More people than ever are chasing their dream of making it big as a “foodprenuer”. In recent years, culinary school enrollment has rapidly increased, while tuition rates and student loan debt has risen alongside it…
The successful foodprenuer must continuously practice their craft to perfect their style, while also working hard to master the art of building a business. It is the combination of a strong need for: great food, quality control, operational excellence, financial discipline, waste management/efficiency, and marketing prowess, not to mention the large amount of direct and indirect competitors that make the restaurant business one of the hardest industries to succeed in. Mr. Godwin Ihentuge felt that he could help change this dynamic, below in his own words, we are pleased to share with you Godwin’s story…
3 years ago (2013), alongside the WAB’s executive chef and my partner Brent Foster, I had a vision. I wanted fast and affordable vegetarian options at ball games. I was so sick and tired of eating chips, nachos at hotdog stands and I wanted something more. I looked into starting a restaurant around this concept and found out (read: was absolutely shocked) that the upfront costs would be upwards of $500,000. I had maybe a little over a few thousand in my bank account at the time so starting a restaurant was no longer looking promising. I then looked into food trucks, but the ongoing costs married to running a food truck were not too much better in my opinion. I wasn’t really sure what to do. I wasn’t able to qualify for a loan... My only option that was cost effective was to begin popping up, so I did.
Our 1st popup up, by definition was small and humble. We invited friends to try out veggie dogs made from scratch. We had mixed reviews but with each new popup we began to grow into a mildly successful operation. We finished off the year at Dally in the Alley, a long standing midtown tradition of merchant fair and boy did we come a long way! We were now, at this time, selling out of food EVERY time!
One big take away as we reflected on the year was the amount of time we were putting into other aspects of our business. All I wanted to do was make good food and share it with people that I felt would appreciate what I had to offer. What I ended up doing was everything else but. I started looking for options to help alleviate my workload and I couldn’t quite find the solution I was looking for.
Ultimately, if you survey this industry there’s a surplus of chefs and would be foodprenuers and their main breakout outlet of starting a restaurant is prohibitively costly and takes them away from the food. Dining popups pave the way toward exposure, validated traction and low risk innovation without the stress of overhead costs and rigid fixed menus. But the process of popping up isn't as simple as it could be. You've got to find a location, negotiate and secure agreement, AND get people to come. The Chef has to become a full-fledged event planner and business development guru before the plate hits the table. They are taken away from the very thing they set out to share…the food.
I felt like I might be on to something as I talked to my chef friends they agreed with my sense of “Damn it, I just want to cook the best food ever, forget everything else…” I knew I needed money though to put my newfound insight to work. I decided to work as a mortgage banker at Quicken Loans. The days were long and really tested my mental capacity. I would work 60-80 hour weeks at Quicken. I would then come home and put the rest of my time towards building out the structure of YumVillage. I sacrificed relationships, time… I was determined. While working at QL, I decided to infuse some of their pillars of operations or ISMs to lay down the foundation of YumVillage, which is just so you know, an outlet for up-and-coming chefs to gain validation and exposure by creating engaging dining experiences for diverse audiences through culinary pop-up events. By managing the process we let the chef be a chef. We would handle everything else!
YumVillage is now concentrating on raising money to promote local economies and activate an industry that’s starved for innovation. We feel through various events we’ve held we’ve proven our model… With foodies always on the lookout for the next big thing and chefs always eager to provide a unique culinary experience YumVillage looks forward to creating a platform that makes it easier for both sides to find each other and satisfy their desires. It’s been a journey to get to this point, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re only just beginning!