Last week’s Hatching winner, ÛCHEF wants to give busy professionals the chance to have the homemade meals they feel they don’t have the time to make. By offering quality ingredients, simple instructions, and delievery straight to your door, even the busiest folks can have quality meals.
With a community service aspect built into their business plan, ÛCHEF doesn’t only want to feed busy, young professionals, but they also want to get food under every roof.
- Tapan Kataria- MSU Business Student
- Ridhisha Rughani- Ross Business School Graduate; PWC Technology Consultant
The Problem Being Solved
Existing meal kits may provide everything you need to create a gourmet meal and save you a trip to the store, but they still take an average of 40 minutes to prepare. This timeframe puts the working professional in a difficult spot as they crave a homemade meal but don’t have the time to prepare one. ÛCHEF offers the ingredients and guidance needed to prepare a delicious meal, in half the time of typical meal kit.
This also provides an opportunity to a segment of rising chefs that are looking for an expanded audience.
Where the Idea Came From
Tapan got the idea for ÛCHEF while trying to find a gift for his cousin. “She has a professional career in Chicago and often eats out,” he says. “She was becoming tired of the same options, never had time to cook, but often craved a homemade meal.” This dilemma led him to purchase a subscription to a meal kit provider, giving her the chance to try a few new recipes every week. While she loved the food, the cooking process took too much time. This led to the idea for ÛCHEF.
Tapan is excited by the opportunities he sees since the meal kit industry is essentially still in its infancy. “The first meal kit provider launched just three years ago and competitors are not meeting demand.”
“In 2015,” he says, “Only 1% of U.S. adults reported having used a meal kit delivery service while 26% said they were likely to try it.” With 41% of millennials interested food hacks, he sees this as an excellent opportunity for industry growth.
This interest paired with a growing number of chefs in the U.S. and their desire to expand their consumer base, makes this an exciting time for ÛCHEF.
The Upper Middle Class, working professionals who often feel pressed for time
Tapan says one of the biggest challenges they are facing is reducing costs of goods sold. “Without order volume to drive decreased material costs, we are unable to maintain margins without having to raise price.”
But, they are working with the MSU Product Center to reduce the cost of packaging and exploring alternate packaging options.
Since the beginning, ÛCHEF’s biggest goal was “Food Under Every Roof.” Helping those in need was a large component of their business plan but they weren’t sure how potential investors or customers would react. But, when the idea was presented, they were pleasantly surprised to see that people loved the idea. “This taught us that success in business is not just achieved by solving a consumer problem, but also by giving back to the community.”
At the moment, pitch competitions are the main source of funding for ÛCHEF but they are always keeping a lookout for potential investors who can help them connect to different suppliers for food, packaging, web development and more. “It’s challenging,” says Tapan, “to find a perfect partner who will help us open doors not just by growing our business, but also by creating a valued company.”
In one year, ÛCHEF would like to be providing meals to the Chicago/Midwest Region and in three years, they would like to be providing meals nationwide. By this time, they hope to be the meal kit destination for working professionals. Through the charitable side of the business, they hope to have “Food Under Every Roof” in the Midwest through partnerships or direct donation programs.
To new entrepreneurs, Tapan offers this advice- “Don’t just start a business to make money, instead try to solve a problem and money will follow you.”