Around 2006, two guys joined the sales team at Echo Global Logistics, where I was in charge of training new recruits. Six months later, they were both team leads – and crushing it.
While I’d love to take credit for turning Dustin Lasky and Shane Jones into sales pros, the truth is that they have taught me more about sales and entrepreneurship than I ever taught them. From inside Echo, they co-founded Fooda, a company that does popup lunch stands, catering and food delivery for offices. Fooda has now served more than 4 million meals in seven U.S. cities, and they have helped hundreds of restaurants grow lunchtime sales.
Achieving this success was not easy. Dustin, Shane and their co-founders had to win a big ‘Fooda’ fight, if you’ll pardon my pun. To learn how they beat the grizzly odds of entrepreneurship, I sat down with Dustin and Shane for a Q&A:
Jayna Cooke: Where did the idea for Fooda come from? How did you guys get involved?
Shane Jones: My first job out of school was at Echo, and I had a manager who delegated everything to me. He wanted me to find a way to increase productivity. Our office was in a food desert, so we had 400 people leaving work every day to find lunch somewhere. I thought I could cure the lunch problem by bringing someone in. I went down the street to a place called Hecky’s and asked them if they would be willing to cook up a bunch of pulled pork and mac and cheese, bring it into our office and sell it to our employees from our lunchroom. The first food stand went viral. Dustin came on board because he’s a food connoisseur. We went from one restaurant to five, and people from other companies were sneaking into Echo to get our food. It got so out of control that Echo banned all non-Echo people.
Dustin Lasky: Realizing that this idea had legs, Shane and I, along with another employee named Jim Phillips, wrote a business plan, and named called the idea “Lunchin.” and We presented it to Lightbank, (the VC firm that founded Echo), but we were shot down. A couple of the Echo executives, Orazio Buzza and Vip Sandhir, then President and VP of Sales respectively, got wind that we were working on something called Lunchin. They asked Jim about it and he spilled the beans. It turned out that Orazio and Vip had been watching the whole popup restaurant craze and were planning to start a similar company. We decided to partner up. Orazio and Vip finally got Lightbank on board. I guess it pays to have friends in high places. While we ended up with a smaller piece of the pie, the pie was getting bigger at a much faster rate. In January 2011, we launched and raised $1.3 million in funding by May.
Jayna: Tell us about the steps you took to go from an idea to a real business.
Dustin: Fortunately for us, Vip and Orazio handled the fund raising, so we could focus on grinding out new business. We took the family and friends approach to start. Outside Echo, our first customer was an executive at William Blair. The father of a friend of mine from high school was an executive there. I called him up and said, “Hey, we have this crazy idea. We’re looking to get more customers. Would William Blair host a popup?”
Read the rest on Forbes!