Starting a Business Isn't Sexy

June 29 2016

“OK, let’s do it.” We sat at the dinner table, excited about our latest business idea. A blind taste test featuring different brands of common food items, sent out in a monthly mailing. Not the next sliced bread, but still, it was cool. The next day we went to the grocery store to explore the idea further. We spent 3 hours arguing, and in the end we agreed: no one would buy this.

Monique and I had been dating for 3 months at this time. We were both recent college graduates, and we resented our corporate jobs. They were good jobs and we had worked hard to get them, but we both wanted more. We knew it was angsty and millennial, but still, it was how we felt! We first bonded over Shark Tank, and we finished our first date making out as the credits rolled.

We were nervous to work on something together, but knew that we would hold each other accountable. The next 3 weeks were spent researching similar ideas to the taste test box. After much discussion, we decided on an idea: snacks from a different country delivered monthly.

We had $2,000 to get it started. All summer we huddled up in my apartment, working nights and weekends to build our website, create our brand, and find our suppliers. In October, we launched the website. On our first day we got 5 orders, all from friends and family.

One night, a month after launching, I was surfing the internet late at night, looking for places to post about our product. I came upon a subreddit (category of a user-submitted content website) called “Shut Up and Take My Money”. I posted a link to our product: “Snacks from a Different Country, Delivered Monthly”. Then I went to bed.

Per my usual routine, I grabbed my phone to check orders as soon as opened my eyes. We had 30 new orders, doubling our customer base overnight. Heart racing, I shook Monique awake and we celebrated. I spent the entire day at my corporate job refreshing my inbox, watching the number creep up.

The next few months were filled with lots of late nights and lots of mistakes.

We were so cheap that instead of customer boxes or stickers, we bought a rubber stamp to put our logo on white boxes. The stamp had to be cleaned with rubbing alcohol every 3 boxes, and I had to press down so hard to get the stamp to work that my hands were constantly bruised.

Since we were at our jobs all day we had no way to receive product from our suppliers, so we had it shipped to the UPS store. We jammed hundreds of snacks into our cars and drove them to my apartment. We didn’t have tables, so we laid the products out on sofas and chairs to set up an assembly line. We packed boxes for days, backs aching, until my apartment was filled to the brim.

It’s been 2 years since we started the business. Last March, we quit our corporate and moved into a small office. A few months later, we couldn’t pack the boxes ourselves anymore, so we found a logistics company to help us. At the beginning of this year we moved to New Jersey to be closer to the port. Now we rent a big warehouse, and we’re hiring our first full-time employees. We’ve come a long way, and still have a long way to go. But most importantly, Monique and I are still in love.

- Eli, Co-Founder of Universal Yums
[email protected]
Montclair, NJ, USA

comments powered by Disqus