Nom nom nom nom…. by Nick West
If you know anything about entrepreneurship, then you know how incredibly hard the prospect of creating a food delivery startup would be (labor intensive, margin pressure, suppliers, etc.). Nonetheless, Ryan Hansan and his team at Scratch DC are doing it, and they’re doing it well. Scratch’s goal is to give their customers the ability to ‘make amazing meals easily, while taking the hassle out of making these incredible meals at home.’ Scratch essentially bundles up all of the ingredients for a tasty meal for two, and delivers that meal to your door at a time you specify during the day. I’ve personally tried the meal that Ryan notes as his favorite below, and it was absolutely delicious. The delivery team showed up exactly on time, and as a ridiculously amateur cook, I was still able to follow the directions and create the meal exactly as it was pictured on the site. With 36 Yelp reviews and a perfect 5 star average (not an easy feat in the age of internet trolls and chronic complainers), plus consistent positive results via a quick search of #scratchdc on twitter, it seems I’m not the only one lovin’ what ScratchDC is cookin’… Now, check out this video of Scratch in action and enjoy the interview below:
TANR: You could be in a cubicle right now, making a comfortable salary. Why’d you decide to go down the risky entrepreneurial route?
Ryan: It might sound silly, but I’m not sure I know anything else. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family – I literally lived in my dad’s office for a year (as it was our living room). I grew up knowing that I wanted to create something, and since graduating college, a number of fortuitous turns have led me to found scratchDC
Pre-bundled, ready to cook meal delivery sounds like a risky business proposition. What steps did you take before launching Scratch to prove to yourself that this could be a viable business?
There was about a year of work that went into the actual launch. And even then, after all the testing, number crunching, the time that went into tweaking packaging, crafting recipes, and lining up suppliers, we still did not know what the reception would be or if the product was viable. With a new product in a unique market, there is only so much planning you can do. At some point, you’ve just got to pull the trigger. Since we launched we’ve learned and tweaked and have gotten to a point we feel like we’ve got something pretty special.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on with the business, and how did you make sure to get it right the next time?
Thankfully, there have been no catastrophes thus far (knock on wood). The biggest “oh shit” moment so far came in the first week of operation. My first employee and I were prepping and he thought I said to add a Tablespoon of salt, when I had actually said a teaspoon… Needless to say the mac n cheese was a touch over salted. That evening after delivery I slowly started getting emails commenting on the saltiness of the meal and I knew something went wrong. Of course being in our first week, there was the initial doom and gloom of such an extreme screw up, but we enacted a stricter series of checks and quality control and have been able to avoid the issue since.
What’s the biggest day to day fear that you have with running Scratch?
My biggest fear is disappointing a customer. They pay us to make their lives easier and more delicious and if we fall short in any way, it pisses me off. We have the most amazing customers in the world – their feedback has shaped what we are and how we do it. We’ve essentially relied completely on their word of mouth to grow our company and I don’t want to be in a position to disappoint them.
What do you personally do to ensure that that that fear doesn’t guide your every decision?
We do things the right way, and I listen. We take every ounce of feedback we can get and apply it. I’ve got a team that understands this and the importance of attention to detail. Having a team that I know shares these values makes me confident in the products that we deliver each night.
What are some of your favorite books that have helped shape your life and/or business mentality?
This is going to be a strange answer, but I am going to say that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude has had the most direct impact. I know, bizarre, but hear me out. Reading that book back in high school lit a little literary light in my mind. He tells stories effortlessly – you melt into the words and are completely immersed in the familiarity of his voice. In some strange way, thats what I try to do with the recipes and, really, the branding in general – I try to make it relatable, comforting and alive.
What’s your personal favorite meal that you all prepare? Can you share the ingredients with our readers? (Pleeeease)
I’ve tested and tweaked all of them to death and they all hold delicious little spots in my heart, so picking a single one as a favorite is like picking a favorite child. If I had to, I’d pick the scratchDC Chicken & Penne in a Tomato Basil Cream Sauce w/ Garlic Bread. It’s one of the first meals I tested, one of the first we run, and while incredibly simple, something about it is just magical. Usually I get somewhat tired of eating a meal after testing and tweaking, but every few weeks I just get this urge to make this beauty.
What are some of your plans for Scratch for the future?
We are still very much in our infancy and we’ve got some very lofty goals. We are just finalizing the purchase of a warehouse in the city that will give us the ability to grow. We will be partnering with a few DC based food startups who will share the space with us. Our own physical location in the city will also give us the ability to secure a liquor license, allowing us to pair and deliver beer, wine and champagne with the bundles. The idea has always been to bring scratchDC to other cities and we’ll be working on this over the next year.
What do you personally think are the keys to leading a startup team in those crucial first stages?
Be flexible, believe in your product, believe in your staff, listen to your customers and have fun.
As the founder, what do you look to improve about your personal leadership skills?
There are so many things I need to improve on but if I had to pick something I’d say I need to learn to delegate better. I’m somewhat of a control freak and I sometimes try to do too much, though I know my staff is more than capable. Overloading can lead to disconnects and loose ends, which are never fun.
What’s one piece of wisdom you can share with our readers who have a great idea, and want desperately to turn it into a reality?
The most important thing I’ve done is to surround myself with amazing people. I’ve been incredibly lucky and have some WAY overqualified preppers and delivery drivers. But they believe in what we’re doing and are willing to work as hard as I am to get to where we want to go.
…Thanks to Ryan for taking the time for this interview and if you live in DC, go to ScratchDC.com and order up your first meal, it won’t be your last. And if you don’t live in the District, then just hope that they expand to your hometown soon!
Want another great interview? The Socially Conscious Cashmere Startup (Founder Interview)