Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andy Sartori, Founder and managing partner of MealPro from Sacramento, California, USA.
Tell us all about your business...
MealPro is a food delivery startup that specializes in pre-cooked and pre-portioned meals. Our typical customer is a busy, health-conscious individual who has no time to shop, prep, portion, and cook meals to support their nutrition objectives, hence our call-out “Eat with Purpose.” Our meal plans vary from high protein to low carb, and your portion sizes can be customized based on your activity and nutrition goals. Our website includes a unique calorie calculator that customers use to help fine-tune their nutrition and design the meal plan they need.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
I hatched the business idea for MealPro almost by chance while I was out with two friends to grab a bite. They were different in many ways – gender, lifestyle, body type, and much more – and both were on a diet, but they ordered the same meal. The girl was overeating for her diet, while my other friend was eating too little. I realized that restaurants are standard, but people are unique and recognize the business opportunity for customized meal prep. So, I started MealPro. Today MealPro is an online food delivery service specializing in custom, ready-to-eat meals made with natural ingredients. If we are successful, we may inspire millions to be the best, healthiest versions of themselves.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We have built a best-in-class team, where every person is as obsessed with quality as I am. We expect a lot from our people - gourmet recipes, strict inspections on deliveries, flawless cooking, packaging know-how, computer automation literacy - and we are now staffed with specialists that straddle multiple skills. In the office, we have seasoned developers and a strong Customer Service team that notifies Customers in advance when a delivery is in jeopardy due to an incoming hurricane, or more recently, during the power black-out in Texas. Setting up this team did not come easy; it took us the best part of three years and hundreds of interviews. We demand quality, precision, and productivity from our people, and we offer them an accelerated growth path. Many team members are MealPro long-timers, and we keep our turnover low by promoting from within.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
Any business makes a product and sells a product. For a long time, making the product (cooking the food) required the most effort...I mean, how hard is it to sell healthy and tasty food that is conveniently delivered to your door;)... but order fulfillment is quite tricky. When we started, we were operating with a third-party kitchen to produce our menu, but we quickly realized that we were not controlling our quality. We set up our facility to back-source operations, developed innovative packaging, and selected a full suite of suppliers - all in a former doughnut shop in quaint old Roseville. This effort drained our financial resources, as we kept installing equipment and automation with a still fickle Customer base. As our cash dwindled, we were tempted to cut corners and revert to a more proven business model, but we stayed the course. Eventually, the market took notice of our unique value proposition, and orders became consistent, both from new and returning customers. As we received feedback on a particular meal, we could quickly modify it in production that same day. When a supplier became a problem, we could get onboard another one, sometimes in a week. We had learned how to be agile and practical while delivering to Customers' highest expectations.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be flexible and listen to the market. Flexibility will allow you to pivot or evolve when you experience traction where you were not expecting it quickly.
- Build something scalable. Ask yourself how you can automate a process or workflow. This will allow you to leverage economies of scale to have a broader impact.
- If you ever feel like quitting - remember what motivated you to get started.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Many founders and CEOs have solid opinions and rely on what they have seen work in the past, understandably so. As a result, they tend to have pre-conceived ideas to guide their decision-making process. In a new business, similar as it may be to their previous one, this can be a trap. Demographics may be marginally different, the market response may be delayed, the supply chain may have unexpected behavior, and the bottom line may hit all sorts of unforeseen issues. The overarching principle is to be always data-driven in your decision-making, not gut-driven. An eCommerce business lends itself to data collection across its business model; often, it is too much data. To be successful, you need to make sense of all the data and spot trends early on.
Where can people find you?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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