How These Non-Technical Founders Created A $40K/Month Food Safety Software

Katrin Liivat
Founder, FoodDocs
$40K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
20
Employees
FoodDocs
from New York, NY, USA
started October 2020
$40,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
20
Employees
331K
alexa rank
374
followers
45
followers
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How These Non-Technical Founders Created A $40K/Month Food Safety Software

Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start

Hi! My name is Katrin. I am the co-founder of FoodDocs and a former food safety consultant who wants to improve the world by making food safety rules easy to understand and follow for everyone.

Before the startup world and when I was working as a food safety consultant, I saw how challenging it was for food businesses to ensure food safety for their customers and help them.

That’s why we started FoodDocs - to help food businesses get and stay compliant with food safety rules, saving their time and money.

In 2 years, we have built a machine-learning-based software that solves compliance issues 500 times faster, saving at least 20% of every food business owner’s time. Our monthly revenue is 40K, growing 15% monthly. We are consistently gaining approximately 1000+ new users each month from all over Northern America.

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What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?

This is the story of how our dreams could change the world. One day, my co-founder wrote to me that she saw me in her dreams, and I told her there that she should start a digital food safety consulting business. She woke up and knew that the software had to be done.

First thing in the morning, she texted me. I told her right away how great an idea it was, and this is how our food industry revolutionizing story began. I have seen for years how challenging it is for food businesses to get compliant and ensure food safety, and now we have a mission to improve that.

I have been an entrepreneur for the last 15 years, but I was dealing with local businesses before FoodDocs. Compared with previous experience, running a scalable startup is something different. The potential is so huge that it’s even hard to imagine that. Every day brings something new for you that allows you to learn constantly.

The best part about FoodDocs is that I have been in the customers’ shoes, I know what they are struggling with and how to help them. So, I can put together my education, experience, and ambitions and focus them on a solution to help customers.

Today, I can say that we have validated our product, which means that we know who our customers are, where they are, how to reach them, how much it cost, and what product they are interested in.

This product-market-fit feeling is awesome!

fooddocs

The biggest lesson was definitely that whatever product you have, go to your customer as soon as possible and start asking for money to validate your business model. This is the only way you’ll hear honest feedback about your product. If you give it for free, they will never tell you the truth.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

As FoodDocs is a compliance product, we need to take all the regulations into account but at the same time, make it as simple as possible for the user. The customer is used to seeing the product on paper for years, and now we have a program that builds up their compliance documents in 1 hour instead of struggling with instructions and legislation for months.

In our daily life, as in hopefully each startup, we are listing up customers’ issues where they get stuck with our product and try to solve them by testing different solutions. The main goal is to allow the customer to use our HACCP food safety software independently, without our support.

If I compare the initial MVP that we launched with our today’s product, I feel embarrassed :). But as much as I have understood, growth is supposed to be like this. Otherwise, we have been standing still all the time.

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FoodDocs prototype

Describe the process of launching the business.

We started with direct sales, which means we thought that we could reach food businesses by sending them emails and calling them. As it turned out, it’s the most expensive sales strategy and not so scalable at all.

We started by selling our software to large food business chains with as many locations as possible. Yes, we got some of them finally but as it turned out, large customers convert super slow, they start with pilots with only some small locations and they have super-specific wishes. All this makes the sales process slow and expensive.

We were forced to cut costs sharply when Covid started because our fundraising process was canceled. This was the period when we started to focus on the inbound customers - those, who already have the problem and are actively searching for a solution. Today I am glad that everything turned out as it did.

Fortunately, it was almost impossible to approach customers in person during the Covid times. So, we started to get inbound customers - customers who come to our homepage to find answers to their food safety-related topics.

After signing up, we reach out to them. Today, our main marketing strategy is SEO, producing the best food safety-related content that our customers are looking for. I can see that after 12 months of hard work, the results are awesome! We have grown from 0 to almost 100K homepage traffic, and that is something to be proud of. Also, we have become experts in the food safety field.

As we had no developers in our founding team, we were forced to apply for grants to develop the product. It meant very detailed and specific business plans and roadmaps.

It’s always better when you have a CTO on your team and you can launch your product as soon as possible (it’s cheaper like this) because grants are always slow and firmly framed. Almost every country has different grants available, just google and book an appointment with a consultant. These people are there to help you.

Just start with it. I see that people are (over)thinking and considering too much and end up not starting at all. The point is that if you start something, it will bring you somewhere.

fooddocs

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As said previously, the biggest growth has been in content marketing. Our free tools and blog articles are bringing most of the traffic to our homepage.

Each blog or free tool creation starts with proper research of this keyword, who is looking for that, and how big is the volume. Also, it’s important to know your customer and his pains. Our HACCP plan template hub is very popular among new and existing customers and I am super happy about that.

The free trial also works well because, during the trial period, our customers can test all the software features and fall in love with the program.

As we’re a SaaS business, the biggest challenge today is to help our customers to be independent in the implementation process and to start using all possibilities of the software.

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The power of content marketing (FoodDocs results from ahrefs.com)

How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?

FoodDocs' goal is to keep growing at least 15-20% monthly to close the next fundraising round at the end of the next year to spread our software all over North America. Our target at the moment is to keep on growing continuously.

According to our roadmap plans, we are planning to start outbound direct sales for larger food businesses, like franchises and great chains, in a few years. This will be the next big chapter for FoodDocs. Although our software is ready for big players already today, it is important to be patient and concentrate on one segment at a time.

fooddocs
MRR growth of FoodDocs (screenshot from chartmogul.com)

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The biggest lesson was definitely that whatever product you have, go to your customer as soon as possible and start asking for money to validate your business model. This is the only way you’ll hear honest feedback about your product. If you give it for free, they will never tell you the truth.

Also, your customer never thinks exactly like you imagine that he thinks. He clicks on totally other buttons, doesn’t see the things that are obvious to you, and gets lost in the most obvious places. The truth is always in the behavior, not the talk.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My favorite tools are definitely Hubspot and Ahrefs.

Hubspot includes all the data we have about our customers and has all the needed integrations with our database and other needed software.

Ahrefs is a magic tool that gives you all the data you need to know for organic growth. I really can't imagine my life without these two pieces of software.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

First, I love reading. I read every evening for at least 2 hours before I fall asleep because it helps me to unload my daily energy and releases my mind from thoughts that could disturb my sleep.

As I am a big fan of woman-power, I love books about the women who have lived their lives, so it makes a difference. The women who have never given up have always been critical and demanding toward themselves and their surroundings. I hope that I can become similar to them one day.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My suggestion always is - just start with it. I see that people are (over)thinking and considering too much and end up not starting at all. The point is that if you start something, it will bring you somewhere.

Even if it doesn’t bring you where you expected to go, you’ll find so many interesting new angles and people there. These things and people can then help you find another way to move on. Also, there are no right and wrong people - people are just different. You need to find people around you who suit you. Everything else comes naturally.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always hiring - people who are fans of inbound marketing, food safety, and sales - please contact me and let’s make the world a safer place to live.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Katrin Liivat, Founder of FoodDocs
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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