a good team around you is as important as a great idea.“The most important thing to do as a founder is to identify what skills you’re missing and build a team around you.”
Check out BookaLokal at www.bookalokal.com
And check out SixPlus at www.sixplus.com
FoodtoEat was founded 5 years ago by Deepti Sharma Kapur, who was listed in the 2013 edition of the Forbes 30 Under 30. She recognized a couple of problems. Firstly, food trucks were beloved by many and were becoming more and more popular, but they were not run optimally. Secondly, catering companies were uninspired and uninventive. So, she created FoodtoEat to solve both. FoodtoEat takes the great food found at various food trucks and restaurants and brings them to your office for a catered event.
Deepti believes FoodtoEat is the “Robin Hood” of the online food ordering world, because they help the small businesses that provide the food grow. They currently have over 900 food trucks and restaurants in their arsenal, and a going full steam ahead.
Deepti recognized that ordering catering for an event is actually very difficult, because the average person doesn’t know how to navigate it. That’s why FoodtoEat has a personal concierge for every client to help them through the process and make sure they are happy with the end result.
The future of FoodtoEat is bright, as they add more companies to their growing list of partners, and book more and customers. FoodtoEat is perfect for any corporate event that needs catering, or even a catered lunch for the entire company.
Check out FoodtoEat at www.foodtoeat.com
Tipsi is an app that helps both sides of wine retailing, the retailers themselves and the customers. Founder Mike Bell noticed that everything was becoming more digitalized, except the wine industry. So, he tried to digitize the wine industry while solving some problems that it already had. Thus, Tipsi was born.
At the beginning, Tipsi was an app that displayed which wines were available at which restaurants, but it quickly grew into a retail tool to help the retailer and the consumer. For the retailer, Tipsi simplifies business and allows them to effectively stay open and in business 24/7, even if their physical store is only open for a fraction of that time. For the consumer, Tipsi allows them to find exactly the wine they want and get it easily. Tipsi is aiming to be the Amazon of wine, and they are on their way.
Mike believes that the current and future success of Tipsi is due to their ability to stay lean and flexible while their business morphed into the best version of itself. He advises hopeful entrepreneurs to do the same thing. You may have a good idea, but if you remain flexible and allow your business to change, you could turn that good idea into a great business.
Check out Tipsi at www.gettipsi.com or download it on the App Store or Google Play.
There are eight businesses that are doing something interesting and unique in the food and drink industry. Each of these businesses are unique in their own ways and are very deserving of your business. I hope these insights into these businesses was an interesting read, and the advice they gave to hopeful entrepreneurs was helpful. Check each of these businesses out on their respective websites and give them a try!