Focus on the long term. Any time I come to a fork in the road I choose to prioritize the long term benefits over instant gratification. This is critical to financial investments as it is to strategic decisions.
Andy Sartori is the founder and CEO of MealPro, a California based online health food delivery service with national distribution. His cuisine appeals to fitness-minded professionals who do not have the time to prep and cook the meals they need to support their athletic or lifestyle goals, hence his call-out “Eat with Purpose”. His website includes a unique calories calculator that Clients can use to help fine tune their nutrition and design the meal plan they need. Andy particularly enjoys observing how clients interact with the website and collecting feedback from clients about how their experience with the service.
Having founded MealPro with a $4k investment, Andy knows first hand what it is like to overcome the entry barriers at different stages of growth, and through andysartori.com he has launched an entrepreneur partnering program to share his learnings with other start ups. He also participates as business mentor at various universities and speaks at business events and exhibitions about entrepreneurship.
Andy holds a B.A. in Business Management Economics from the University of California at Santa Cruz. When he is not working on his company, he enjoys the outdoors, working out and, of course, home cooking!
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I hatched the business idea for MealPro almost by chance, while I was out with two friends to grab a bite. They were different in a lot of ways – gender, lifestyle, body type, and much more – and both were on a diet, but they ordered the same meal. The girl was eating too much for her diet, while my other friend was eating too little.
I realized that restaurants are standard but people are unique, and recognized the business opportunity for customized meal prep. So, I started MealPro. Today MealPro is an online food delivery service that specializes in custom, ready-to-eat meals made with natural ingredients.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The task list can be broken down into two major buckets: Growing the company and operating the company. Most of the day is devoted to operations – negotiating with vendors, managing staff and … fighting fires – there is no shortage of that! The challenge is to always stay on track on growth oriented tasks, whether they involve scouting real estate for a new facility, interviewing a new chef, or experimenting with packaging options for a new product line.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I prioritize my ideas based on the impact they have on our customers. What brings the most people the most value tops the list. I do a detailed feasibility assessment and if the idea still has business merit, I put together a realistic action plan that takes into account the constraints I am operating under. My controller constantly reminds me about my financial commitments and my fiscal objectives, and I am grateful to him for his professional skepticism. I do not believe in throwing money at a problem, until you have taken the time and effort to mitigate everything that can go wrong – because it usually does.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Advancements in technology. I feel like the changes in technology disrupt the competitive landscape and create opportunity for new institutions to enter the market. It’s exciting to know there are frequent inflections in our business, and if we capture the right trend we can look forward to future expansion. As a founder-led company, MealPro has the opportunity to be nimbler than established competitors, that simply repeat their original business model and are resistant to change.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Observation. When I reach my peaks in productivity I try to assess what about the environment or my daily routine made me more productive.
For me, a uncluttered work space and a well-organized schedule make a big difference. I have to be respectful of my own time when I plan for early morning travel or late night conference calls with stakeholders and experts abroad, and not stretch myself too thin. Growing a business feels at the same time like a 100-yard dash and like a marathon, what has made the difference for me was recruiting a string team and taking the leap of faith of delegating them more and more responsibilities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Focus on technology – the rapidly changing environment creates opportunity in the technology that until recently was completely untapped. This allows you to enter the market on a more level playing field vs with a legacy product.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When I started MealPro I left a full time job that payed all the bills and then some. With good money and great career prospects on the table I chose to work for free on a startup that everyone thought would fail. I didn’t see it that way – I saw opportunity.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I focus on the long term. Any time I come to a fork in the road I choose to prioritize the long term benefits over instant gratification. This is critical to financial investments as it is to strategic decisions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I ask myself: What can MealPro do to make others successful? How can I make an immediate contribution to help my Clients achieve better nutrition that fits into their busy life? This has been the key question that leads the decisions of our product development. I always try to build what will add the most value to the most people.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my prior venture I distributed commodity food and beverage products. It was a difficult market to penetrate because its low barriers to entry allowed in a multitude of competitors and stymied growth potential. There was little technology leverage, and logistics was a nightmare. In a nutshell, it had a bad business model. it took some courage, but one day I decided I needed to shut it down. MealPro’s online meal delivery service is the polar opposite: our meals are customized, the technology barriers to entry are high, and the growth prospects are just huge.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is an opportunity to create a social media platform that reviews food delivery options and services. More and more professionals realize that their busy life is ill-suited for grocery shopping and for cooking your own meals, and I am sure that a forum where they can compare experiences and discuss their very own approach would quickly become popular. And MealPro would certainly love to advertise there!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A camera lens – it takes high quality pictures and captures memories of our office shenanigans. It’s become a permanent fixture at our MealPro office.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I like google drive – I upload a document, share it with the team and everyone can see and make changes in real time. It makes collaborating as a team more effective.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey
What is your favorite quote?
“Stay hungry, stay foolish” – Steve Jobs.
- Build what will make others successful. Let your desire to make your customers happy drive your product development roadmap.
- If your business idea does not work, dump it and cut your losses. Your next one will be better
- Mind the details, but think big. Entrepreneurship is hard, growth is what makes it worthwhile
- Be paranoid about listening to the market. The next trend is out there already, be the first to recognize it