This is a follow up story for MealPro. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Andy Sartori, and I am the founder of MealPro. We are an online healthy food delivery company.
We started in brick and mortar 3 years ago as a small business that took orders online and stubbornly kept making our own product, while most other startups outsource operations to a contract kitchen or resell a private label. That turned out to be a winning strategy, because making our own meals enabled better quality, more affordable prices, and more customization options offered to customers – in one word, better value overall. Before MealPro I was a digital marketing specialist with multiple Clients in Silicon Valley and a business plan in my drawer. Now I am using those marketing skills to drive my own growth.
Andy Sartori inside MealPro’s production room. On the left side, the ajar door leads into a cold storage room the size of a homeowner's garage. Behind me is a dough mixer. Down by my knee is a set of burners, then a soup kettle, then a wall of ovens. To operate the kitchen portion of the facility we have gas and 550 amps of electricity, on par with four average single-family homes
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We built a presence on social media, with videos addressing best practices in training and nutrition that bring independent value to casual readers and of course motivate them to learn more about our offering. Any opportunity to generate content is really a sales call that the power of the web magnifies thousands of times. Search engine algorithms latch on to this and consistently enhance our rankings. We have a three-tiered marketing strategy: organic web traffic, social media, and focused ad campaigns.
When you identify an area for improvement or you spot a niche not yet well-served, jump in it with both feet, and do not look back.
Outside of cyberspace, we have built a network of partners, e.g. personal trainers, nutritionists, fitness professionals, gym operators, that can act as a reference for new customers and can provide invaluable feedback on emerging needs, inflections in demand, as well as immediate evaluation for new products.
In the summer of 2020, we have taken over the former Lucky Derby Casino building in Citrus Heights, CA. This marks MealPro's fourth expansion in the last three years. This space is in addition to our other locations in the area and will be primarily used as MealPro's new culinary center. The former casino restaurant is used for production. We have re-purposed the gambling hall for office and surplus warehouse space.
The covid crisis forced us to re-evaluate storage space. Our supply chain has experienced longer lead times and uncertainty in product availability. To always have the product on hand and to better serve our customers we have expanded our warehouse space to two adjacent industrial warehouse units:
The warehouse units are used for high capacity cold and dry storage.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Your team is your greatest asset. We have interviewed literally dozens of candidates for each position, to ensure we find the best. Once a new person is on-board and has become familiar with our products and processes, we continue developing him or her and we encourage everybody to come up with new ideas and to make a contribution above and beyond their day-to-day job. I am so thankful for the great work they deliver every day.
Keep innovating. In these hard times, it may seem crazy to take financial risks and commit scarce resources to untested products and new processes, but growth never stops. Customers’ needs evolve, you need to be aware of inflections and stay ahead of the power curve. When you identify an area for improvement or you spot a niche not yet well-served, jump in it with both feet, and do not look back.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
- Expand menu (keto options, more vegan options, more veggie options)
- Open more locations (decreases cost and delivery time for customers)
- Help people build diet plan (expert coaches that work with individuals 1-on-1 to help them build a custom diet plan and stay motivated to achieve their goals)
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
First, remember that on a high level - entrepreneurship is about building a product or service that makes others successful. When you make others win, they keep purchasing and make you successful.
Second, be mindful of entry barriers. Legacy business models are capital intensive and the market is frequently saturated. Instead, focus on technology – the rapidly changing environment creates opportunity in the technology that until recently was completely untapped. This allows you to enter the market on a more level playing field vs with a legacy product.
Thirdly, once you already have a business prioritize ideas based on the impact they have on customers. What brings the most people the most value should top the list. I do a detailed feasibility assessment and if the idea still has business merit, I put together a realistic action plan that takes into account the constraints I am operating under.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, we are experiencing growth on the product side of the business and have lots of openings in operations. Openings in finance, marketing, and other departments also come up. You can view the full list on our careers page here: mealpro.net/careers
Where can we go to learn more?
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