Chicago-based start-up KitcheNet, which earned third place in the 2016 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), recently took home another award: a Polsky Accelerator Demo Day audience choice honor.
Run by Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the SNVC is the social impact track of the University of Chicago’s nationally ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge.
The Rustandy Center recently sat down Trista Li, a current joint Chicago Booth and Harris School student and cofounder of KitcheNet, a social venture that aims to make fresh food affordable and accessible by delivering weekly grocery boxes to low-income insecure communities.
What problem does KitcheNet work to solve in society?
At KitcheNet, we believe eating fresh food is a basic human right. There are 15.6 million households, which can be categorized as food insecure or without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
KitcheNet provides weekly grocery boxes designed to meet a family’s basic and nutritional food needs. Fruits, vegetables, proteins, and curated recipes from local chefs come in every box, as well as optional spices, herbs, and starches.
Using a hub-to-hub delivery model, KitcheNet allows parents to pick up their groceries from a centralized community hub, saving them time driving from store to store to compare prices. We want one community hub in every food-insecure neighborhood.
How did your team come up with the idea for your start-up?
KitcheNet began as an offshoot of a proposal that we submitted to the Clinton Global Initiative, which I participated in as a student at the Harris School of Public Policy. We started with an idea to tackle inner city childhood obesity, pivoted, and then entered into the SNVC as a healthy cooked meal service.
Riding SNVC momentum, we pivoted the venture to its current model after conducting extensive customer discovery. We added three UChicago undergraduate students with start-up experience before entering the Polsky Accelerator.
What are KitcheNet’s short- and long-term goals?
In the next three to six months, we’re eager to establish partnerships and delivery hubs with workforce development organizations and community health clinics in Chicago’s South Shore, Woodlawn, and Washington Park neighborhoods. In the long run, KitcheNet aims to expand to similar communities in the Midwest, including Detroit, Milwaukee, and Saint Louis.
Our team is also seeking one or two UChicago students passionate about the cause to strengthen our sales and business development efforts.
What was your favorite part of participating in the Polsky Accelerator?
The best part was bonding with awesome entrepreneurs from across the university. A special thanks to our fellow Accelerator teams, Provide, Frönen, and F&A Specialty Foods, who were instrumental in building our network within the Chicago food scene and impact space. We also bounced ideas and strategy off of Waaves and Automech.
What else should we know about KitcheNet?
KitcheNet is made up of Trista Li, Richard Wu, Deneb Zavala, and Joyce Chang.
We started introducing our product to market in July 2017, delivering more than 30 boxes to customers in Englewood and other surrounding areas and establishing three community hubs for delivery: Kennedy King College, Metropolitan Family Services, and Big Zion Baptist Church.
After conducting more than 50 customer interviews, we discovered the highest demand for our service comes from single parents and seniors, many of whom are fighting chronic diseases.
To date, 30 more individuals are on the waitlist for our delivery service.
Keep in touch: Follow KitcheNet on Facebook, visit their website, or learn more about KitcheNet’s crowdfunding campaign.
Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation
Ally Batty is associate director, marketing and communications at the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. She has held a variety of writing and communications roles, including associate editor of the Chicago Booth Magazine and alumni editor of the University of Chicago Magazine. Previously, Batty served as Legislative Service Commission fellow and a legislative aide to representative Denise Driehaus of the Ohio House of Representatives. Batty volunteers as a writing coach for Posse scholars through the Posse Foundation. She received her BA in English Literature from Miami University of Ohio.