Check out our interview with Maggie Spiller ’18 and Grace Leonhardt ’18, co-founders of Pasta ‘Cuz, a pasta delivery service. They share their business conception story and reflect on entrepreneurship!
Another busy week for our growing company! We had a lot of background situations that we needed to take care of and finalize such as legal issues, getting insurance, and focusing on how Pasta ‘Cuz will continue in the next year. These are the types of things that Grace and I didn’t realize we would be learning about when we applied for this grant. We are still trying to navigate the behind the scenes business waters to be successful. Because these issues took up so much of our time this week, we were less active on social media and reminding our customers to order. This definitely caused a decrease in our orders this week. While on one hand this is really disappointing, we know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that our business can survive in the long-term and are happy we still have repeat customers. We have now officially secured an incorporated status, along with official insurance! We are still working on upgrading our website to handle our orders in the best way, but the amount of progress that we have made in the seven weeks since we started this process has been really unbelievable. Grace and I have both learned so much in fields we had no prior experience in and can now both officially say that we are entrepreneurs! There is no doubt we will still have bumps along the road in the future, but now we know that we are prepared and have the support system to handle any of the issues that we are faced with.
This week Pasta ‘Cuz had it’s opening night to students. Leading up to Wednesday we were doing last minute problem solving and getting excited. We decided to hire a person specifically for delivery, and we found the perfect person in our friend Tony. It was reassuring to have a third hand to help. On Tuesday night we had a trial run and made two servings of pasta with our tomato basil sauce and our pesto sauce. We worked out how much sauce and pasta goes into each serving and how we would operate out of our small kitchen space. We were excited but so nervous for Wednesday. We spent most of the day precooking pasta and spreading the word about our business. Before we knew it, the website opened for orders at 11 pm, and our crazy night of preparing pasta began. Within the first 9 minutes, we had received over 40 orders. Our success was bittersweet – we were overwhelmed and unprepared to take on so much business. We cooked frantically for 2 hours, fulfilling about 85 orders, and were sprinting around delivering until 2 am. On Thursday we made three main goals for next week: faster delivery time, larger serving sizes, and a fork with each box of pasta. Although we weren’t able to execute all those goals for every order on Wednesday, we are excited about knowing exactly what we need to do to get there. We have decided to precook not only pasta, but boxes of already sauced pasta. We will begin taking orders (but not deliveries) an hour earlier, and tape forks to each pasta box. A few other roadblocks have presented themselves to us: first we need to find a larger kitchen space that is licensed, and Pasta ‘Cuz needs to become a legal entity. We are currently tackling those challenges and are excited for a more prepared week next Wednesday!
This was our second week of delivering for Pasta ‘Cuz. Our three main goals for the week were to have larger portion sizes, faster delivery, and make sure that each serving came with a fork. We started our week by trying to figure out what we could do to appease any of the upset customers that we had from the first week. We knew that the way we presented our business wasn’t what we wanted, and we needed to take steps towards ensuring our customers that we held ourselves to a higher standard. After talking it over with a few of our advisers, we decided to email every person who put in an order during our first week and offer them 50% off a serving of pasta in the coming week. We carefully drafted an email explaining ourselves and making the offer. When Wednesday night came, we began cooking pasta at 4pm. We cooked 15 servings ahead of time. We went back to the kitchen at 9pm and started cooking again. At 10pm, we started taking orders and we began to prep those servings. To keep them warm, we put the boxes in the oven on a low heat. Our delivery people showed up around 10:45 and we had steady business for about 120 minutes from 10-12am. We were really careful to make sure that every portion was large, quickly delivered, and had a fork. We ended up with just over 50 orders, 20 of which we think were people using the $2.50 deal. All in all, we have gotten a good response from people. Our biggest challenges now are navigating the legal side of the business while maintained good execution and quality of our product. We are really happy with how our second week of serving pasta went and are intrigued to see what interest we will get next week.
We are officially three serving weeks into Pasta ‘Cuz! Leading up to this week, we were focused on the hard needs of creating a company. Since we felt we addressed our three goals of bigger portions, faster delivery, and including a fork last week; this week we turned to the legal issues of creating Pasta ‘Cuz, the company. We put in hours of research on LLCs, a full day of business boot camp provided by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship office, and research to find a licensed kitchen space – all while juggling midterms. The good and bad news is we are now in the waiting game and can’t do anymore to help our company. We have to wait to hear back from North Carolina on our status as an LLC and hope to hear from the auxiliary services of Davidson College to potentially base our business out of Summit Outpost Coffee Shop. It was a nice return to the simplicity of making pasta on Wednesday night. Operations and delivery were smoother than ever before. Our team, including our amazing delivery staff, have figured out how to be efficient and make delicious pasta! Since we had less orders than last week (and opening week), we hope to redirect efforts back into marketing after we come back from spring break. Creating new posters and an Instagram should get the word out to more people and result in a growth of customers. Overall, it was a great success. We are happy to take a week off, but can’t wait to come back to school and jump into week 5!
These last two weeks of Pasta ‘Cuz have been really crazy. Last week, we had not yet secured the kitchen in Summit and reached out desperately to our friends to use their cooking spaces. Thankfully, a few generous souls offered up their stoves and ovens and we carted all of our supplies down the hill for a night of cooking. We had spent the previous week working on legal issues and a new marketing scheme to try and increase our order numbers. We definitely got some interest, but our order numbers stayed around 40. On one hand, we were really happy with this number. We were able to execute flawlessly and a lot of the orders we got were repeat customers, which we know is a really good sign. However, we knew that we could handle a larger number of orders for the next week.
We began to brainstorm ideas of how we could break into another sector of the market. Eventually, we decided on offering free samples in the union on Wednesday afternoon. This allowed us to put faces to the name “Pasta ‘Cuz” and also peaked interest of people walking through the union. A fair number of people stopped to try our pasta, and it seemed to be an effective method, because our order number rose up to 50 this past week. We are still brainstorming new ideas to continue order growth in the coming weeks.
In terms of a kitchen, we found out last Friday that Davidson has reworked their legal roadblocks and we are able to use the kitchen at Summit! This is great news, but means that we still have much more to do. We submitted the LLC formation papers and are still waiting to hear back on the status of our future company. We also met with a representative from Summit to discuss the expectations from us as a business using their space. Once we are able to get in contact with the right lawyers and insurance agents, we should be able to get in Summit right away. These past two weeks have been so crazy, but we have also made huge strides forward in multiple sectors of our business!
This past week has been really crazy for Grace and I. We only came up with the idea last Tuesday and we have done so much. As soon as we knew that we got the grant, we immediately started ordering our supplies and working on the website and making posters. We have spent a lot of time in the media center and talking with each other to figure out exactly what our vision was for our company. With the help of Violet in the media center, our website is finally ready to go (www.pastacuz.com). All of our posters are printed and ready to be hung up by this afternoon. We are still waiting on a few supplies to arrive, but mostly everything is in place! We did have a few setbacks. First, the takeout containers we ordered ended up being TINY, so we had to return them. To do this, we had to call the company to get the address and figure out how the system worked. Once we sent the small ones back, we had to completely readjust our budget to absorb the extra shipping costs and the increased prices of the bigger containers. Regardless, we think we have made the right choice and are expecting the new containers to arrive today! Our second issue has been finding a work space. Our dorm room works pretty well for storage during the week, but finding an open kitchen space that is willing to let us be there at night has not been easy. We, of course, have access to the Tommy kitchen, but it is not ideal. Rusk’s chef owns the kitchen in our house, so that is not an option for us. Right now, we are thinking about asking a fraternity to let us use their kitchen in exchange for discounted pasta. That’s the plan, but we still have a lot of logistics to figure out. Finally, we still have a lot of research to do with regards to the legal side of owning a business. We are avoiding the topic for now, but we need to get informed on the situation so that when it does arise, we can handle it. All in all, the past week has been extremely productive, but we still have a lot of work to do and we are really excited for our launch on Wednesday!