When I started my company, my goal was to build an app and grow from there. There were people already teaching people how to cook, garden, shop, and everything in between. The thing that was missing was a companion tool that understands what it’s like to earn $3k/mo live in a market where your rent is $1,200, utilities & phone $300, Food $600, Public Transportation $100 or Car $350, Student Loans $300, Savings $300 (if you can manage public transportation) and the rest taken by the IRS, Insurance, & God knows what else!
Many times the $600 for food is accounted for by not eating at home for a variety reasons. It could be that you don’t like to cook or don’t know how, it could be the cost of the food in your region, it could be from the failure to meal plan, but the root of it all is TIME. Most people who earn $3-$5k per month don’t have the time to meal plan. They aren’t sitting at the kitchen table for about 2 hours clipping coupons and driving to various stores in hopes of finding the best bargain. They want to save the most time and energy by not driving to 3 or 4 stores to achieve 1 week of grocery shopping. They work long hours and enjoy their weekends with family and friends, and they may cook, or they may go out. Either way, when it comes time to hit the grocery store, they want fast and easy answers and many times, it’s not just about what they are eating, it’s about the decision fatigue associated with making the decision tree better.
Yes, there are people who are not stretched for time and literally stretched for dollars. These people have a system down and the system, when we view health in these populations is broken! We all saw the food stamp challenge last year and saw how many people failed terribly at it. Imagine having $30-$40 a week for food (not just groceries), what would you buy?
There are people who are stretched for knowledge in the kitchen. These people have spent their lives with someone else cooking and providing for them, work and are high achievers, but do not have time to figure out the kitchen. Maybe they are such high achievers because their parents worked so much that they never taught them how to cook. Now, that they earn $50k plus, or are now married earning $100k plus with no children, they want to cook, but they have to learn when they have the time and the right courses available to them.
In any of these cases, I set out to solve a problem for them. An app called Stretch, that would allow people to enter their budget, choose their meals, and automatically receive their shopping list and savings.
Along the way, I discovered many things and I set out to shape my company to fill in the gaps and create an energy around my company and product that would be welcoming, remove stigmas and barriers, while achieving the vision and mission for the product. Part of this is the Cooking Experience which are now 2 annual events.
There are two annual events. The first, a Winter Wonderland Festival that preps everyone with cooking inspiration for the new year to achieve financial, fit, & food goals as they enter the New Year. As users apply the app into their weekly shopping routine, they accrue points. These points they can redeem at years end when attending the festival or online. The second, a Grilling Championship where restaurant Chefs and amateurs compete for the title of Top Grill Master. At this event, attendees can come and learn more recipes that will be loaded in the app for the summer and earn double or triple points for supporting the brands and restaurants they love socially.
At the events, we teach easy, quick recipes that can go within the app and our aim is to continue to build upon this so that the app and the events can be integrated into a point system which rewards users with money towards groceries or student loan payments. Our events are designed and targeted towards busy millennials who want to enjoy a day of being around cooking to not only motivate them to cook, but to come together as a community.
One of the reasons why I fight so hard to keep my company in Austin is that there is a wonderful sense of community. Austin deserves community as it grows so it doesn’t lose sight of what made it so special, unique, and a place to call home. Unfortunately, community does not always pay the bills. As I examine Austin’s growth and what is happening, I see many businesses and people are hurting. The cost of living is going up, with no increase in salary. Many businesses pay for lunch for their employees, so they aren’t going out spending back into the restaurants in the communities where they exist. Restaurants are also short staffed because staff can’t afford to live close enough to work, let alone park.
While my business is successful in many rights of passage, it’s not enough to sustain myself as I go on this journey. I have no personal income, I invest every dime I get into the company. I have no family here or anywhere that can financially or spiritually support me. The best support I have received are from a few friends here in Austin. When I wake up, I go straight to work trying to craft and figure out how I can make my vision come to life and benefit the business owners and people of this community. I am always thinking about the mission and vision. If I could feel safe enough, I would live on the street to cut costs if it meant getting the business where it should be. I am willing to put in the work, the hours, the sacrifice, and most importantly, failure is not an option.
I am asking someone who has a family to understand what it’s like to not have one to go to in times of need. I am asking someone who has a job, to understand what it’s like to not have a paycheck. I am asking someone who doesn’t know what their calling is or dream is, to know what it’s like to have one… I am asking you to vote for us to win the $2k Amber grant which requires no login at all, just the push of an up button next to Stretch Recipes.