September 12, 2021
I’ve been working with small businesses over the past 17 years in Calgary through another business I founded called Exmerce. Exmerce is a business trade exchange. We help companies leverage modern day barter using a virtual currency to help companies reach out to new customers, save cash, and turn excess capacity into profit. Locally, we represent 500+ businesses. When COVID hit in March 2020, I saw firsthand the devastation it caused for small businesses. Many of our clients were affected, especially those in the food sector. It was difficult to see many of our clients having to shut down their doors or be restricted because of COVID. Mind you, I understood the necessity of it. As a small business owner, when your business is restricted because of capacity or you’re simply asked to shut down – you’re entire life is on the line. As small business owners, we’ve typically put everything on the line – our savings, whatever credit we have and much more. The one saving grace was – it was nice to get support from both the provincial and federal level with financial aid. As business owners, you can either let a bad situation sink you or you do what you’ve always done from the very beginning and that is – be resilient, persevere, continue to work even harder, and think outside the box!
As we see sawed back and forth with the COVID restrictions, I would have to say one of the most talked about things in business was – what are you doing to pivot? Now, in thinking about our clients through Exmerce who were in the food sector, I asked myself and wondered if there was an opportunity for restaurants and caterers to pivot to sell frozen or refrigerated foods. It seemed like a natural fit. I recollect walking down the aisle one night at Superstore and wondered why we didn’t see more representation of local food brands? In the news and social media, we always hear of people saying let’s support local, but truly we’re still buying most of our foods and such at the big box grocery chains – likely because of convenience, what we’re used to doing and price. What if we could challenge the big box grocery chains and push for a movement to support local?
This sparked an idea that led me to follow this path, and ask numerous restaurant clients through Exmerce like Jason, Owner at Matador Pizza & Steakhouse, and Corey, Owner of Ma Pies. I later started to reach out to other restaurants, caterers, chefs, food producers and food suppliers to see what they were doing to combat COVID. In my research, it validated my assumption of what I thought. Most restaurants and chefs were moving online selling frozen and refrigerated meals. I then thought, why can’t we build an online food and delivery platform that supports this niche; and supports local at the same time to allow for the small guys to compete against the big box grocery chains.
With this knowledge and a passion to support small businesses in the food sector, I shared it with people with whom I felt could help turn this business into a reality. Thank you Moeez, our VP Client Services; Kris, Our Chief Technology Officer, my brother in law, Chris Sy, who previously worked as our Chief Operating Officer.Together, we are the co-founders of Eat 4 Later. Last but not least, we are also thankful to our delivery partner James Shettler and his team with Shettler Delivery.