Arranging cooking classes that end with dinner parties – Monika Reti of Hipcooks

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 51:06)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Monika Reti of Hipcooks shares her story of giving hands-on cooking classes that received great media attention for their unique approach to teaching and amusing parties at the end.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Monika Reti of Hipcooks

00:00Introduction
01:00About the business
04:29Motivation for the business
11:19The business model
19:25Marketing
26:26The success formula
31:08Future vision for the business
39:39Mistakes made, lessons learned
42:11Rapid fire round

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Monika Reti of Hipcooks

  1. An innovative product or idea and the current eCommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Marketplace technologies for online purchasing)
  2. A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: Wave, Active Campaign, QuickBooks, WordPress)
  3. A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspired you (Response: Harold Woff)
  4. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to learn as you go)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there, entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant, and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start to grow their businesses.

And today I’m really excited to welcome Monica Redi to the show. Monica is the founder of a company called Hip Cooks. Hip Cooks offers hands-on cooking classes for hungry home chefs and corporate clients looking for excitement and empowerment in the kitchen. And today I’m going to ask Monica a few questions about her entrepreneurial journey and some of the strategies, tactics that she has used to start and grow our building.

So thank you so much for joining me today at Trip Talk, Monica. Really appreciate it. Hi, it’s a pleasure. So interesting business. I usually interview e-commerce entrepreneurs, but this is a little bit different, uh, in the cooking, um, and teaching business. Can you share a little bit about, about your business and, and what really motivated you to, uh, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: start this?

Sure. Well, I started hip cooks 17 years ago, so it’s been a long time, uh, with, uh, this journey and. It’s, you know, the landscape has really changed a lot. When I first started 17 years ago, it was all in studio. So in location, hands-on cooking classes, and this is sort of at the advent of people doing Google searches and companies having websites.

So, You know, I was able to grow the company very organically over time, but now the climate is really different. Right. Especially, uh, as we are, uh, tentatively exiting the pandemic. During the pandemic I switched to virtual, which we are still doing. And um, and the landscape is just a bit changed. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So when you say it’s changed, is it, uh, because we’re coming out of the pandemic.

Less demand or there’s more demand . 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Sure. Well, it depends who you are really. But, um, I would say of course the demand for virtual has increased and continues to increase as our corporate clients. So those are, these, this is really a B2B service. Um, are looking to facilitate their teams coming together.

And doing something fun together in a healthy way. Uh, so, so where there were once doing offsites at hip cooks in person, um, we’re getting a whole host of clients nationally and even internationally who come join us for their team builders virtual. So that’s a huge area where the landscape changed. We also then provide ingredients, kits that we ship out in advance of class.

Right? So that took a lot of change in innovation, but I think even like pre pandemic, in the 17 years that I’ve had the company, the landscape has changed a lot in terms of figuring out your seo, figuring out. Sort of products you can stack developmentally on your website. Um, learning, um, a bit more about, uh, marketing to customers.

You know, that that whole landscape has just changed tremendously in over the past couple of decades. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So it seems like even though this seems like more of a, you know, it’s really a cooking classes, but seems like you’ve really leveraged all the online technology and online marketing and, you know, really the virtual aspect of it and, and that has really helped you to leverage and, and grow it.

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah, but that really got us through the pandemic. I mean, before the pandemic, I grew all the, the brick and mortar locations to hip cooks grew to seven schools. Across the West coast, but then slowly those shut down. We only have two brick and mortar locations now, but again, we’ve expanded our, our audience nationally and even globally.

Worldwide through virtual. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So that’s, that’s really interesting. I’m, I’m really curious to know when you started 17 years ago, was the motivation that you, yourself are a great cook and you wanted to share that with other people, like that passion and excitement, or was it really just little bit different 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: than that?

I didn’t consider myself a great cook, although I love cooking and I love to share food. I’m an entrepreneur. and a traveler, and I come from an international family. My mom is European, she’s German. My dad is South American, he’s Argentine. And I grew up in very sort of international groups and friend groups, and I’ve traveled my whole life.

So one of the things that really inspires me is bringing people together and celebrating culture through food. So I think, you know, naturally I’m, I’m an extrovert and I love the dinner party. So the concept of hip cooks, like how hip cooks got started really was informally as a supper club. So my background is in economics.

I actually have a, have a master’s from the London School of Economics, and I was working in California as eco an econometrician at the time. So I gave dinner parties just as an outlet for fun and for creativity and for spontaneity, like bringing people together and, and having yummy food and wine together.

So the business was born out of this notion that you can have people to dinner and have it be stress free with a little bit of advanced planning and some things that you, and some cause, you know, some cooking chops, some cooking knowledge you can throw together these beautiful meals. But more importantly, like sort of focus on the time that you’re together at the table rather than.

Stressing out in the kitchen or, or, um, becoming sort of bogged down with this notion of how do I, you know, te tell me how to cook something. Oh, great chef. I’m not like that at all. I wanna instill confidence in people in the kitchen and sort of tap into their creativity as an outlet for. So I had a slightly different approach and I think that resonated with a lot of people at the time.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, I mean, I was going to ask you, you know, uh, do you, do you still give great dinner parties or is, is it more mostly ? 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah, as a matter of fact, last night, ok, I, I made some quick Argentine and brought them to a dinner party. I also made some dessert cuz here in Oregon. The blackberries are in season. So I made a quick blackberry crumble with a homemade ginger ice cream, you know?

Mm-hmm. . Cause you can, you can, once you know certain basics, you can kind of riff off that theme. So I thought, oh, ice cream, but less sweet with fresh ginger. Much better and much better than store bought and fun to do at the dinner party. Easy. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s awesome. So when you started, it seems like you basically, you know, You were already throwing dinner parties, you added this idea and kinda grew organically, like it Very, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: yeah, very organically and pretty slowly.

So again, like hip cooks then just started as a supper club where people would come and, and it was pretty inex. Expensive. At the time it was just, you know, 30 bucks people would come, that would go towards ingredients and wine, and then everyone would, uh, help at the end and wash the dishes and all of that.

So from there it grew then to like a more formal school with an experience, a little bit more like, like you’d expect. So with clients coming in from all over, finding. Organically through, through Google searches really. But, um, but then coming and having a little bit more, um, of a, of a structured experience, you know, putting on an apron and cooking at a beautiful island and then sitting at the table and having a meal.

But, uh, they don’t have to wash dishes at the end like they used to. Um, so. Oh yeah, I was gonna say, so I grew, I grew very slowly, organically, but then I had the good luck after being in business for about two years and getting a lot of media attention because no one else was really quite doing what I was doing in the industry.

And so, so after two years, I did meet my angel investor who invested half a million, and I grew the schools from two to seven locations. That was our five year plan for the. . Wow. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So an angel investor invested half a million. Uh, you must have had like a significant amount of revenue already to give. Some confidence to the angel investor that this is really, really go something that, you 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: know, that’s true.

A lot of passion, um, demand was bigger than supply, certainly, and he was also in the industry. So I think for him as a manufacturer of cooking tools, saw that through our retail store, our partner. Could also benefit his company. In a way, it was a, a method for, for his company to do a soft sell, right? Where, where my clients would use his products and fall in love with them in, in an environment that had no hard sell.

So, so I think that was also, you know, a win-win for us. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So your business is almost like, so I would assume there’s certain aspects to it. So one is of course, you know, as you said, there’s like the, the, the, the edu the teaching aspect of it, but then there’s also the experience, the social experience. Very much 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: so, yeah.

We focus, I mean, we focus a lot on that because I, I do feel that the act of cooking. Is, is, is a generous one, but, but you have to be host minded and sort of bringing people together and serving food or, or, or creating food that’s well balanced, but also, again, having opportunities to, to sit with your guests at a dinner party, bringing people together that wouldn’t have met before, uh, celebrating other cultures through food.

I think all of that is a, a large part of our personality. At hip cooks and, you know, just, just more comes to the table than, than, uh, following a recipe to create a 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: dish. So now, uh, can you share a little bit about your business model itself? Like, I’m assuming that you ha you’ve hired teachers Absolutely.

Who are, who are basically, uh, the ones creating this experience and teaching. Yeah. Um, and then one segment of your customer are you? Really just anyone, any individual or group of friends who want, have this experience, learn teaching and have this social experience. And then you said there’s another segment of customers, which is more corporate, b2b, kinda, yeah.

Where you are providing more experience and so forth. Can you share a little bit more about, you know, who, uh, who’s your target audience, who’s your, uh, ideal, uh, kind of person that you 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: work? Sure. Well first to go back to company structure. Um, so yes, uh, there is myself, there is also, um, I work closely with a graphic artist and photographer to pro to produce our content.

Uh, people online are going to eat with our eyes first, so we’ve gotta have some beautiful imagery, uh, for all the locations. They need management, and I’m a pretty hands off. And on, you know, the structured boss. I don’t wanna micromanage, manage my employees. So each location, so all seven locations had their own, had its own manager in place and that was 100% women staffed, which was also really.

Important to me and I provided flexible jobs for those people. So again, no set schedule and no specific itinerary, but I did have achievable goals, great bonuses, you know, a lot of, um, a lot of little levers in place to have low turnover, high motivation, and high satisfaction, job satisfaction. And that was that, that, that’s really paid off over time.

Then each manager is in charge of staffing their studios with teachers, people that do shop prep and um, and then hip cooks also has a volunteer assistant program. So our students come in and volunteer time at hip cooks by helping with doing the dishes, right, that I talked about before that. Now the, the, the clients don’t have to do, but we have a volunteer program for that.

We trade them for classes. . But what happens when we do that is those are the people that self-identify as hip cooks being their happy place, and often they’ll turn into new hires. Hmm. So it works really well where both, um, employer and employee get to sort of try each other on and get to know each other before the whole onboarding process begins.

And so I get a lot of good retention that. Uh, to answer your question from the customer side, yes, of course. We have what’s called public classes, and I’d probably say about 70% of our revenue is B2B in those group classes. Hmm. And those clients are anywhere from, you know, Google, Amazon, Nike, Starbucks.

Disney. We have a really long and impressive list of loyal clientele that keep coming back. And, um, and our marketing to them is though, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty, um, it’s, it’s, it’s focused on, uh, on, on a high return rate, which we do. So, um, so really, I, I, I, I try not to advertise. Hip cooks, um, to keep our, our sort of homegrown authentic personality.

I fe I feel like there’s, there’s a certain, um, Value that customers put on to hip cooks when they, when they find us themselves organically. So I like that. But once they are our customers, then I will send them newsletters, like newsletter campaigns and recipes and different fun and interactive ways to sort of keep them in the fold and to have them then engage with us as customers on a repeated basis.

And our return numbers are pretty high. So, so that’s, that’s a priority for us. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s really interesting. To me, it’s, it sounded like it’s, is it almost like a franchise franchise model where it 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: should be, it will be pre pandemic. I love that you said that because pre pandemic, that was my focus to do that.

So I had just, Onboarded a coo. I finally got to that point, right in my journey as an entrepreneur to then think, okay, I have these seven locations. We finally, you know, we’ve stabilized to a point of great profitability. We have a good track record, we have longitudinal data. I can now franchise this model, but I can’t do it all by myself.

I need a much bigger team. So, uh, so in February of 2020, I brought. My first coo, so unfortunately the timing was really bad and now I’m in an interesting place where we are reopening the brick and mortar locations just, just as of last month. Hmm. Um, so this is pretty new. But I also feel like, gosh, so much time has gone past.

I think I’d like to accelerate the process and go back to, uh, franchising as soon as possible. So we’ll probably open maybe another two or three, two locations maybe to have four total and then, and then do that once. I’ll also for the first time, be seeking some outside investment in order to do that. So.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Well, um, one interesting thing you said, all of your, um, Teachers or cooks are female. Yes. What was the, what was the rational behind that? During 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: I would, yeah, , I mean, you know, I can put my feminist hat on and but also say that I, well, I really love working with women and part of my passion for hip cooks in general, Is to create community, right?

When I talked about that high return rate, it wasn’t just a, you know, we don’t see our customers as coming in once and thank you and see you later. You know, we, we, they wanna create community when they come to hip cooks. They know that the meal is at at a big communal table at the end of class, so they wanna get to know other people that they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Right. We’re creating community. They’re meeting one another. They’re exchanging business cards and phone numbers at the end of class, you know? And gosh, that’s, it’s so satisfying to be able to offer that. Then we have our assistant community, right? And these are people that are like, oh, I wanna be more involved with this business.

I love it. Then we have our community. Teachers. Right. And they’re all diverse, but then that small management team. Yeah, I, I, I get to work with a range of women from different backgrounds and different ages and yeah, it just personally brings me a lot of joy to create that strong women supported.

Community. I think all of them really enjoy that. So it’s not to say would I ever hire a male manager, of course, but , it just sort of happened that way and we all really enjoyed that. Okay. For me, it’s just, just another way of creating community, which is one of my, one of my passions and certainly my passion as an entrepreneur.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, how much of your, um, But, uh, do you spend on marketing? And what kind of marketing do you 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: do? Right. Oh gosh. That is for me a very sort of open-ended question because I would say, hmm. If I had to put a monetary term on our actual, like, spend for marketing, I’d probably put like, you know, probably about, hmm, three to 500 bucks a month.

between like, you know, paying for our service, for, uh, for distributing newsletters, as well as creating some content as well as maybe throwing up a, a Google ad or, or, or a Facebook ad every so often. But much more than that, it get my time is largely creating that content. So whether I am. Creating new recipes to put on our blog or beautiful mouthwatering photographs that match those.

Or if I’m writing a new cookbook, I, I sort of consider all of that. That sort of all falls for me within a marketing budget. Hmm. And that sort of, I dunno if you wanna call it like soft marketing, it’s, it’s, again, it’s, it’s feeding the community often things that are free, but a big. A big adjective that I use to describe hip cooks is, is the value added, right?

Mm-hmm. . So, so in that sense, I’d probably say about 90% of my time is, you know, loosely. Marketing. Right? Because it’s, it’s sort of supporting that company, our company, with all the materials and ideas and language, um, and processes that it needs to present. Its, its, its identity. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, it seems like your, your business could be really, Or, or it would work really well on social media like Instagram or TikTok.

Are you, are you leveraging those channels? 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Absolutely. And better yet, our customers do it for us. So as long as they’re adding, you know, are they, if they’re adding us and they’re tagging us, you know, that’s great and they, and they often do, but yes we do. And they. because you know, you, you look down and you’ve created this beautiful risotto.

What do, what do people of today’s world do besides consume it? I mean, they’re gonna, they’re gonna take a picture of it first and they’re gonna post it and they’re gonna be excited about it, and they wanna, and when you make delicious food, you wanna share it. And, and so, of course, you know, food translates so well to all the platforms you see, you see it on there a lot.

Personally, it’s, it’s not something that I personally enjoy doing . Ok. But, and I try to avoid at all costs. So I’m, you know, again, I’m pretty, I’m pretty lucky that we have a clientele that, uh, often will, will, uh, just organically, you know, propel that forward for us. That works well. Yeah. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That, that definitely works.

Um, want to talk a little bit about your online platform, because I think you mentioned a little bit, you know, You transitioned from like, um, you know, brick and mortar kind of, uh, uh, business to online and you’re definitely leveraging it. What are some of the things, uh, it seems like you definitely have a website that is your main.

Place where you’re creating content and you’re driving, uh, people to come and, you know, setting, uh, meetings or, you know, appointments and so forth. Um, is there anything 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: besides I’d like that you think that because really. One of the issues with having a 17 year old company is I have a legacy website.

It’s all custom coded, and therefore anytime I wanna make a change, like say during the pandemic, if I wanna pivot somehow seamlessly to brick and mortar to virtual, that is a big undertaking, right? The big barge move slowly. Mm-hmm. So I think a real challenge for me is, , uh, is how to deal with a legacy site as our online savvy.

You know, it, it just, it, it keeps improving and there are ways that you can. Stack, you know, so, so, so I’m looking at like, you know, stack stack developers where I can use existing technologies, whereas in the past that all had to be bespoke coded. So I’m, I’m happy that you think hip cooks.com is seamless because I have a WordPress site that I can maintain easily by myself.

And put a lot of things on and put all of our virtual lives on the WordPress, which is housed by hip cooks.com, which is the legacy behemoth. So I’m really sort of juggling right now between two. Applications, and at some point that’s all gonna have to change and the whole site will have to get rewritten again, which as you can imagine, is a hundred hundreds of thousands of dollars of investing be it, you know, be, you know, because you’re coding from Sketch, whether I, whether I stack technology or not.

So, . Interesting. So right now I piggyback a lot of technology and to make things work for me with this legacy site. So a little, if, if you’re curious what I’m using or what I recommend, I can, I can talk about that a bit later. So, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: yeah, I mean, you, you said you’re using, uh, WordPress, but for your legacy, is it like custom sdl?

Oh 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: yeah, that’s, yep, yep. It’s Python and Jengo. It’s a, yeah, it’s a, it’s a custom coded site. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And for your email marketing, do you use some like or something or 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: I use active campaign. Active campaign, okay. Uhhuh cool. For invoicing, I’m using Wave. Well, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: yeah, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: yeah, yeah. Yet for transactions, I, I invoice through Wave for Transactions.

I use off-net. I mean, I, I, I piggyback and Frankenstein a lot of technologies right now to make it all work. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, no, but your website, I mean your 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: website for that. I do all my accounting through QuickBooks, and I use QuickBooks Online, and I love that. Um, but no, I, you, you, sorry, you were saying you, you like the, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: the site?

No, your website works. I mean, it’s, uh, it sure does. It’s working, working nice. So it has to, I mean, yeah. Uh, as long as it’s, it’s serving your purpose, I don’t think there’s, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: as long as your perception is for a well integrated experience and you’re not noticing all, you know. Exactly. Yes. That’s great. It’s really coupled together at the moment, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: so, Because you are so experienced in, you know, giving out these parties and so forth, uh, Do you have any tips for someone who wants to like, use this as a way to, let’s say, you know, build their social circle or, you know, just to, just how, how does one give great parties?

What is your formula of, you know, inviting people and, and entertaining them and you know, just creating a great time for. 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah. Again, I think it’s sort of a little bit in the, in the pre-planning and in that, but, but having a, a pretty, like, I think nonchalant attitude towards things. It’s, it, it should be, cooking should be a fun process.

It shouldn’t be a stressful one. So I think if you really sort of tap into your mood that day and, and decide what you’re gonna make through. Looking at pictures or you know, or having a general idea of what you’d like to do, but then not looking at a recipe. because I, I, I think that that becomes really stressful in the kitchen if you’re sort of going back and forth like, oh, two tablespoons olive oil, five tablespoons chopped onion.

Like what is five tablespoons chopped onion? I think it’s a little bit more of like this process of, uh, trusting your intuition and your inner chef, letting that process be creative, and I think inviting your friends, inviting that dinner party into the kitchen to prepare with you. It’s part of the fun and then enjoying it together.

I think that, you know, cooking is approachable for many. I think it’s their, their fear that make it, um, not so, and I think particularly in, in America where, uh, people were not, you know, the way so many of us like grew up as latchkey kids and not a lot of attention. Cooking. I think, you know, go, come to hip cooks, take one or two classes, and then you begin to get it.

You’re like, oh, these are the basics. These are the fundamentals. But again, in our classes we don’t generally measure or follow recipes in the classes, but we do a lot of tasting along the way. A lot of talking about how to make a dish really sing. And I think once you do that and you combine a social setting and you have fun with it, then that’s part of that, that process, that will, that will encourage you to do more of the same.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I remember, you know, I used to use Airbnb and this was like before the pandemic. I haven’t used it recently. Mm-hmm. and they had like this Airbnb, what they call like experiences and there used to be like a lot of these kind of classes, cooking and so forth. Uhhuh, have you ever lever leveraged, like platforms like that?

No, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: we were asked to, it’s funny that you, that you say that, um, and hopefully I’ll circle back with Airbnb at some point. Um, I think you know that that is a great experience for someone in town that’s willing to travel to the Airbnb or to schedule on a, on a, on a one by one basis. Hip cooks is a little bit bigger than that, and at the time the notion of Airbnb did not have the technology.

To import like our schedule. Into their platform. And hip cooks is giving classes, you know, every day of the week, right? Mm-hmm. . Um, which could be a wonderful experience for Airbnb people. In fact, the savvy ones who learn, you know, search what, what to do in my, in this city, in Portland. And I’ll say, oh, oh, we’ve got a hip cooks, you know, so often we, we’d find people that found us that way, but integrating directly with Airbnb, cuz it’s a wonderful idea.

Not the first time it’s come up. They did not have the technologies to integrate directly with our schedule. And certainly, I know I’m not gonna go every day and post our classes to Airbnb. Hmm. And, and keep a, a running headcount of, you know, the, what’s going back and forth. I mean, so, um, so at the time, um, in my discussions with Airbnb, we, we put a pin in it or, or future integrated technologies.

But, you know, when I think about it, um, You know, when, when I listed my house on a, on a site like that, I was able to integrate my schedule with their, so maybe that’s something that, that, um, that is coming for the future. Okay. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, so I read, I believe in, on one of the websites where you’ve done another interview.

Um, your business is doing significant amount of revenue monthly, I think six figures. So it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty decent, uh, What is your future vision? You know, are you, are you really, um, a business person who wants to see your business like on a much bigger scale? And, you know, uh, or, or do you want to really keep it as a community wide, which is, you know, small, but still, you know, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: there’s no reason why we cannot do both.

and I, I mean, I think hip. Wherever it operates is going to be part of its community. And that’s a big part of the company identity. But within that model, I think it lends itself beautifully to franchise and that would be our scale. And I also think, um, if I can exit the company in five to seven years and potentially provide content for the company, that would be a wonderful, uh, outlet for.

But, uh, that, that would be my, my. Yeah. So you has been, you know, a, a wonderful, a wonderful baby. It’s been really fun to see it from infancy to toddler, to, you know, begin to, to really have legs throughout, um, throughout the country as we’ve grown our customer base. You know, we’ve had over a hundred thousand customers at Hip Cook, so, you know, that’s a lot.

And, uh, yeah, I was just in the process of finishing the second cookbook for Hip Cooks when the pandemic. . So instead of using that as a cookbook, we took all those new recipes and turned them into virtual classes. So that was great . That was lucky to have all that brand new content. But I think now at this point too, um, as I’m getting closer to retirement age, I think what would be would be really exciting for me as an entrepreneur would be to franchise and.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay, cool. And, and then just travel the world with what you’ve already been doing with what depression is. Well, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: I’ve started a software company too, . Ok. What is, it would be really nice to have a little bit of time to grow that new baby. And then of course, um, uh, travel the world and, uh, and do lots of hiking and, and, and lots more cooking and explor.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What is the software? Is that also in the cooking space or, that is 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: completely, it sure is. You wanna know about it. It’s really fun. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely. , we are, uh, we’ve just created our v mvp. Um, so, uh, and, and we, uh, will be looking, we’re, we’ll, we’re just pre-series A basically, but that is within the cooking space.

It is a productivity tool. that is a software as a service, and it is for the home chef that is interested in providing meals to their community. And this is something that’s mushroom during the pandemic, but it’s also really, um, a popular model worldwide. Yeah. Uh, where, where it’s basically neighbors that are in the business of cooking for their neighbor.

So maybe you make fantastic soups. Maybe you know, your grandmother is so great at making enchiladas and loves to share them with her neighbors and wants to sell them. So let’s, you know, these small cottage foods, small purveyors, this is a productivity tool for them that gives them a, uh, a B2C website and then leveraging so many productivity tools that I created for hip cook.

Shopping lists, prep lists, merging recipes together, you know, all of, all of that. Um, how to, how to collate all your, all your orders and how to re them for packaging. All, all of that kind of stuff has, um, I, I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time and money looking at developing these systems for hip cooks, which function really well.

So it was a little bit of a pivot. But, uh, but now we have this really exciting tool for hip chefs, so we’re onboarding our beta users at the moment. And, you know, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that is, that, that is such an interesting idea because I know even in Toronto, there’s so many people who they, they call it, I think, different service and, and they will cater to.

You know, new immigrants or students who yes. Who don’t have time or who don’t wanna cook. But I would’ve thought, and please tell me if I would’ve thought maybe a marketplace to connect would 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: be well, well, certainly. I was just about to say, we are so not a marketplace app, and, and this is actually in nono, remember my philosophy about.

Especially women, but propelling entrepreneurs forward and propelling other women forward. Cuz generally, this is again, a, a, a, a woman dominated industry, I’d say. But I don’t want personally the Uberization of these home chefs to happen through a mar a branded marketplace. I want these chefs to develop to become their.

Successful micro entrepreneurs and build these micro-businesses that they own, that is branded the way they would like. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. I would So you wanna be, I would 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: be to have greater success than the what They could be within the confines of the marketplace app. And that’s a big difference. And you wanna. Yeah.

No, and I was gonna say just, I like to be a little bit of a revolutionary and I feel like this product is just like hip cooks. You know? There was nothing that existed out there for, you know, this, this hungry client that, that wanted to learn how to cook, but wanted to learn this fun approach to cooking.

And I think that that really propelled our early success, success. And now with hip shifts as well, I, there’s, there isn’t a, a very affordable tool that these people can use to grow their own businesses. And I think that’s really where the, the motivation is for these people. So I’m, I’m really excited for this.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s very interesting. So you almost want to be the Shopify for these, that customers rather than the Amazon or eBay. Right. You got it. 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: You got it. But I thought, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: yes, but I thought maybe creating a marketplace would be a bigger business opportunity or is there already in potentially platform? 

There 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: is platform there.

There are some big players within this industry. Last year they, you know, they got. There’s a company called Chef, which is a marketplace app, which has, you know, which got I think 7 million and it’s for seed round. That’s, you know, doing, doing well, doing, doing what it’s doing, which allows, it’s, it’s great for chefs that have, that wanna do proof of concept that maybe have one or two dishes that they make well and that do not, you know, they, they don’t have direct, direct contact with their customer.

So it’s fairly limited, right? Mm-hmm. , whereas this is, this is a, a, a different approach. So this would be for the, for the entrepreneur that is, is beyond proof of concept, okay? But really wants to grow their business. So it’s 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: almost like it becomes, So it almost becomes like a home-based restaurant. So you know the, that’s right.

This’s, right? This, this person already has customers and they want to grow the customer, but they don’t wanna have a physical location. So, you know, they wanna, 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: maybe someday they will too. Maybe someday they’ll grow to that point where they can use a ghost kitchen or they can share the rent of a commercial space and, you know, hip shifts, it can help with all of.

So maybe we need to do a second interview on hip chefs. That’s fun. . 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, it seems like a very, very interesting idea and, uh, yeah, wish you all the best on that. Um, in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always like mistakes made, lessons learned, um, but looking back at your own journey, could you share maybe, you know, One big mistake, one or two mistakes that come to your mind, that youth, looking back, you know, you, you think, you know that that was a big failure for me or, or learning experience.

What, what did you learn from it? What can other entrepreneurs learn from your mistakes? 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Right? Yeah. I wouldn’t necessarily call them mistakes. You’re right. They’re more like learning lessons, and I think when I was younger, and perhaps also less risk, a averse. Uh, I grew hip cooks very organically. Location by location.

I never took on any debt, any loans, and I only had one investor, albeit an angel investor, but I only had the one, and I grew slowly. You know, it took me 17 years to get to where I am now. I the, the lessons learned. From that. Um, now I can be, I think, a little bit more risky. I think I do have, oh, I mean, I have a proven model, but I can take on loans and investors and other commitments in order to grow the company faster this second go around, and that’s what I would like to do.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s very interesting because. I mean, that’s, that’s one perspective. I guess, I guess what you are saying is that even though you had your proof of proof of concept, you, you were reluctant to take on. Uh, capital, but mm-hmm. , right? A lot of, a lot of the guys, you know, I bootstrapped 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: the whole way and ok.

And, and bootstrapped and, and bootstrapped technology and bootstraps, you know, so many, you know, my, my own growth, all these things. But I think from now, for now, it’s a little bit different because I have a lot of models in place. We have. You know, the content. I have over 50 different classes that we’ve worked on that, that work really well.

You know, I I, I, I have a, I have a, a much larger body of work and proof of concept going into it. So, and also, you know, given my, my age and experience, um, perhaps I can be a little bit more, um, more, uh, risk taking with it. Okay. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: A little. Definitely. Uh, now we’re going to move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment, I’m gonna ask you a few quick questions.

If you have to answer them, maybe one word or one sentence. Um, got it. So I’m not, I’m not gonna ask you the book, your favorite book. I’m 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: a doer. I mean, I, I read for fun, I read fiction. I read a lot, but I don’t read entrepreneurial books. I feel like you’ve, you’ve got it within you or you don’t, and, and in some ways, like, I try to stay away from.

Uh, publications, I think, especially within my industry, so that I’m really able to innovate in, in a way that is authentic to my vision and also un influenced. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s very interesting. I mean, you said. You said that, you know, either you have it or you don’t. Uh, do you really believe that by that entrepreneurs are born or may like a person who does not have the, who’s not the entrepreneurial type?

I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of Yep. Examples where, you know, there are many successful entrepreneurs who would not be considered like entrepreneur entrepreneurs, but. 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: I do. I think we’re a special breed. We can recognize each other, but yeah, there’s a certain passion for creation and like you asked me in the beginning like, whoa, do I do, I really love cooking.

Yeah, I really love cooking, but I love building and I love creating community and, and. Hip cooks inspires me, but so does hip chefs and, and yeah. I’m, I, I consider myself more as a build of a builder innovator than I do a cook that grew a cooking school. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah. I mean, we named a few. But I think especially within the e-commerce site, I think there is some, I have yet to meet it, but I think there’s gonna be some exciting, uh, marketplace technologies for, uh, for the, for online purchasing of, uh, not just um, goods but services. That can be integrated with one’s, um, accounting software and website.

Now, I, I think there’s the ability for that to function much more seamlessly. Mm-hmm. , and I think it, it will happen soon. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: tool? . Sure. I mean, I, I, I think I’ve mentioned like, I use Wave, I use Active Campaign, I use QuickBooks.

I’ve had a lot of success with WordPress, and it’s so inexpensive, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: uh, a startup or business 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: feedback, different technologies from different places too. You know, like, like, uh, QuickBooks also does invoicing. But it’s not gonna look as pretty as a wave invoice. Similar, yeah. Waved as merchant accounting, but it’s not gonna be as inexpensive as off-net or, or another provider.

So, so don’t feel like because you’re using one specific technology for something and they have other add-ons that you need to stick, stick with that company and use add-ons. So you’ve gotta keep researching and keep trying to stay ahead of that game for a better, more efficient product. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: See it’s, it’s so interesting just to comment here is that you know, many, many, um, Many people build things or, you know, I think there’s a difference between an entrepreneur and someone who’s, let’s say an engineer, right?

So an engineer, even though they have all the skills, right, the programming tools, they, they’re not, and it surprises me quite bit, you know, they’re not able to build business. And it’s, it’s very surprising to me because I would think that, you know, an engineer having the coding skills, you know, you, you have an idea and you can code and, you know, you can test.

It’s so easy. You can test out different things. But that it’s, it’s very rare. But you know, when talking to an entrepreneur, like you are thinking when you think about technology and that, that’s the way I think about it also. It’s almost like, you know, technology is there to solve a problem, so you’re looking at a problem.

And you’re trying to think, you know, what is the tool that can help me solve the problem? And it’s almost like coming from an opposite angle. It’s like a top down approach, whereas an engineer thinks from bottom up. And I, I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of engineers and it’s almost, yeah. And, uh, yeah, and, and I find, I find it very interesting that a lot of the times engineers, even though they have the skills and the tools, it’s like it’s very difficult for them to like build an idea and put, put it in the market, even though it’s probably easy for them.

Um, a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires. 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah, when I, I, I think about that, I think, I think about, um, Harold Woff, who owns Woff Knives. If you love to cook, you might look in your kitchen drawer and see that you have one of his knives in your, in your, uh, in your cabinet.

And I think that, you know, this is a, a privately owned company that’s been in the family for 200 years. I mean, talk about a legacy. Um, you know, uh, so. I got some very good advice from Harold, who became a mentor and a friend who is the, the president, the current president of, of Gustaf. Trident. Um, who said, also said, you know, Monica, you wanna, anyone that you work with, from your accountant, to your legal team, to your teacher that you hire, to, uh, you know, big, big or small vendors that you work with, find out.

Why they’re doing what they’re doing, what their passion is in one adjective or in one, one word. You know, why, what motivates them. And then if that’s something that you resonate with, then that’s the person for you. Otherwise, it’s not, and I’ve used that philosophy in, in, in all areas and it’s never done me wrong, so I, I appreciate.

That that’s great. The other, yeah. And then, and then, uh, my co-founder at at Hip chefs who I love Jesse Cook also said, oh, Monica, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. And I think maybe again, that, that could also be, you know, we were talking about the, the bottom up versus the top down approach from the engineer versus the entrepreneur.

And I think also like this very detail-oriented perfectionism from each step in the way of the way. Can, can muddy the water. I think that a, a good approach is to keep moving forward. Keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to, to, to learn as you go and, um, and sort of work, work your way to.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I was going to ask you best business advice, but you already gave proposal, so, so, so that, that’s, that’s great. Um, well, um, those were all the questions that I had. Would, was there any question that you would have wished that I asked you that I didn’t ask you? 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Oh, well, that’s an interesting question. Um,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Something that you would have want to share with entrepreneurs that, uh, maybe I didn’t ask you? 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: Yeah, no, I think, I think what, what I’d like to share, uh, with your community is that we are, we’re looking here at Hip cooks for staff as we emerge from the pandemic. I’m also looking for a new C O o I’m looking for.

Uh, potential, uh, partners and ways to franchise the company. And, um, so, so I think, you know, opening up that dialogue with other entrepreneurs or interested parties, uh, would be, would be great. So 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that’s awesome. Thank you, Monica. Those were all the questions that I had really, really appreciated, uh, learning about your story and you know, the way you’ve grown your business and the great thanks you’re doing next.

So yeah, thank you so much again for joining me at, really appreciated your time and, and, uh, for sharing 

Monika Reti of Hipcooks: your story. Thank you. Likewise. And I hope you’re inspired to, uh, follow your inner chef and prepare something delicious tonight. Definitely. Thank you. Okay. Bye-Bye.

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