Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 6

FOOD ENTREPRENEUR

'I started my business
during a pandemic'
In the face of crisis, intrepid founders find opportunity

BY MONICA WATROUS

A

s the coronavirus pandemic
spread throughout North America
in late March, Toronto-based serial
entrepreneur Frank Sinopoli dispatched
the following message to a group of
friends.
" Let's jump on a conference call
tomorrow to discuss what type of opportunities have surfaced as a result of
COVID-19 and/or what opportunities will
arise thereafter. Companies will crumble;
someone needs to be there to pick up the
pieces. Mindsets and buying habits will
change; someone needs to service that. "
He proposed several ideas, then
concluded, " I personally believe that an
unprecedented global crisis will unveil
tons of opportunities and this is a once-ina-lifetime chance to leapfrog forward. "
As millions in quarantine baked
bread, assembled puzzles, binged
television shows and dabbled in other
mindless pursuits (TikTok, anyone?),
some unearthed the inspiration and
courage to launch a new business. Job
loss or extra free time motivated aspiring founders to spin a passion project
into a full-fledged startup.
For Mr. Sinopoli, the effects of the
outbreak exposed fundamental flaws in
traditional grocery retail.
" Time is the most precious thing
on earth, and we invest so much time
into grocery shopping, " he said. " Online
36

Food Business News

grocery shopping is great, but we all still
love to pick our strawberries. "
His solution is Grocery Neighbour,
a franchised fleet of trucks-turned-supermarkets selling fresh produce, meat,
bread, beverages, frozen foods, dairy
products and more. Shoppers receive
notifications through a mobile app when
the truck arrives within walking distance.
Scan-and-go technology creates a contactless experience (think Amazon Go on
wheels). The concept eliminates crowds
and checkout lines. The assortment is
curated and driven by data.
" The beautiful thing about it is each
unit is dedicated to a neighborhood and
grows and evolves with the neighborhood,
meaning the inventory evolves to the
neighborhood's demand, " Mr. Sinopoli
said. " Rather than having a brick-andmortar store located in the middle of a
central hub where all walks of life come
from all angles, we're able to be much
more personal. "
Grocery Neighbour not only offers
convenience to time-strapped consumers;
it also may provide relief to food-insecure
communities. Mr. Sinopoli also hopes to
elevate up-and-coming entrepreneurs by
including an emerging brands section on
each truck.
Two units are slated to hit the road in
the weeks ahead, one in Canada and one
in the United States, on tours to test the
idea and gather feedback. Mr. Sinopoli

hopes to scale and develop
1,000 units " as quickly
as possible. "
" We're quite
confident that once
you walk through
this thing, it will
be hard to jump
in your car and
drive 10 or 15
minutes away
(to a brick-andmortar store), " he said. " However,
I don't think it makes sense to
launch with 100 stores without
proving out the model. "

Scaling a side hustle
A side gig selling Afghanstyle chutneys at Minneapolisarea farmers markets became a
full-time business for Yasameen
Sajady last spring. She was nearly
finished earning her master's
degree in business administration and contemplating her next
move when the virus began ravaging
the nation.
Six years prior, she and her sister
Sheilla began bottling their mother's
recipe for the vibrant, versatile condiment.
Producing chutney became an excuse
to gather and gossip with family on the
weekends when commercial kitchen space
January 5, 2021



Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021

Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 1
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 2
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 3
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 4
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 5
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 6
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 7
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 8
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 9
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 10
Food Entrepreneur - January 5, 2021 - 11
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-may-10-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-february-15-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-october-12-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-august-17-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-june-22-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-may-11-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/food-entrepreneur-march-3-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2021_01_05
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_12_08
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_09_15
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_06_23
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_05_12
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_03_03
https://www.nxtbook.com/sosland/fbn_fe/2020_01_07
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com