Response feature A12 India Abroad May 22, 2015
Deepti Sharma Kapur loves eating food from the trucks and the carts that sell a variety of ethnic fare all over Manhattan. What she did not like, though, was having to wait in the line for 20 minutes to place her order in all kinds of weather. Which is why she came up with Food ToEat.com, where individuals and companies could directly order from the trucks without having to step out. The com- pany is now in its fourth year of business, and a success story. Kapur described how the idea came about and the challenges she faced getting her company going.
What was the idea behind starting your business? It is an online ordering platform for food trucks and carts – the halal, and the chicken and rice guys. It was a very consumer-facing business. But now we have slowly trans- formed it into a corporate catering compa- ny. We work with about 900 food trucks, restaurants and caterers, and we take their services to companies like Tumblr – what- ever their need is for food, for five or five hundred people. As a customer myself, I thought there had to be a better way for me to access food from these food trucks. And food trucks and carts never thought of where their next customer was coming from. They always thought of
the pedestrians walking down the street in a busy area. We helped them think that. Your next customer shouldn’t just walk up to you. Your next customer should be able to access you and your menu online through Food ToEat.com. Many of the food carts wanted to get into catering business, but most didn’t have access to sales people to market their products. How do the food trucks get the orders through your company? Food trucks can receive orders on cell phones through calls, text messages or emails. They can go online and see all of their orders. Most food truck owners don’t have WiFi on their trucks so phones are the best option for them. Did you start this company after graduating from college? I graduated from college a few years before that. I was studying for LSAT, but decided not to pursue law school and instead work on this company. What were the challenges you faced starting a new company? My previous experience was in working on political campaigns. What I learned from that experience was how to do everything at once. You had to think about marketing yourself, think of policies, where the candi- date was and should be, and what the candi- date should be saying. I took those skill sets and applied them to my company: who was my market, who did I need to talk and who did I need to bring on the team to make all these things happen? I had to learn how to hire the right people. Do the people understand the core belief of the company, which is how to help the vendors, the food trucks, and restaurants to enable and strengthen their business, as opposed to thinking that the next customer will just show up? Today I have seven employees working with me. We have a website – similar to grubhub.com. People can order the catering themselves. We work with 120 companies who order for themselves. What more do companies gain from the online ordering option? Our focus is also to encourage companies not to spend years and years building cafe- terias. No matter how small the company, they should be able to order food, give lunch options to their employees without having to invest half a million dollars in building cafeterias.
The entrepreneur who energized
NYC's food truck industry
Thanks to Deepti
wait less and vendors
get more business
Translating dreams into success
Ravindra is the owner of Parsons Ale House, a sports bar/lounge in Fresh Meadows, New York. A loan from BCNA provided his business with the cash flow it needed to open its doors.
Many small business owners and new immigrants lack credit cards or strong credit ratings to get funding from traditional sources. For these small companies, and even for Food ToEat, there is a not- for-profit organization called Business Center for New Americans that gives out microloans. According to the organization’s mission statement it helps “New Yorkers on their path towards the American Dream of financial independence and home ownership by providing the information, know-how, as well as the on-the-ground support they need to thrive financially.” BCNA has worked with immigrants, women and other small business owners. It stipulates that the money should not be used to pay previous debts. BCNA has helped businesses as varied as nail salon owners to food cart vendors selling ethnic cuisines. The projects that BCNA helps put together includes something as simple as contributing towards their savings accounts. Once low-income immigrants are able to save some money and complete a financial literacy course, BCNA can provide grants matching up to $2,000 of an individual’s savings, or $4,000 for a family. In addition BCNA holds workshops for its mem- bers. Upcoming workshops include guiding mem- bers on how to start a small business, how to use Facebook to enhance their business and basic accounting training. Other programs include how to manage debt and credit scores. Indeed, the organization’s website and a blog provide a wealth of information for immigrants who are about start a small business. BCNA is funded by generous financial support from a variety of financial institutions, including Wells Fargo. For more details, visit www.nybcna.org/