Zach Yungst - Co-founder of Cater2.me

[quote style=”boxed”]Try, fail, try again, and again, until you succeed.[/quote]

Zach Yungst grew up in Sarasota, Florida before attending Penn’s Wharton School. Post graduation, Zach worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and in private equity for TPG in San Francisco. Zach’s knowledge of San Francisco’s catering scene and passion for business led to the formation of Cater2.me.

When not working, Zach is an exercise junkie with a serious sweet tooth.

What are you working on right now?

We’re working to make office catering exciting, and the process of ordering team meals excitingly simple. We recently opened our 2nd office in New York, where we’re currently focused on building out our team, vendor community and client base. We’re also constantly thinking of new and better ways to serve our clients.

Where did the idea for Cater2.me come from?

Cater2.me was born from first-hand experience of eating one too many bland, uninspired office meals at the financial firms in which my co-founder and I both previously worked. In search of better options, we took to the streets to find tastier alternatives and discovered a world of local vendors with amazing food but little knowledge of how to access the corporate, Monday – Friday, community. We then reached out to a few select vendors, educated them on what large scale catering entailed (we were working with organizations of 100+), and then presented our office managers with vetted, safe but exciting new alternatives for our company meals. After the first series of meals got our peers talking, we knew we were onto something.

What does your typical day look like?

No day is typical, but every day is spent trying to better engage and understand our clients and vendors. This ranges from accompanying vendors on deliveries to better understand their delivery processes, to spending time with clients to better understand the scope of their needs, to guiding the team internally on ways to better improve our service and client / vendor experience. A typical day also includes a healthy dose of food – we have vendors in our office daily for tastings and meetings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We provide people with the autonomy and support to take risks and explore creative ideas. We’re a flat, nimble, collaborative organization, and we effectively have an extended team of vendor partners who help us achieve our vision. We also have close, communicative relationships with our clients, and we draw support and guidance from both our vendor and client networks to help us turn new ideas into reality. We also hustle our asses off.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Curation and the the rise of the value-added middleman. In the past, middlemen were viewed as a lesser entity. Now, as people become exposed to an ever increasing number of options in all facets of their life, middlemen have emerged as appreciated, almost necessary ‘insiders’ or ‘those in the know.’ They help curate the multitude of options so that clients and consumers can access the best with little to no effort.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I was an intern at an accounting / audit firm. It took me about 2 hours to realize that accounting was mind-numbingly boring. I knew from then on out that if a job didn’t keep me mentally engaged and constantly guessing what came next, it had no chance of satisfying me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Hire earlier. This was our first startup. And we’re bootstrapped. On the one-hand, staying lean (as in the 2 of us) early on forced us to think through every facet of what we were building, from the technology infrastructure to the proper portioning of a meal. But on the other hand, having had a team involved earlier on would have helped us scale faster. While we didn’t hire our first employee in San Francisco until about 9 months in, we’re already at ~10 in New York, and we’ve been here for less than half a year. I think we learned our lesson:)

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Try, fail, try again, and again, until you succeed. For some of our early clients, it took us over 50 contact attempts before getting a foot in the door. I believe everyone has the same luck, it’s just a matter of how many opportunities you give yourself to be lucky.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We’re struggling to hire and scale up our teams but no actual failure so far, knock on wood!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Despite what you may hear, middlemen aren’t dead. When you consider Reddit, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Facebook (with Facebook’s Edgerank) and even Google, you realize it’s all about the curation. It’s all about this ability to overcome information overload by providing your customers with the most relevant information or product. Become an expert in your field, find a way to disrupt it and bring curated content to your users.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Disparities between people are getting worse, but I think there are ways to fix it in the long run. The Bay Area is a perfect example: you have the Ivy-league educated Silicon Valley on one hand that is craving for skilled workers, and relatively poor pockets of population on the other. Sure the two will naturally connect when a Google employee will grab a bite at this small food truck around the corner, but I believe there are better ways to connect the two and stimulate the local economy. By bringing this small passionate food vendor to startups directly, employees are finally tasting the food that they only get to experience on the weekends. It also benefits these small vendors by generating a significant recurring revenue stream. I think a similar mechanism could be applied to other industries and in other cities to stimulate the economy, create jobs and reduce disparities.

Tell us a secret.

Even though I started a food company, I’m not really a foodie. I got into this because of the logistical and operational challenges and the unique opportunity to work with passionate people to help them grow their businesses. My greatest reward comes from watching the small vendor we discover on a street corner build a team, scale his business and make a life out of what was once only a dream. I also detest onions, but I promise I don’t let this sway my views on new vendor tastings 🙂

What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?

Gmail – this one’s a no brainer, best email program out there.
Rapportive – simple solution to get context about people you’re emailing, all in your inbox. See the social networks the person is a member of and what they are talking about.
Salesforce – simple, robust way to keep track of all sales leads.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Rework is an unconventional business book from Jason Fried, the guy behind BaseCamp. Jason gives simple yet efficient tips to get things done and focus on what matters: you. The book helps you rethink everything you thought you knew about your customers and your strategy, a must read for serial entrepreneurs and small-business owners alike!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@jasonfried, Founder of 37Signals, for the same reasons you should read his book
@dcurtis, Creator of Svbtle, for his brilliant thought-provoking blog posts
@ThisIsSethsBlog, Marketing Guru, for his inspirational quotes and articles

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Yesterday in the office when a bunch of employees coordinated and wore red pants and tried to take the perfect picture to capture the moment. Pure silliness and good times.

Who is your hero?

Other than my mom & dad (physicians who have built and run their own businesses), I really admire one our vendors in San Francisco, Joseph Ahearne, owner of El Porteno Empanadas. Joey has built his small business, based on his mother’s recipes into a mini-empire, including sales in Whole Foods, at sports stadiums, farmers markets and more. Plus, his Pollo Empanada is out-of-this-world tasty.

How’d you come up with the name for your company?

We wanted a name that would be easy to remember and would basically tell the story of what we do in the most concise way possible. We cater to the needs of our clients, through catering. We liked the dual meaning. With those thoughts in mind, the name just came to us. We also like that the name is also the URL, so you can type the full name into the browser and you find us.

Connect:

http://cater2.me/
Cater2.me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/C2meSF?ref=ts
Cater2.me on Twitter: @cater2me