The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

25. Authenticity: How to be unapologetically you and carve your own path with Josh Domingues, Founder & CEO of Flashfood

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Flashfood has become well known across North America as a grocery app that helps you save money and reduce food waste. With massive grocery partners like Loblaws, Farm Boy and Meijer, Flashfood is quickly becoming a household name.

All too often, entrepreneurial success stories skip the messy middle: the details, mis-steps and failures along the way to their ultimate success - in this episode Josh Domingues, Founder & CEO of Flashfood spares no details.

With specific examples from early failures, to conducting interviews with early users, and rolling up his sleeves to generate his first sales, Josh highlights how authenticity is a competitive advantage for entrepreneurs.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast from the Pierre L Morrisset Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Ivy Business School. In this series I be entrepreneur and Ivy Faculty member Eric Janssen, will anchor the session here with Josh de Minguez from Flash Food. Josh, thanks for making the time. Brother. Yeah, thanks for having me. This is a it's awesome. Appreciate you coming in to share the story. Yeah, lucky that I didn't get caught in the snow or there's not bad weather for the drive. Great weather for a drive down from Toronto exactly. I want to rewind the tape back were you? Where did entrepreneurship come from? Your parents, grandparents, friends, like. Where did you get the bug? So both of my parents started a lawn sprinkler company together. My Dad was an immigrant from Portugal and my mom was from New Brunswick and my dad started working in the irrigation business and then he ended up leaving one of his bosses and starting the company with my mom. So my whole life growing up at the table, everything was around the family business, like that's all they were talking about for the most part. I've got three other siblings, so there's four of us and the third child. and to me, I played hockey at a high level and I knew that whenever hockey was done, I was going to do something for myself. So I always thought like there'd be a couple years where I'm basically in training of like learning how other people deal with business or or different things in life and then eventually like starting my own thing. So did you work for the family business growing up? For I work? I worked one day when I was fourteen and then I retired. My Dad told me to put like these flags that you see on irrigation sites. He told me to put them in a straight line for like a hundred meters and then so I put them down and the my dad comes back and he starts yelling at me. He's like what are you doing? I'm like what do you mean? I put flags down for a hundred meters. She's like they're all crooked. So he walks through and like reorgs all the flags and I'm like okay, that's it. I retire, like I'm going to play hockey. You're done. Yeah, and done. So then I just worked up like hockey camps after that. And my two older brothers and my younger sister are all in the family business now. So it definitely was in your family and I was going to bring up so you. It's funny and doing some research here I found a press release when the BRANTFORD blast resigned right wing or Josh to Minguez to bring some added toughness and grit to the right wing. So do you think that part of your experience playing competitive hockey led to you becoming an entrepreneur? Helps you be an entrepreneur? And Anyway, it's it's so wild. So I played in the HL. I play for Owen sounds. So I played at the John The bat center, which I think is called something different now. Bud Wise Wiser. Yeah, so like Tenzero fans like and when I was in junior I wasn't good enough to just be a skill guy. So I have to fight sometimes and do like all the grunt work that like you'd have to do in hockey to try and get yourself noticed. And there is no more risky scenario then being in front of five or ten thousand fans that are screaming and you drop your gloves and you square off with someone at senturrise because there's so many different dynamics that come into play. You have, like the fear of getting hit in the face and like bleating or like breaking your nose, like physical injury. You have the fear of making a mistake and then your teammates will laugh at you. You have the fear of the crowd laughing at you. Then you also have the fear of not being good enough to stay at this level. So you are when you get in a scenario like that, you are completely vulnerable. And when I was coming up through junior, like youtube was a thing too, so I'm like, Oh my God, like if I don't do well and like a fight, then I'm like so many bad things will happen from that. So that was one thing, and I like I fought a couple times. I wasn't like the toughest guy, but also just being in shape, eating the right things, training the right way, sleeping properly. At a really young age I was doing that like very strictly. So those things now that I look back on. So there's those things. And then the most important aspect for me was being a teammate. So I always have a leadership role in a lot of teams that I was on and for me being kind of like a middle of the pack player on my team, I had to be a good guy in the dresser room. People had to like me. It was something that I had to do to stay at a high level, and you can pick people that are not good people off really quickly on a team and that skill, said, has helped me immensely now as a CEO of a startup. Like when people come in, I could see through people pretty quickly if there's ego or if they're treating me differently than they're treating other people. Like a lot of things don't go unnoticed and that's a skill set that I have that I'm fortunate for, and it came from playing a team sport my whole life. So judging, say that's a superpower, like being able to judge someone's character or what they're really like quickly. I would say it's let maybe, yes, but also like, if you're not sure, being able to get to the bottom of it relatively quickly. So if I have like an inkling, I'm not like I'm not...

...stubborn or like arrogant enough to be like, Oh, this is how this person is, but I'm intelligent enough to be like I got to like ask a couple different questions and see how this person is in different elements. So not being not being afraid to actually ask the tough questions to figure out what people are actually like exactly interesting. Your second point, the Self Care One, I find really interesting because a lot of people, we've had a lot of guests on who talk about sort of being younger, graduating from school and then starting their first thing. I feel like people forget selfcare for like five to ten years and then maybe realize it again once they come out on the other side of a startup or something. And I've had a lot of friends that played in the Hl and I feel like you learn really early the benefit of habits like like leading indicators that are going to eventually lead to something better, and Selfcare, like if you don't get the right covery, sleep diet, then you probably feel it on the ice. So things that people maybe don't learn for ten years when they were an entrepreneur that you learned pretty early. In Competitive Sports. You also learn how it affects your performance. I mean, like you did cross fit competitively and we're serious athlete like you'd know. You know going into a gym or going into competition or going into work. If, like, you've cut corners and as soon as you like get into that routine and you're not performing like you like you should be, you're like, Geez, like if I could have just like not had a big Mac yesterday, or like any little thing, like for people that are really selfaware, you're honest with yourself. And Yeah, I mean, like I got fat after school, like play Hockey University, and then after that, like I worked on basetry for a couple years. Like I got fat and then I was really difficult to get back into shape. And now I just turned thirty not long ago and I'm doing more reading than I ever have on Diet. And I always told myself when I was playing that when I was done playing I'd be in the best shape my life because I wouldn't have to spend two hours a day on the ice. Now wasn't the case. But now, being thirty versus being in my teens or am I early S, it was more difficult to get back into shape. But I'm way more aware of like eating and the things you have to eat and the way that you're eating and like what that does your body and I see what it how it does to me like from a business perspective. So I mean like this week, for example, I'm typically doing like Oh mad now, so one meal a day. So I fast the whole day and I just eat dinner and then when I kind of like fall out of whack, I'll do a forty eight hour fast. So just this week I had dinner on Sunday night and then I didn't eat again until Tuesday, like three hours before a meeting with a big grocer in Dallas. And it's actually easier to do that when you're traveling because, like you're just in an airport anyway, like have a couple soda waters. anyways. Like I could bore you, but yeah, I to me now. There's another thing here too. I met with a founder of the other day who's twenty four and really successful, really impressive company. Just raise a lot of money. Like he's really intellectual and I was sitting across with him and he's like talking about the grind and talking about like being in it and he's like yeah, I put on way, like I've got to like try and think about like how I'm carrying my body from now on. But like I work so much and I actually think that you get a higher return on your time at work if you focus on yourself first, and I think that's true of our company. Like I think it's more important to put people in front of what you're doing and the output is far more superior over a long amount of time. So I'm now four years into our business and, like will go in the early story, but I don't feel like I don't feel like I have to get to an end. I don't feel like, Oh my God, I'm drowning. I like what I'm doing. I like the people that I'm doing with because of my background being on a team, and we focus on ourselves before we focus on work or whatever, and that makes a big difference. I think that's great. A teacher class here called Hustle and grit and the Hustle and great chorus. I think we spend a lot of time in I don't know, education talking about the nuts and bolts of startups. How do you come up with an idea, raise money, pitch, you know, those sorts of things. Hustling grits about the person, like self care and mental health. Then what motivates you, and those sorts of things. So cool to hear you talk about that, like you're running a marathon, but you're going to be able to do it because you're going about it the right way. SMART, smart, yeah, I mean, like we'll see. It's going well right now. It could seems to be work good blow up at any time, like but yeah, I mean, like I feel confident about it and and you're right, like the other thing too, is when you challenge yourself physically, you get more confident mentally. So when things go sideways or like Challenges Arise in the business, if I'm consistently challenging myself physically, I feel better to handle those things that happen with the business. Yeah, yeah, no doubt. So. You said you you played competitive hockey. Then you worked on Bay Street for a bit. So you were investment advisor, management consultant. I saw that you did it some time, working with at stage, I think, with...

...pro athletes. Yeah, so what was that phase that you the you that you had this entrepreneurial inkling, but you what, ignored it, put it off for a few years. What happen there? Yeah, because I was only exposed to a small family bit small family business, but a family business my whole life. And then I think I was the only one of my family to Graduate University, which is funny because I was like by far the dumbest out of my siblings. And like I mean that not like self deprecating, like if you looked at grades of transcripts, like I was the worst student, but did well in school and didn't know what I wanted to do. I'm not going to play in the NHL, probably not having to play pro hockey, like I don't really want to go and like the minor leagues and Grind it out. So I had really good Grades University, came out of school started on Bay Street as an investment advisor. So I basically worked on a team. I was cold calling for one of the biggest, one of the biggest team in sales, sales right out of the Oh, yeah, yeah, like legitimately, like two hundred dollars a day. We're calling small business owners and trying to convince them they give us their personal savings. So first you try and book a meeting and then you go through the whole process and I couldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for that sales experience. And it was like a boiler room style work. And during that time, while I was doing it, I got accepted to law school. So I had applied and I hadn't heard back yet and everybody rejected me, but Ottawa, and Ottawa finally accepted me. So I went to my boss of the time and they had a training program for people to go in and build their own book, a business, and there were targets associated with that. So I went and I said look like Disnames d white. I said to White, I got into law school. I'm either going to go to law school or I want to do this on my own. I don't want to work for you anymore. He's like, okay, here's your targets. It was like August when I got in and I had to decide by the end of the month and November was the next training program. So he's like, here's your targets. If you hit them, you can go in the next training program. You'll be the youngest person who's done it like gone in that early. Like I don't think you're ready. I don't even think you'd be ready if you hit these targets. But like it is what it is. I'm like okay, so I hit the targets, gone in the training program did it for about a year and was building my own book, a business, and I remember we had a sales coach who came in every two weeks. He was like the seven year old guy who like did not take care of himself and no matter whether you're doing well or horrible, he would tell you how bad you were doing, and it's like this is so ineffective, like you're not coaching me, you're just literally every two weeks, tell him in the same thing. So I remember coming out of that meeting and like looking around at some of the other brokers in the office who are like in their s or s, and these people are bringing in like they're making personally north of a million dollars a year and they're all miserable. And I remember like coming out of this sales meeting where the sales coach is telling me like how used to I am, essentially, and he's telling me to be like these other people, and I look around the other people I like these people are not happy. So like, okay, like I'm young in my career, like I don't want to be doing this. So I left that and I started management consulting because a friend was there. They got me a job and there I learned basically like process engineering. So it was, and this is valuable, I think, for the listener base, but it was a company called Carpedia International. They're based out of OAKVILLE and they work with companies, mainly like operating companies, and the projects are typically longer. But let's say it's a threemonth project. So your first month you get dropped in. You spent time with everybody in the business and you take down what they're doing and then you separate all of their time by green time or red time. Green time is value added, red time is non value added. And then the second month and then you find out how much the average person makes. You find out what the loss is from red time. The second month you work with those same people that you've worked with for that work at these companies and you figure out why they had all this red time, like what were the blocks for them and their companies, and you come up with strategies to implement in then the third month you implement those strategies and you tie it back to the Roy and you actually show the savings. So the projects were longer than three months, but like that's how they how they worked. And I did that for about a year and a half and three different projects and I'm like, okay, I've learned how this works, like I don't want to stay here forever. And then my old agent playing hockey was a pretty prominent NHL agent, still is, and we sat down and we were just like talking about whatever, and he's like, listen, we have some of our young clients in this family office that manages money for the NHL players. Like would you want to come on and do that? We don't have anybody running it. So I did that for a year and a half. We had six guys that were NHL players and I was basically flying around North America meeting with NHL players, more or less like getting them beside papers and like don't buy these stupid things. But that was really fascinating because you saw the difference between like some people who came up with money, some people who cared about money a lot, some people who didn't care about money, and you could start to see at an early age what that does to a person, what that does to a family. Only for people that like dealt with an intelligently and people that didn't. So that was really eye opening to and then from there I left and started flash food. Feel like you've had some really interesting, like key learnings from each of those. It was like sales in the...

...beginning process and eliminating, you know, not useful time, so working super effectively and then Almok, like this grown up inside of like the way that money impacts people would either positively or negatively. So like big takeaways from each of those three experiences. I think what people, specifically people that are coming out of school, are not open. Like it's so cookie cutter right, like you come out of school, you take a job for two years and then you try and get into an NBA program and then you go into debt even further, and then you come out and you're like now you're making like between a hundred and a hundred thirty, depending whether you're in banking or consulting, which is generally where you get filled he into and you get caught in this loop where you never have the opportunity to be creative, and so I would love to be in that loop at the time, but I didn't get accepted to the right schools. While, like the school that I went to was a good hockey school, I want to say Mary's in Halifacts, but it was so far away that, like, I couldn't land a good consulting job and like I wouldn't get him do a good MBA because I didn't have that background. So I didn't have the opportunity to like go that route and I couldn't make my way into investment banking. So I started as a broker, which was sales, and what I did when I realized that I didn't want to be an investment like an investment advisor, was I was like okay, like what am I learning from this? What can I take from this, and how can I get more seasoned? So to me, it didn't matter how long I stayed somewhere. For me, it was like, once I feel like I've learned enough and I don't want to go deeper at this job, move on to the next one. And I didn't care about the optics of that and what it would look like in a linkedin profile or a resume, because when I sit across with somebody who's intelligent and they're thinking about hiring me or not, I could communicate it that way and they're like all right, like this is somebody that we can trust, that's relatively intelligent, and that's what I found your story like. The way that you tell the story makes logical sense. Yeah, so then you left and flash food came right after. So you left to start flash food or you left? Did you get it on the rails while you were still working or did you quit? And then the idea happened? Yeah, the idea happened. So when I left the when I left BEMO, initially before I became a consultant, I wanted to start a company that was a Robo Advisor, so the same thing as wealth simple. There's a couple companies doing in the states of the time and to me it was like this is just so obvious. So I tried to bootstrap and like high international developers and get a product built and couldn't because I didn't know what I was doing. Well, simple raises money and then, like, I end up getting disinterested, I go to consulting whatever. So when I was still at sage in the family office, the Bank of Scotland fired two hundred and fifty of their financial advisors and everybody who had less than two hundred thousand dollars of assets in the bank. Now got rolled into their proprietary Robo advisor, which is like just a financial service platform, and I was like okay, like I couldn't execute, but like the vision that I had and like the market that I was thinking of is maturing in front of my eyes, like well, simple, had just raised a bunch of money from power corps, like this is a thing. So I told myself the next time I get like this kind of feeling, I'm just going full tilt in to it. And this story with Flash FOOD IS MY SISTER was a chef. She gave me a call after a catering event and she's like, I just throw a four thousand dollars worth of food. I started laughing. I'm like, you're an idiot. Why would you do that? She's like now this feeling sucks, like my boss was over top of my shoulder and like basically yelling at me to throw it out, like I feel horrible. So I calmnor down. For the next few days I started reading about food waste and what I learned is when food gets thrown out, most times it ends up in a landfill, gets covered by their garbage and when it rots doesn't have any oxygen, that produces mething gas. So the statistic is if international food waste were a country, would be the third leading cause of greenhouse gas emission, behind the US and China. So it's not cars and factories, it's food and there's so many people that are hungry. So that was like the problem that I learned. And at the time I lived in downtown Toronto on top of a grocery store, and I had to figure out two things. Like, naturally these grocers can't be selling everything in their stores, like there's no way. So I had to figure out how much food they throw it every day and what's the lead time from the I'm they throw it out till a cell by date, because any ever think like is there even an opportunity here? And what I learned was the average store throws out like between five and TENZERO dollars worth of food every day, and it's anywhere from two or three days is sometimes weeks before the cell by date. If you think about Thanksgiving the next day, Christmas and next day, Halloween the next day, like all that food generally is getting tossed and then it's not just a grocer problem. It's a consumer problem. Like when you and I go shopping and if we're going for chicken breast, we're reaching at the back for whatever has long a shelf life. All the near dated stuff moves to the front and the grocers have to pull that because people won't take it. And on the flip side, if we go buy a watermelon and there's only one there, as consumers we assume it's the worst one. So they have to overstop the shelves. And if they wanted to get rid of all that food and donate it, all of it. It's logistics that's a challenge.

Who picks it up, who drops it off, who pays the price and who guarantees the safety? So all of these things combined. I'm sitting on my Conn and I'm like, Jeez, if there's a way for this store to mark the price the food down, I could see the deal through my phone, pay through my phone and pick it up in the store the same day. People would shop like that all the time, and that's exactly what we built. We took the discount food rack, made a look sexy, put on your cell phone and there was like a whole bunch of stuff really like, as we talked about my background, like the consulting aspect of my background, going in a like understanding process and how to work with people to create new things and strategies and tie back to the financials. Like that experience I Krpediot was the most invaluable that I've had because learning how to cut through an organization and like change manage people. We couldn't be doing what we were doing if it wasn't for that. But how do you prove out some of this? So you said a couple things here. So you first said the experience of having missed out on the robot advisor thing was like you felt the pain of not acting. You kind of acted like you put money to have something developed but didn't take it far enough. Yeah, so you were looking, like you were actively looking for the next thing. You had primed yourself to look for the next thing. So you were ready. You had the pain of missing out on the other one. So you were looking and you were ready to act on the next thing, the next thing. You said, I'm going to whatever it is if I feel as I'm going to do it. So then found the thing. You said you had to prove two things. That the Delta between the cell by date and the throwout date was there's enough of a window to actually so how did you prove that out? Talk to people at the stores. I went to like a whole bunch of stores. Talk to everybody, like me, managers, people in like the Deli departments, like I talked to everybody in stores, and they're the ones who told me the volume. They're the ones told me like the time, like there's no research on this stuff, like grocers never want to get out this kind of data. So I just had to talk to people on the ground. Thinking, like my dad's been in the grocery industry for probably thirty years, maybe more, since high school. And Yeah, he'll talk to he could talk to God, Love Them, talk to a lampshade for half an hour. You know, he's just I'll talk, he loves to talk. And so if you went in his store and asked him like how much produce, he said he'd know the numbers like that. So you just walked in there started talking to people. Yeah, yeah, whole bunch of them. Not Downloading market research for bords, googling. You actually want to talk to real people. These grocers like weren't even tracking, like they weren't even tracking how much were they were throwing out, for the most part, like they had they were just starting to try and figure it out because it's been a cost of doing business for so long. So even that in of itself I was like, oh my gosh, like this is such an inefficiency. But yeah, just talk to people like it. Get outside of the building, go talk to me exactly. Yeah, okay, so why won't was when I was a student, I shopped at Lablaves, is the closest thing. Shopped a lab blaws. They would slap the fifty percent off sticker on it. So were they doing that and still not selling it and still throwing out a bunch like why don't grocers just throw a seventy five percent off sticker on something when you do that? So, yeah, that's it. Like partially there's they're doing that and still not selling it. Partially they don't want to sell all their product at fifty percent off. When you put a stick around a product and leave it in the store, the only person is going to buy that is somebody WHO's coming willing to buy a full price item. So well, we've done and what we were able to prove through the APP is that we're actually driving in new customers that weren't shopping at your store beforehand. So we're driving new customers, are spending more money while they're in store on full price items. Got It. So the problem with the fifty percent off is I was willing to go in and buy the normal apples, but I saw a two percent off, so I'll get those instead. Also, it's not like like you want that. So what I'm learning now about retail anything, particularly grocery, is that you have different customers that are going to shop different ways. So you want to have an offering for people that are only going to buy the sticker program you want an offer. You want to have an offering for people that are only going to get delivery, people that are only going to have pick up, people that want to sit down in a grocery store and have a coffee. Like grocers have to to think that way now. So we also got lucky on the time on the market, because it's changing so drastically. Yeah, so how was the initial how did you get the initial cell? So you you, I mean this is this is like an overwhelming for me, cool idea, but I'm thinking there's so much to figure out here, like, Oh my God, I've got to get tailors on board and then I've got to get people to download an APP and like legistically, there's just like where did you even start? So we got a I hired a team off of up work to build the APP and it was a team in China, I think, and the name of the person was Nazima and they had a picture of an Asian woman and I didn't know until like five months later, before the APP was even done, that if you reverse Google that image of that person on their skype it was like a famous Chinese address. So I have no idea who built the first...

...version of the APP. And also they would never talk to me. We only talked through Skye. They wouldn't talk to on voice call or video, only typing and like the English was so horribly broken. So I have no idea who built the first version of the APP. And the way that we got our first grocer was a guy that I went to university with. His Dad was a former CEO of a big retailer in Canada and his righthand person ended up being a guy named Jeff York who is now the CO CEO of a grocery chain called farm boy that's based in Ottawa. So Jeff used to play hockey. He has a hockey background and he's I don't know, maybe like mid to late s or the s. So I got connected through my friends dad did jeff the flash food deck went through to him and and I ended up getting his like contact info and I'm emailing back and forth and then he just starts ghosting me. So it was like Tuesday of whatever week it was. I was making no money, I'd quit my job at stage and I'm literally like how the hell do I get a grocer? So I called Jeff. is his phone numbers on the bottom of the email and I call him and I'm like Hey, Jeff, Josh Mengus. He's like hey, how you doing? Good? Listen, I'm coming out to Ottawa because Farm Bo was based on a I was like, I'm coming out to Ottawa on Friday because we're looking at hiring somebody for eastern Canada. We don't have any stores, we have nothing like. This APP is being built by somebody who I've never talked to my life and I'm like are you free to like sit down and like talk shop while on there. He's like yeah, sure, come by the store at ten am. I'm like perfect. So let me see if that works with my calendar. Oh yeah, that calendar of nothing. Yeah, okay, yeah, that should fit in well here. Well, the funny thing is, like I'm telling my like now wife, was my girlfriend, all this and she's like well, like what, like, like what are you going to tell them? I'm like I don't know. So I wake up at four in the morning on Friday and I drive to Ottawa. I Made Jeff at the store for like twenty five minutes of that, like ten minutes he's on the phone talk with somebody else, given an idea of like what we want to do and he's like okay, yeah, we'll give you a store in London, Ontario, because it's like the furthest away from their hub and Ottawa. He's like we'll give you a store out there, like good luck, all right, shake his hand and like drove right back to Toronto. Is like a twenty five minute meeting and that ended up like and we did. We did both farm boy and we did another grocer in Canada. Three store pilots like meaningful grocers with no contract. So, like we're selling near dated food. Like you want to talk about risk like now now we're like we're well past that. Now everything's contracted, like things are done properly. But I have investors now that are like trying to put money into our company. Like fortunately we're at that point and they're talking to me about like well, like what if you miss out on this or what if you miss out on that? Like you're being too risky on the market in front of you, and I'm thinking, like, we just sold food that was near expiry, like basically having like all the liability on us for two years. Like this is not risky in comparison to what we did. So yeah, like we got one actually funny story about farm boy. We got one store in London, Ontario, and the model was horrible, like the APP was so bad. The experience was the APP the Youse had developed, was the APP that I had developed by the team in China. The experience was brutal. We actually came to Western and we had a pizza party at Western and we convinced people to come out for free pizza and then we gave them credits or we just gave them. We just eat transfer the money to try the APP. And in that first week, so we launched like the one store for we didn't know how long it was going to be. Had No contract sign so basically this like operator in London who like already has so much on his plate gets this new thing dropped on him. So he doesn't even like me. Nobody in the store likes us. And we run a one store pilot and it only goes a week. And in that week, like we didn't know how long was Go, good and go. But in that week we saw we had like, I don't know, eleven people that bought and of the eleven, like six or seven of them bought a second time in a Oneweek time period and we sold like almost half of the food they made available. So we meet with farm boy, that same operator who didn't like me, at the end of that week and he's like listen, like we're starting to get some backlash on like the APP and how bad it is and how slow it is and how miserable the processes and like they had no access to the numbers, so they didn't know what they had sold, they didn't know what they made available. Like we knew that. So of selling whatever, it was like almost fifty percent of the food like repeat customers that were new to farm boy. So I'm like, okay, why don't we do this? Ryan like why don't we just we have a whole bunch of things we have to fit figure out with the APP. Let's just take this out of the store today, we'll rebuild it and we'll come back in January. So this is like October. And he's like, you know what, that actually sounds like a way better idea. And for him he was just like getting a headache from his store staff. So for him he's just like yeah, whatever, like I don't ever want to think about this again. And for me, we stopped that day in the store and that was like one of the riskiest decisions that I met because that I made because we only had one store, we only had one opportunity. But I knew the numbers and that was really it. Like I knew the numbers and...

...the make shit like this is not going to be sustainable. So we ended up pulling out. We hired an agency in Toronto. We raise a little bit of money at that time. We hired an agency in Toronto they built the next version of the APP, which I is still the foundation now. It's just like a really good agency in Toronto. Came back to that one and then we pitched the Metros to farm more and they were like wow, okay, like the fact that we were in and out of the store so quickly, we didn't let a linger long enough that people had a really bad experience employees, and so they saw the results and they're like okay, like maybe there's something here. So they gave us another store and we started in another store that January and then eventually we had three stores in London and then eventually we have three stores with longers that came on and through that whole time me and my team were driving to London all the time, like we were in stores all the time, talking to people, trying to figure out how to make it easier, and I think the store staff seeing how hard we were working, like they just don't know if it was pitied us or like appreciated us, but they were giving us really useful feedback, which is kind of like the theme will we're going to talk about today. But it they saw how bad we wanted it and they aligned with the mission of reducing food waste. Back to the story about my sister had to throw out food. So they wanted it. They wanted to work too. So, yeah, gutsy call, but the right call when I think about if you let it linger, few people use it, issues and complaints pile up. That could have been it. You know that. That could have been flash food me not that. That could have been the end. They could have been the first and last pilot. We would have a hundred percent fail like like. It's not like it would have absolutely like crash and burned. Yeah, so pull it out. So you raise the money to develop the APP properly. Is that we had raised on those metrics that we had from that one store. We had? Yeah, we raised. We actually had. There's a group in Toronto and whatever. I don't care that. I think it's public. I think it's on our website. But they own the chase hospitality groups. They own like collette, little fan, Cassimoto and Yorkville, like. They own a bunch of restaurants, high end restaurants, and at the time we were going to do this in restaurants too. So before I had gone out and raise money from any friends and family, I was like I have to get somebody who's actually going to like who's not my friends and family, that's going to write a check, and they were the first ones that wrote the first check and it was a significant check, like significant at the time. Yeah, every check is significant into a startup. So when they put the money, and then I told everybody else, here's our matter Chers, here's what we're doing, we're going into an other store in January, and here's who wrote the first check, and that's where, like other money came in. So we ended up raising four hundred fifty K that first round. A hundred thousand of it went to get in the APP developed. But like, even Funnier, we had you, like we're talking about early days. We had our first our CTEO. I got introduced to because I'm not technical. I'm like the APP that I built is basically broken and not basic screen shot. Yeah, well, honestly, I want to see there. It's so bad. But there's a guy that I got introduced to who was on a sabbatical. He had sold a digital agency and he was at sales force after and he just got ground down. so He's like, I'm just chilling, I'm just gonna. I'm just going to like consult with people for the rest of the year. So he was consulting on the eight, on the APP that we had built from the Asian team, and he's the one who told me like, I don't even know who's building this, and I was trying to give it some enjoining the company. We had no money, we hadn't even we had not yet got our first check. And then I'm pushing, I'm pushing. We're paying this guy like a couple thousand dollars to like do an audit on the tech and he comes back he's like it's actually not horrible, but these are the things you need to switch around. And we ended up getting our first K in the door. And what I did was I found we're in Toronto, like I found a two story loft in Liberty Village and we signed a three year lease. It was like four thousand dollars a month. We had sixty can the bank no idea how much more money was coming in. Signed a three yearly, went on Kijigi, bought a whole bunch of used furniture, me and my cfo and we drove all around like the GTA. We packed the place and we were like like to our CTA, to the guy who was doing the tech auditor, were like, Chris Wayne Agers, at least like come check out the office. So it's like yeah, right, I'll come by later this week. So Chris Walks in the office. He is like wow, like you guys have like a real thing. You guys have a real thing here. All Right, fine, I'll joy and forget my sabbatical. That's how we got to shoot you. So like that could have blown up the company to and I no idea how much more money was coming in. It's so where does ridiculous? By the way, we'ridiculous, but whatever, whatever needs to get done. Where did the dragons then experience fit in? So was this school story? Was it after all of this? Yeah, I was after this. So, because I watched the episode season twelve. Yeah, and the store is good story. They were. They're pretty bought in. The metrics were like not, they were right. It was. It was. It wasn't enoughing. So how where did that fit in? So that so it's funny that you...

...ask, because that happened. The show got aired, got filmed in the beginning of April and in my episode didn't air till the end of October and they film for forty five minutes and then they put four minutes of it on TV. So like I had no idea what was going on TV. But yeah, we had just at that time. We had just got back into that one store in January and like it wasn't doing much volume but like the percentages were still like on point as what we saw on the first pilot. But how I got on the show was I met Michelle Romano at a conference in Ottawa, SASS north, the October before the show aired. So we were about to start the first pilot that like, no, I think we had just finished that pilot. That like we were now hiring an agency in Toronto to build the APP. So I met Michelle this conference and I introduced myself to her. Talk for a couple minutes. She's like, I know what you guys are doing. Somebody has sent me like the flash food deck, like I think it's cool. She's like here's my personal email. Send me an email and March and I'll get you on the show and I'll offer you a deal because I like what you're doing and if you take it, you take it. If not, whatever. I'm like all right. So sure enough, like I sent her an email in March, no response. Sent her a follow up. She gets back to me. She's like here's this connects me to the producer, like gets me to like the final interview phase, and then I go on the show and she is the one who like jumps up with the deal, with an offer on the show, and I was like wow, like, regardless of whatever, she actually came through and it was really, really cool. That's neat. That's neat, Dude. So you did a deal in the show. Did it end going through? Did the deal on the show did not go through, which like often they don't. Yeah, yeah, I mean the reason why I didn't go through is because they wanted from the show. They wanted six months to do due diligence and we were like on the last legs of that four hundred fifty k, like that was almost gone. So I'm like, even if I want to do this, guy's like if you take longer than like a month here, like we're bankrupt. But it's so I need the other opens over. Like we can't, we can't, like I can't even think of outside of this because like six months like I'm probably going to be at my fourth career job by then, like like that's that's how this is going season. No, go just based on like we just we had to bring the money faster. Got It. Yeah, and so at that point with a I mean you run out of money pot the numbers are good, but you're running on the money. So you did you do? Did you do a bigger raise? Then right after that round? Yeah, we raised seven hundred fifty K that like summer, towards the end of that summer, and one of our investors in our first round wrote a two hundred fifty k check and he wrote a two hundred fifty thou know, he wrote a K check the first round and the four hundred and fifty round. Then he ran a two hundred fifty. wrote a two hundred and fiftyzero dollar check in seven hundred and fifty round and that led the next round. And because of what I had learned from other people on like sending out a monthly email to your investors, that second round of seven hundred and fifty for one. When we close that round we had seven hundred and fifty three thousand dollars in the bank. So, like what do you talk about like timing, like we were right there and from start to finish. It took three weeks to close because we had kept people so informed on what we were doing and people just appreciated how open and honest we were with everything. So what is what did you do? You send? You send a monthly update letter to your investors. Yeah, yeah, this is like, yeah, this is the most. It's a mail drip, but it's a mail chimp. It's a drip campaign on a monthly basis. We still do. We sent our an email with like what's happened the last month, what we're looking for the next month, like just in general highlights on the business and that there was one of our investors. So part of that seven hundred fifty k came in. We want to pitch contest to Montreal called startupfests. So you get a hundred thousand dollars for the prize, which is actually a tenzero investment from ten different people, which is like a complete headache for the CAF table. Like looking back, like it's like, okay, this should be communicated way differently. Wasn't a hundred thousand dollar gift exactly. It's way different. We knew it was an investment, but we didn't know it would be from ten different people, K each. So it is what it is. We needed to survive. But the further down the road I think this was like I don't know, so that that'll happen in two thousand and seventeen and in two thousand and eighteen one of those investors, who I never met and who was like very wealthy, has a bunch of real estate, a bunch of restaurants in Toronto, sends me an email after one of my investor updates and he's like hey, give me a call, like as soon as you can. This is my phone number. So I call them's like Hey, Josh, I'm so and so. We haven't met yet, but I just want to let you know that because of how transparent you are on these monthly updates, like I appreciate it so much and if you end up doing something else that this doesn't work, like let me know, because I'll fund you. And he's like, I've written way bigger checks into a lot of other people and I just don't ever hear from them again. So this is like I really appreciate what you're doing and I would assume that a lot of the other investors do too, and it's just like a simple monthly email now about what's happening in the business. What are the challenges, what are the opportunities and what are how am I is, you know, thinking about the next month and how long is it? Like how...

...many? It's like literally just typed up. There's no, it's not fancy, it's just I'll put pictures in. Sometimes I'll put gifts. I started off putting gifts. One of our investors now has said that like they know that the business is doing well now because we say less. Like before we were just telling a story about nothing and like putting gifts in and like making it funny, and now we're actually like here the metrics, like we don't want to share anything else. But now, like sometimes it was like four or five paragraphs. I mean we went through so much, like we went through Tech Stars with target in Minneapolis, like that was a big thing. We got a pile up with law laws, like there were some really meaningful things that happened for us. So I would say it's probably like if you read off of medium, it's probably like a five to seven minute read every time. HMM, yeah, I have been involved. There's a few companies that I've been involved in. The did that and I found it really helpful. And I do have some investments out there right now that I don't get as I get updates when I ask for them. Yeah, good or bad. I feel like I'd rather know, I'd be a rather be along for the journey than like, surprise, here's an update at the end of the year. So it's a good practice. It's funny. That's actually what like are most of our angel investors get value and just being part of the ride because they're just like I don't want to go through it or I can't go through it, like I've got kids at home, like I can't drop everything and start a company. But yeah, I'll give you ten or fifteen or Twentyzero dollars. Just let me feel like I'm a part of this and from what I've learned from our investor groups, awesome and like sure, like people ask me questions and I'm like, leave me alone, like wait till the update, and like that happens. Like we have like sixty people on our cap table now. The other thing, too, is everybody tells you not to raise from that many people, but like good luck trying not to go bankrupt. So do whatever you have to just survive. But our investor group is like because I'm so open and transparent, like they appreciate it and they're having fun and they're along for the ride with me. So like they're in it right beside me. Yeah, that's great. Something strikes me about you. See your whole stories. You just doing it your own way. You know you're not doing it the way that you think you should, or just doing it authentically and unapologetically in your own way. I think that's awesome. I have a friend WHO's a yeah, I mean like there's so many stories. There was one where this one was actually probably meaningful. We're meeting with the VC and this VC is this guy was a jd MBA like came up through finance and ended up being like an associated a VC fund and then a principle at like a reputable VC fund. So he's like why have you not scaled faster? And Canadian grocery and I'm like, well, Canadian grocery like it's old, gobalistic. It's basically like white male, and I said like big expletive, like like complex, like big ego complex and he cuts me off and he's like don't ever say that to me because you'll never say that to a grocery executive, so don't say it here. And as soon as he said it, I was like like actually, like, I don't know if I ever wold or not. Fast forward like literally a month later. It's me somebody that I'm trying to get too invested by company that I have and ended up getting, but they tried for like two years, and we're sitting in front of to like the CEO and the CEO of one of the biggest retail companies in Canada, in like one of the biggest, yeah, a big company, and they're just like why do you not scale faster and like Canadian grocery, and I like kind of like hold of my laugh and I'm like well, like you guys would know, it's like White Male, like big act of complex, and they just both broke out laughing. They're like yeah, okay, like we get it. So what I learned by having so many investors and like having really good people in our company that are employees that are like well, like partners with me, is that I'm going to talk to so many different people that like I just can't lie and I have to be myself because even if I wanted to lie, I would catch myself in a lot. Like I there's just too many people that I that are accountable to me. So what I've learned is, like you have to be yourself. And from a sales perspective, like when you sit across from somebody to grocery chain and you're just telling them how it is, it's so much more effective. Like the story the sales process, like we now get to a point where it's like, listen, like if you don't care about this issue, like we're not going to be partners because it's just it's going to waste our time and you don't want to sell your garbage, you're going to throw it at a discount. So being authentic, I think now, and like Mark Cubans at it to like being nice is really overlooked in business, but I think it's critically important because basically, the way that we got law blaws, as I'm sitting across one of the executives, I finally got in front of the right person and I tell her the story. This kind of the same way that we talked how did you get there with zooch coold email called called no separate. Okay, well, we'll come back to that one. Yeah, I mean like I could. I could go into it because it's like relatively quick. In brief, how did you get the meeting with Lah Blah? I guess likes. I got asked by a PR company to speak at Nestley's employee day for like a thousand people and then they're like how much do you charge? And I'm like broke. At this point, I'm like this number, like made it up. They're like okay, yeah, like we want you to come do this. You're going to do like...

...a q Anda on stage with our CEO for fifteen minutes. So I take the CEO of for Coffee After Shelly Martin and I'm like listen, I'm trying so hard to get into law blaws, like can you intuse me the right people? She introduces me to a guy named grant phrase, the former CEO. I take it for breakfast. He's like this person is the right person that you need to talk to. All introduce you to her. I meet her, we talked for fifteen, twenty minutes. I tell her the exact same story. I've told everybody else and she looks at me and she's like, I think my son would love to shop this way. I think you'd feel really good about it. Like we're going to try this. Like that's how it all happened. It wasn't like a like for us, it's like check the money box, like sure, whatever, but like this is just the right thing to do. You shouldn't be throwing at this food and if we could do it by driving people into your store and spending more money, like you should just be doing this. Yeah, yeah, so you got the meeting. You were you were in the meeting. You're talking about being like authentically you and a meeting, getting to love the Lah laws meeting. Yeah, it was just like it was just it's still the exact same, like I whoever I've met in these organizations and through time. Now actually, there's there's another side story that's probably meaningful. We got into text ours retail. So text ours is like a three month incubator, and why that's important is we got into the cohort that's partnered with target in the US, and so they pick ten companies, they fly you out to Minneapolis, you work at a targets head office and from week two to week four you have this thing called mentor madness. So you meet with ten different people a day for twenty minutes and they poke holes in your business and then they get to pick after if they want to be a lead mentor for you, and that means they work with you through the three months and help your business out. In one of those days at this cohort we had executive day, so we had five of the top ten people at target that we would meet with. So I ended up getting the chief strategy officer of target and the CEO, Brian Cornell, as my lead mentor. Brian Cornell grew up without money. His Dad passed away when he was young, as mom was on well for here he's a CEO of target. His mom was on welfare. She gave him up to his grandparents because she couldn't afford even having them and he had a really difficult upbringing. So the day before this like mentor madness, like Executive Day, I didn't sleep for a single second and I'm like, if I can't sell this guy, who came up with nothing on the concept of what we're doing, like I have to shut the business now, because it's just it's not going to hit it. Sure enough, like he ended up being like yeah, I love this, and it was the same way that this person at law blaws like you just have to get to the right people for what we're doing, and they're just like, Yep, check the financial box. Okay, like money, sure, but this is the right thing to do. And Yeah, like the CEO of target, and I like he'll get back to my emails almost immediately and I fly down still once a quarter. Try too, to meet with them in person for twenty minutes and we just sit down. I'm like, I'm I just asked him a whole bunch of questions. He tells me what he thinks. So then I usually cut the the meeting shorter because I give him back his time and he appreciates it and that's what gets him like to consistently answer me. I think, yeah, there's like different sales models for different companies, right, but I think yours is especially in the early days, to get a company body and at this level, like you're not going to get that from summer analysts doing coal calls to the you know, Middle Management. I think you have to go about it the way that you've been going about it for this one. It feels that way. Yeah, so if you were to think back more some of the best parts and worst parts over the last few years of getting this company going, like what are some of the highlights? The highlight realism of the Super High Highs and would have been some of the most challenging things. So I'll say two things and then I'll go into that answer. The first is that every day is the best day of my life and every day is the worst day of high life, and it's all the time. That never goes away. So you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. The other thing, and I don't know if this is teet up that you're going to ask or not, but what I did at the beginning, before I quit my job, when I had the idea, was I told every one of the smartest people that I knew about it and they all poked holes on it and said like this is bad about this is bad about it, this is about it. And what that did at the earliest phase was it like vetted through a bunch of bad ideas that I had and it got me to like that that team in China that built the first version of the APP. It wasn't good, but it was very simple because I had asked as many smart people as I could about what they thought and they gave their honest opinions. So a lot of people will tell you like keep your idea close to your chest. To me, I think it's a complete opposite. Nobody's going to copy you like that. Doesn't really happen for companies that have nothing. Tell as many smart people as you can and get holes poked in it. The highlights, man, like we had one of our top customers is young mother with three kids and she's like my husband, like our husband just got laid off from work, like we can't afford food, like our kids never eat the kind of stuff, like they've never even tried some of the stuff that we're buying through flash food now, and like some of those reviews, like that's just weird. That's the stuff that matters to me. Like that in the environmental piece, like the fact that, even if right now we can't...

...scale this internationally and all that we are is like a grocery platform for lablaws, the biggest grocery in Canada to produce their food waste as significantly as as they are, like it's millions of millions of pounds of food that otherwise would have been thrown out, like even the environmental angle of that. To me it's like we've already like we've kind of already not made up, but like we've put a dent in this. And even if all that happens is a bunch of copycats come out and copy what we're doing and it's effective everywhere and like I still think we're driving a lot of value to a big partner, like will be okay, we'll do well, but the market will copy this and like that's a win collectively for everyone. So the biggest wins is like seeing how much this affects people. Like some people are saving thousands of dollars like annually, which is awesome. The biggest losses, HMM, firing people's really tough firing people and which, like sometimes it's warranted, sometimes it's not. But one of the like I had to let go of a friend of mine just because, like she came on too early, we had too many people, there wasn't enough for her to do and like sitting across from her having a letter go like that was really difficult. That was probably the probably the most difficult thing. But outside of that, like I don't think that you get a high output from people if you like, if you make things to like life or death. I think that work has to be even Keel and you'll have your highest amount of output if you have ownership of what you're doing. So I guess one of the challenging things is like as a CEO and learning to be a CEO, you have to relinquish basically everything. Like I still think I could do a lot of things better than other people can in particular categories of our business, like specific things. But if if I do, then then I'm a worst CEO because I haven't given other people the ability to grow and do those things better than me. And the Roi of like what some people are doing now is like so much better than what I would have done. So being able to relinquish that was really difficult, but I learned it because I had a really high level team and they're like let me do this, or like I'm leaving and I'm like, okay, that's enough, all right, you can do it. So how many people now in the company? We went from seven last December to like thirty five now. So what do you as a CEO of a growing, well funded, you know, Thirty Five Person Company? What do you what do you do, like which should a CEO of a company that size be spending his time on her timeline, making sure that things aren't breaking and communication, so keeping people accountable, driving people to like why we're doing what we're doing, like reminding people of that every week's we have a weekly stand up on Friday. And then keeping the color, like keeping the bar high. So Netflix, I don't know if you've read much about like Netflix has HR. Yeah, so Netflix will like only hire good people that will do like the best job and if they can't fulfill like Netflix is high caliber, they'll let them go, but they'll pay them more than they have to when the'll help them find the next place. Like that's ultimately like what I want to do and like create, but also, at the same time, I want to develop people and I want people to like get there. So what do I do? Like I was in Dallas this week, I was in Minneapolis last week. I'm still at the point where it's me and one of the person who are doing partnerships at to get in front of more grocers and that is the most important thing that we could be doing right now, because we've done this in Canada. Now, if we want to be. Now it's less about like will this work or not, because we're past that. Like every metric is so solid, and I say that humbly, but now it's like how big can we build this business? So it's kind of a different challenge where like how many people can we get in front of that are meaningful people in the US specifically, and how quickly can we execute on the US like we did in Canada, and can we even do it or not? So it's around like just making sure people are happy and motivated and then also just not letting everything break, if I can. Yeah, it's been a cool story to see because, I mean a year ago you and I run a panel and growth too, and you were working on trying to get that first major partnership, so to I told you the reason that I knew it was doing well was not that you'd raise money, not that you had twenty more employees on Linkedin, not that there were new logos on your website. The reason I knew that you were doing well is because good people. I know good people, have joined your company and stayed and there are people outside of, you know, the tech community that in my own friend groups have shared with me. Hey, there's this cool new APP that I'm using, so it's being picked up. The partnerships are happening. Feels like all the leading indicators are good, and that's why I think it's cool to bring you on the show now, because you're sort of like right in the middle of this journey. Who knows where it ends up, but it cool to take a snapshot or picture in time of where you're at today. Yeah, thanks. Now it's listeners. It's exciting and like it could still all blow up. It seems like it's less and less likely to blow up, but yeah, like I mean, it's working, like I'm really like living the startup dream right now, and especiallyly from the fact that, like, we don't need capital. So it's also very different being on the other side of the table where an...

...investor, where anybody is trying to sell you money and you don't need money because it's not going to fuel growth. Like that it of itself is a really, really strange place to be. But yeah, like things are like things are going well, like they could blow up at any time, but like it's going all right right now. That's great. So now we've got a our listener base is growing nicely. Is there anything that the community can do for you? What can we do to help? Where can we find flash food? Let's start with that. Flash food is across the country in a whole bunch of grocery stores, superstore. We're going to be adding other banners next year. Lahblaws were in, Zayer's were in basically like a lot of the law blaws home banners across the country and you could download on the APP store or the Google play store. Actually follow us on instagram. At Flash Food INC WE'RE AT like nine thousand and four hundred. It's get it to ten exactly. Well, if we I think it's like nine thousand. I think we're like seventy people away, but once you get to Tenzero, there's a whole bunch of other features that open up. So that's what that's like. That really big as that's the big thing. So at Flash Food Inc, all one where that would be cool. Followed that. Are you hiring? Yeah, we're always hiring. So I don't even know what the roles are like. When you ask about what a CEO does. It's just like hey, what do we need for different people to be easier at their job? So if people are bought onto, the mission always hiring for good roles. If it's not up on the website, keep in touch. Yeah, flash foodcom. We have a whole like careers page, or just like send us an email with your resume and and we're in Toronto, like yeah, yeah, reach out to us. Cool. Hey, I appreciate you taking the time to share this snapshot in time of Your Journey and I think you're all the leading indicators look pretty good. So wishing you guys best to luck in the next chapter. Yeah, thanks. It's cool to be at the snapshot of like this point and seeing you again after, like you saw basically like the clutch and grab and scratch and like all right, we got to this phase. We'll see where it goes next. But yeah, it's cool to run into your you'll do episode in. Will do the chapter three episode. Yeah, a point. Yeah, sure, cool, cool, awesome. You've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV DOT CA. A forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening, until next time.

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