On Creating A Food Discovery App
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey readers! My name’s Bomani and I am the Founder and CEO of Crave It. Crave It is a dish-based food app that helps consumers and restaurants thrive.
We accomplish this by helping consumers search or discover the most popular curated dishes from local restaurants in their city, while helping restaurants run their marketing and operations for efficiently.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
2012 is when my love of food started to take shape. So much so that I decided that my Instagram account would be dedicated to meals I had eating out, at home, or at conferences.
Those that knew me thought it was strange that I was taking photos of food but from that point on I always knew I would have a future with food and business. Once I moved from Virginia to the renowned food hub of Houston my love for food exploded and I realized my taste buds would never be the same!
As a fairly new Houstonian I was always the person seeking out new restaurants, food truck festivals, and dishes I’ve never tasted before (e.g fried alligator, mexican/korean fusion), and was the go-to person to recommend the best spots for weekend nights out with friends, parents visiting, or date nights. The first thing that dawned on me was that even for someone that was a so called “foodie”, it was not an easy process to find great dishes near me and stay up to date with which restaurants were the best. Secondly, everytime I went out to eat I was tired of debating between one or two dishes and realized it would help me immensely to know what the dish looked like and what the portion size was.
This is when I decided to come up with the idea of Crave It in April 2014 (back then called Viewmeu) and build an app to showcase a digital menu of the menu items at each of the top restaurants. As someone who is a visual learner I saw this as the gateway into the future of food. After going to several start-up meetings, I soon realized that at that time Houston didn’t have the proper resources to get my new business venture off the ground. In order to build the right team I had move to where the future was being created. In November 2014 I decided that by April 2015 I would be moving to California to work in tech and then start my own company. I was fortunate enough to beat my timeline and by January 2015 I was living and working in San Francisco at my dream job that could prepare me to start on my own.
Since the ideation in April 2014 the name and concept of Crave It has evolved but the founding vision has remained the same. My drive and main goal is to bring joy to the world through food. To me there are few things that are more satisfying than eating great food or being introduced to great food. Food truly can break down cultural barriers and give you a deeper understanding of one’s background.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As soon as I had the idea for Crave It (back then it was called Viewmeu) I started drawing on notebook paper to plan out how I wanted the experience for users to be. I started sketching the sign in/login flow, the home screen, the dish page and what information users would want to learn about dishes, how users would search cuisines and restaurants.
Once I mapped out the wireframes of the app I then for the first time began to start visually putting the experience together in Proto.io to bring my idea to life. I had no design background or coding background. However, I knew what I wanted and understood I had to create the best experience to show others my vision in order to recruit the right people to help me develop and design the product.
This by no means was an easy task. I soon learned and respected the work it took to create a prototype from a design and development standpoint. However, the largest hurdle that lay ahead was finding the right people that believed in the product, and were willing to build the product.
Describe the process of launching the business.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned about launching Crave It was perseverance. It is very easy to give up when things aren’t working well, and when the odds are against you. However, if you dig down and continue to push through you will move in the right direction. At the beginning, I built out the idea as I talked to close friends and colleagues in the tech space which lead me to recruit a co-founder that was passionate about the idea. I had to make a lot of sacrifices to bootstrap the company using the majority of my salary from my full-time job to fund engineering and design work. Throughout this process, I continued to expand my idea of what diners and restaurants need by networking with entrepreneurs, designers and engineers. I’ve had more coffee meetings than I can count with so many individuals who have helped me develop a well balanced concept. Crave It would not have been possible without finding the right developers and designers who see the vision and can make it a reality, as well as the people in my network who have guided me through this journey.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, word of mouth has worked well in attracting users to download our app. What has maintained retention of users has been a combination on our Instagram TV series and our daily Instagram posts. We are in the process of growth hacking other viable channels to drive additional user growth and retention.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We continue to focus our efforts within dish-based search and discovery space for diners and restaurants. The future of food search and discovery is at the dish level. This is our niche and where we believe there is the most opportunity to thrive within the market.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The first thing that I learned is to ship your product and iterate. The first product that you ship is not going to be your best work nor should it be. This should be enough to test the market and see if they bite.
The second lesson I’ve learned is to talk to users constantly. This is one thing that will help your product evolve quicker, save you design and development time, and provide you with champions of your brand.
The third lesson that I’ve learned is familiarize yourself with your competitors mistakes and use that as some of your strengths to create a better market for your users or customers.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite business tools today are:
- Gmail for email/calendar/surveys
- Slack for communication
- Monday.com for managing my day and managing team priorities,
- Asana for managing Sprint Calls
- AWS for data storage
- Github for our repository
- Mixpanel for analytics
- DocSend for sending pitch decks
- DocuSign for getting signatures for documents sent
- LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with my professional brand and networking, and Instagram content marketing
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Some of the most influential books that I’ve read have been
- The Lean Startup
- Bad Blood
The most influential podcasts I’ve been listening to are Masters of Scale, How I built This, The Mindset and Motivation, and anything from Simon Sinek.
Other motivation resources consist of Founder's motivational quotes, the Iron Cowboy documentary, my team, mentors, my girlfriend, friends, family, other start-up founders, and our users that believe in what we’re doing.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice for those who wanted to get started is to start. There’s no better way to truly see if this is something you want to dedicate your time to than to put time into it. You will soon find out very quickly if you are still keeping the flame alive or if you will let the blame burn out.
For those people who are just starting out, try to think about the business you want to create and work backwards from there. Will you be an LLC or a C-Corp? Do you need a loan or true investors? What type of people will you need on your team? What would skills sets be? And lastly, get as educated as you can about what you’re getting into and talk to as many people as you can in the space.
In regards to picking an idea I would also recommend picking an idea that you have experience in whether it is related to your full time job or part of a passion project you’ve been working on. The idea of being an entrepreneur is not to just start anything and hope that it works. There needs to be some thought, strategy, and excitement to what you’re building. Starting your own company will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Our next hire that we’re looking for is a Growth Marketer that is located in San Francisco. This individual will have experience in the following areas increasing consumer app downloads, driving engagement, content marketing, and growing a brand. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more please reach out to [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
- Download our app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/crave-it-app/id1322300338
- Website: www.craveit.co
- Instagram: craveitsf: https://www.instagram.com/craveitsf/
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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