Pandemic Entrepreneurship

The past two months have been particularly hard on the food and beverage industry, everyone from restaurants and bars to the distributors.

With a relaxation in regulation, bars have started selling to-go cocktails and breweries are now doing residential deliveries.  Many restaurants have completely overhauled their menus for to-go orders, inserted themselves into philanthropically-funded initiatives to feed frontline health workers, and even turned to selling groceries.  Everyone's making radical changes all while having to navigate the significant stress and uncertainty that comes with just trying to stay afloat.

Distributors have a similar but different problem, and most have figured out that they, too, need to go direct to consumer while the restaurants are shut down.  But, they don't have an existing IRL or online storefront, so many have had to make do with Shopify or, better yet: Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

I've mostly been shopping at local groceries and bodegas, but this week I decided to branch out and help support some of these food entrepreneurs.

I went with Asian Veggies for some produce, and sushi-grade fish from Hong's Seafood Corp:

and here are some of the results:

I made this. Pro-tip: keep your ikura in a soy, sake, mirin marinade.
Finally, leafy chinese vegetables.

Some friends have also been ordering from Southeast Asian Food Group, which has a tremendous catalog available in this Google Sheet:


While we're not out of the woods quite yet, I hope someone with a bit more ambition than me might go about capturing the stories of these local entrepreneurs in some way.  I'm not sure there's a better example of creative problem solving and the grit and perseverence required to make things work under any circumstances.

Here's more on Asian Veggies owner, Joe Boo, who setup a Shopify store to start delivering produced sourced from his dad's wholesale business:

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"My dad has been in the produce business from when I was born. He's been doing it wholesale ever since. We just never crossed paths in terms of collaborating. But since the start of the pandemic, I've been spending more time at home and literally every Sunday my mom would call me up and be like "alright, we gotta go grocery shopping. We gotta go get our meats, we gotta go get our traditional asian ingredients, etc." And so recently on Sundays, I'd drive her to the market and sit in the car as she'd line up with her friend. We'd wait at least an hour just for her get in... and then another hour for her to line up and pay. And I realized, I just waisted 2 hours in the car. It seemed like such a drain of everyone's time. Plus, we shouldnt even be lining up to get anything outside right now. We should all be home playing our part, staying safe. Fast forward; I was in the car with my dad one day and he said, "Business for me has slowed down tremendously so we've switched to retail sales. Right now we're just taking orders from people and promoting asian groceries through WeChat." WeChat is a huge social platform amongst the asian community. Every morning my dad's business would post their produce menu on WeChat, where people would put in their orders and request for them to be delivered. And thats when I had my 'aha!' moment: why dont I just build a platform where the community can have asian produce and asian ingredients shipped to them? I started doing research on asian produce online.. and I realized you couldn't get most authentic asian ingredients anywhere online, let alone get them delivered to you easily. Unless you're buying generic products like bakchoy or scallion.. if you want watercress or chinese broccoli, you're often out of luck. I realized I was onto something. Within 15 hours I got on shopify, I created a website, I asked my dad for his inventory, and bulked uploaded it to shopify. The next two days I spent updating the site with pictures of everything. Within just one week, we received 90 orders. It's been humbling to know that this service is filling a food void for families. - 𝘑𝘰𝘦, 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘭𝘺𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘦 & 𝘔𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘴𝘪𝘢𝘯 Swipe ➡️ for 🔊

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