This week’s Q&A is with former chef and self-professed foodie Lorraine Gnanadickam who co-founded Food St. in August 2015 to help bring home cooking to the gig economy, empowering passionate home cooks to earn extra income cooking from home and helping busy people eat better.
ISB: What was the driving force behind the creation of Food St.?
LG: I felt there was an opportunity to connect those passionate about home cooking who would welcome some extra income with the huge number of families who aspire to eat well but are just too busy to produce a really healthy home-cooked meal. When I looked into it I realised that nobody was doing anything similar.
ISB: And how does the concept work?
LG: Our home cooks decide when their they’re going to cook and what they’re going to cook – most of them have one or two signature dishes that they’re comfortable producing in volume, and then customers order what they like the look of from the Food St platform.
That process involves choosing what you want to order no later than the night before, but we are about to launch a new same-day order initiative involving the schools: parents will be able to make their order for dinner up to 9.30 am and the family’s dinner order is delivered to the school to be collected when the parent(s) pick their kid(s) at the end of the school day.
ISB: What about food safety – this is a highly regulated industry?
LG: In order to overcome widespread perceptions about home cooking, Food St. abides by the highest standards in food quality. I involved food safety regulators early on in the process to create a safe and commercially viable system for the business, thereby ensuring its sustainability.
ISB: How did you fund the enterprise in its start-up phase and its ongoing growth?
LG: I self-funded the founding of Food St. using savings and the equity in our house. We are now using crowdfunding to raise capital to grow the business. A change in ASIC legislation in early 2018 means “mum-and-dad” investors can now put their money into Australian start-ups (previously that opportunity had been restricted to sophisticated angel investors). As a community-based business we saw this as a great opportunity and we signed up 2016 Masterchef winner Elena Duggan, a passionate advocate of food education, as the face of an equity crowdfunding campaign. Expressions of interest are now open and the community can invest as little as $100 each, with a view to raising $750,000.
We’ll use this first capital-raising to expand our operations across Sydney, and we’ll run similar campaigns in the years to come, once we have consolidated in Sydney and NSW, to expand nationally and refine our model so we ultimately have a concept we can export internationally
ISB: How do you get the message about Food St. out to both potential cooks and potential customers?
LG: At this stage we are hyperlocal – the northern beaches of Sydney and the city’s inner west. When we started we got onto the front page of the local paper that generated hundreds of inquiries from local people wanting to join. We augmented that with a social-media marketing campaign and we’ve also joined lots of networking groups, such as Females in Food and Northern Beaches Mums.
ISB: And what lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur that you would share with those with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
LG: Believe in yourself and your capabilities – in the past I have trusted too much in the “expertise” of the others, at the end of the day the idea is yours so you have the most intimate knowledge of what you’re trying to achieve so just back yourself.