In 2018, fate brought Evening MBA students Ashray Reddy, Connor Blankenship, and Rebekah Krikke together through a Rustandy Center workshop to create their organization Meaningfull Meals. Luck also played a part in the story when the team was looking for their first restaurant partnership. Ashray’s uncle, a Booth Evening alum, remembered spending time at Russian Tea Time, his former classmate Vadim Muchnik’s restaurant, and suggested the connection. But it was more than luck that brokered the partnership between Meaningfull Meals and Russian Tea Time. It was testament to the power of the Booth network and to Booth alumni’s willingness and enthusiasm to connect with students. Ashray says, “The most eye opening thing for us has been the power of our network and how alumni and students really help each other out to create a unique value to the community…within 24 hours Vadim emailed us back. He immediately understood the value of what we were trying to do and was excited to be part of that community.”
Meaningfull Meals aims to end food insecurity and hunger by creating partnerships between local nonprofits and restaurants. People can give back to the community by selecting specially designated menu items whose proceeds are donated to a local charity.
The founders have been hard at work. As we profiled them back in an October blog, Meaningfull Meals won the Clinton Global Initiative’s Commitments to Action Challenge, which provided them with support, financial resources and credibility. Ashray, Connor and Rebekah have been juggling school, family, work and the running of the organization in their ‘spare’ time. They are also in the midst of partnership discussions with another Evening alum restaurateur. How do they do it all? Connor says, "Having cofounders who understand the time commitment and rigor of balancing starting a new venture with a full-time job and school has been imperative. We keep each other honest while being flexible and realistic about prioritization.” Rebekah also adds "When you don’t have enough hours, you have to be intentional about what you say “yes” and “no” to. I can’t do it all. Every day is a matter of prioritizing and re-prioritizing my to-do list." Ultimately their goal is what keeps Ashray moving forward: “We were shocked by the evidence we uncovered about food insecurity- 40 million Americans deal with hunger, one in five kids deal with food insecurity, and that is unacceptable to us.”
Russian Tea Time launched its pilot with Meaningfull Meals on March 1st.Learn more about Meaningfull Meals here.
Libby Smoler is a marketing specialist for the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs.