Women Entrepreneurs Make a Difference in Communities
Nationwide, women entrepreneurs are providing valuable products and services, adding jobs, and contributing to the economic strength of their families and communities. The Center for an Urban Future’s study, “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs,” found that while women founders want to make money, they also want to positively impact the world. “In general, I see more women looking to figure out whether they can impact the world through the technology they build,” says Jessica Lawrence, executive director of New York Tech Meetup.
Deepti Sharma Kapur is one of those amazing women who is using technology to better her community. Kapur is the CEO and Founder of FoodtoEat.com, an online marketplace where local businesses can order team meals from the best local restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Her goal is to help businesses feed employees great food and build stronger work cultures, while also helping local mom and pop food vendors – many of whom are immigrants – use technology to build sustainable catering businesses. “The idea for my business came from my maternal instinct wanting to help a community grow and thrive,” Kapur said. “We grew because of the way we thought about the business, not always about making money, but how to help the community.”
For this work, she was honored in the “Forbes 30 Under 30” list in 2013. Kapur is active in her community and serves as a board member for both The Business Center for New Americans and The Learning About Multimedia Project, non-profit organizations that work with immigrant business owners and children, respectively. She also cofounded the Mountaintop Program, an initiative that brings innovators and entrepreneurs into New York City schools to mentor and inspire K-12 students.
Read the following Q&A with Kapur to learn more her inspiring story and her advice for other women entrepreneurs.
What made you start foodtoeat.com?
I was standing in line for 20 minutes at a food truck to get a peanut butter cookie, and being a New Yorker, you can imagine my impatience. So I started to think of ways I could reduce the wait time, and that’s the primary reason I started the company – basically out of a frustration that I knew could be resolved. Then, to really propel the company and develop it, I started having conversations with food truck vendors to get a better understanding of the industry. I was then determined to build a piece of technology that could help food truck owners scale their businesses in ways they weren’t able to on their own. And that’s where corporate catering came into play. During my interviews I learned that food truck owners would love to cater, but they didn’t know how to get into the many, many corporate offices right above them. Catering is the Holy Grail for food vendors – for all types of food businesses. It means a significant order all at once, versus smaller individual orders. So to bridge this gap, we equipped the food trucks with an app that gives them access to the technology they need to accept large food orders. Additionally, we have sales and marketing teams that help provide corporations with hundreds of vetted food options at their fingertips.
What made you decide to help your vendors (many of them immigrants) use technology to grow their businesses?
I grew up in an immigrant family – first generation. My parents came here when they were 19, went to business school, and started their own businesses. I saw the struggles they went through. Community was a huge part of my parents and me, and I’ve always wanted to give back. When I started conducting those interviews with food truck owners – I realized a lot of them have smart phones, but only use them for text messaging. They saw their food trucks as a job and not a business. I taught them to operate as a business – to name their business and download banking apps, so they could deposit checks right from their place of work. I’ve always been grateful for what I have and passionate about helping communities grow and flourish. When they grow and flourish, everything around them does too. I love being a part of that.
What have you learned from working so closely with various members of the community?
You should never underestimate the power of any one person or community. No matter who you are, there is always something to learn. Sometimes you learn the most from the people who are the most unlike you. It’s because they think differently than you.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in their communities?
Think about what isn’t great in your community and how you can drive that change. Also think about what that opportunity is that you can create for yourself. Talk to people within the community and build a team of employees who believe in the same mission as you and who want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
As a founder, you have to be strong and bold with your decisions. You always have to move forward, inspire and motivate your team. It’s OK to be emotional – just don’t let those emotions jeopardize your sound decisions.